Nowruz: Photos of Kurdish New Year celebrations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Greek refugee camp

Nowruz, a festival that marks the arrival of spring and the Persian new year, is celebrated in countries that use the Persian calendar, such as Iraq, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The calendar takes as its start date the time when the Prophet Mohammed moved from Mecca to Medina in 621 AD. The current Persian year is 1395.

Kurds walk with lit torches up a mountain in the town of Aqrah, IraqSafin Hamed/AFP
Iraqi Kurdish people carry torches up a mountain draped in a giant Kurdistan flag, in the town of AqrahAri Jalal/Reuters
Men holding Kurdish flags and flaming torches gather in the town of Aqrah in IraqSafin Hamed/AFP
A man breathes fire during Nowruz celebrations in Aqrah, IraqAri Jalal/Reuters
An Iraqi man holds the Kurdish flag as he celebrates Nowruz in the town of Aqrah, 500km north of BaghdadSafin Hamed/AFP
A Kurdish girl celebrates Nowruz in Aqrah, IraqAri Jalal/Reuters
Kurdish residents gather during Nowruz celebrations in Kirkuk, IraqAko Rasheed/Reuters
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take part in a training session ahead of celebrating Nowruz in Koya, northern IraqSafin Hamed/AFP
Kurdish women celebrate Nowruz in Koya, northern IraqSafin Hamed/AFP
Iranian Kurdish Peshmerga members perform a traditional dance as they celebrate Nowruz in the town of Koya, 100 kms north of Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of northern IraqSafin Hamed/AFP

Nowruz (also spelled Newroz) means "new day", a phrase which has special means to the thousands of Kurds stranded at the Greek border camp of Idomeni. Families gathered around a bonfire as they celebrated Nowruz in the makeshift refugee camp. Idomeni is home to more than 10,000 people who have been sleeping rough in muddy fields braving the cold, rain and food shortages for many weeks.

Many held the colours of the Kurdish flags, and men and women danced around a fire holding candles. Aziz Sayda, who has been at the camp for 22 days, said he never expected to spend the holiday there, away from his family: "We were supposed to celebrate Nowruz in our homeland, but because of the war and destruction, we were forced to flee our country," he said.

A refugee lights a bonfire as Syrian and Iraqi Kurds celebrate Nowruz at a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants near the village of Idomeni, GreeceAlexandros Avramidis/Reuters
A family celebrates Nowruz in the makeshift refugee camp at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of IdomeniLouisa Gouliamaki/AFP
Kurdish refugees gather for Nowruz celebrations at a makeshift camp near the village of Idomeni at the Greek-Macedonian borderAndrej Isakovic/AFP

Hundreds of Afghan residents in Kabul gathered at the shrine of Prophet Ali, the fourth caliph of Islam, to celebrate the arrival of the New Year according to Persian calendar. New Year is widely marked across Afghanistan, with sites in Kabul as well as in the province of Marzar-i Sharif.

People celebrate Afghan New Year, or Nowruz, in KabulAhmad Masood/Reuters
Afghans try to touch and kiss a religious flag to celebrate the Afghan New Year in KabulAhmad Masood/Reuters
Afghans use their mobile phones to capture the celebrations in KabulAhmad Masood/Reuters
Afghan devotees cheer as they watch others lift a holy mace in front of the Sakhi shrine in KabulShah Marai/AFP
Men hold balloons for sale during celebrations for the Afghan New Year, known as Nowruz, in KabulMohammad Ismail/Reuters
A girl stands on a hilltop during celebrations for the New Year in Kabul, AfghanistanMohammad Ismail/Reuters
Devotees celebrate Nowruz in front of the Hazrat-e-Ali shrine in Mazar-i-Sharif, AfghanistanFarshad Usran/AFP

The New Year was also marked with protests against the Turkish government. Policed fired rubber bullets to disperse citizens who gathered in Istanbul for banned Nowruz celebrations. Thousands of Kurds marched through Hanover in Germany to celebrate Nowruz, as well as to protest against the Turkish government and its behaviour towards the Kurds. They also called for the release of imprisoned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, and sharply criticised the European Union's deal with Turkey intended to halt the flow of refugees to Europe in return for financial and political rewards for Ankara.

Riot police detain a pro-Kurdish demonstrator during a banned gathering to celebrate the spring festival of Nowruz in IstanbulMurad Sezer/Reuters
Kurdish people run as Turkish riot policemen use rubber bullets to disperse a Nowruz gathering in IstanbulBulent Kilic/AFP
Thousands of Kurds gather during Nowruz celebrations in Diyarbakir, TurkeyUlas Tosun/Getty Images
A Kurdish woman flashes a V-sign during Nowruz celebrations in Diyarbakir in southeast TurkeyUlas Tosun/Getty Images
A demonstrator holds a picture of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, and a painting showing German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, during a protest in HanoverFabian Bimmer/Reuters
Pro-Kurdish demonstrators carry a flag showing Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, in Hanover, GermanyFabian Bimmer/Reuters
Pro-Kurdish demonstrators flash victory signs as they protest against Turkish authorities in Hanover, GermanyFabian Bimmer/Reuters
Demonstrators carry a banner depicting Mazlum Dogan, a former journalist and activist of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, who died in a Turkish prison in 1982, as they protest against Turkish authorities during Nowruz celebrations in HanoverFabian Bimmer/Reuters

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