Ask Mehmet: Nevruz celebration

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Ask Mehmet is a forum for people to ask questions of the local area, as well as the outer confines of the region and the country as a whole. To submit a question, send an e-mail with the subject "Ask Mehmet" to 39abw.pa@incirlik.af.mil. Then, look for an answer to the question on the 39th Air Base Wing's official website at www.incirlik.af.mil and Incirlik Air Base's Facebook page.

Question: Mehmet, I have heard so many things about "Nevruz."  What is Nevruz and why are some people expecting violence? When is Nevruz?

Literally, Nevruz means "New Day."  It falls on the first day of spring, March 21. It's also the Iranian New Year's Day.

Some people who speak Indo-European languages believe that God created the universe and humans on that day. Nevruz celebrations are related to Zoroastrianism, a religion founded in Persia.

As part of the Nevruz celebration, individuals jump over fires in a ritualistic attempt to fulfill their yearly resolutions and wishes. According to a tale, a Kurdish hero killed a cruel king to save his tribe on Nevruz. That's why Kurdish people celebrate Nevruz in a big way.

For centuries, Nevruz has been a celebration of  peace, brotherhood and good will in the Middle East, Caucasus, the Balkans and Central Asia countries. In the early 1990s  though, members of the separatist Kurdish  organization, Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK, celebrated that day as a day of rioting and rebellion. Violence had replaced the good will celebrations and peace.

Since beginning of the PKK in 1984, about 40 thousand people have been killed due to its activities. The leader of PKK, Abdullah Ocalan was captured in February 1999 and, he has been in prison since then.

In 1995, the government of  Turkey announced Nevruz as a national festival. After that decision and the state organizations' participation in the celebrations, Nevruz returned to its original meaning and purpose.

Due to previous violence, the Turkish security forces now take measures to deter potential violent activities on that day every year.

In order to give an end to the violence, negotiations and meetings, named Peace Process, have been going on between the Turkish government and Kurdish leadership, including Abdullah Ocalan.

The Pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party members in the Turkish parliament recently stated that Abdullah Ocalan will make a call for the armed members of PKK to lay their weapons down and stop armed struggle on March 21, 2015. If this occurs, it's expected to be a turning point in the Peace Process.