Attendees await more color powder to be thrown at the color festival at Sami Abdul Rahman Park in Erbil on September 16. Photos: Rudaw | Sartip Othman
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The people of Kurdistan joyfully embraced Erbil’s first color festival at Sami Abdul Rahman Park, where thousands of attendees came together to sing, dance, and celebrate.
Kawe who lives in Erbil described the event as “amazing.”
“It’s the first time we’ve had such a festival in Kurdistan,” he said. “It’s bringing all of these young people, middle aged people, older people together, to celebrate together, to know each other more and to feel positive about Kurdistan.”
Nishtiman Youth Network (NYN) coordinated the event on Friday evening with an estimated 6,000 people in attendance.
The Kurdistan color festival included Kurdish and western dancing and live music. The festival goers danced, sang, laughed while jumping up and down. Many waved the Kurdistan flag along with the music. Some people even wore the flag around them, while some children had dresses made from the Kurdish flag.
Attendees were provided with red, white, green and yellow colored powders matching the four colors of the Kurdistan flag which were thrown on each other in fun, which vibrantly shown on some white T-shirts or dresses.
There were also 3,000 balloons released along with the rising of 3,000 Kurdish flags in unison.
An event organizer, Pauline, 19 said, “We’d like to tell people that we are one team, one hand, trying to send out a message to the world that we believe in love and peace and kindness.”
Several times toward the end of the festival, as people continued throwing colored powder at each other while listening to music and dancing, a brightly colored yellow helicopter came and hovered over the stage crowd and dropped down to them fresh flowers as well as more colored powder packets.
Namushan, 21, is from Kirkuk but has lived in Erbil for 12 years.
“This is the first time this type of festival happened here [in the Kurdistan Region].” He explained. “It actually began in India and Nepal as a cultural and regional festival but now it’s an international festival.”
Namushan has worked with NYN for the past five years as head of the support team as well as the ticket manager.
“This festival has three names,” he explained. “Besides the color festival, it’s also known as the love festival or hope festival.”
Another student from Erbil, Mohammed, 19, also said that this type of festival was important to show the world that the Kurdish people are friendly and peaceful and accepting of all cultures.
“I think in the world, all nations have the right to make their own country. Kurds have the same rights too,” he said. “They have their rights to make a referendum to show the world that we’d like to make a peaceful country, a friendly country, a very successful country and to show our neighbors in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria that we can be a good neighbor.”
Avan Sherzad, an event organizer and their volunteer group with members coming from across the Kurdistan Region wanted to put the Kurdistan Region on the map through the festival of colors.
“The purpose of this event is to promote love, multiculturalism and unity of the diverse groups in the community (Kurdistan),” explained the organizer.
Sava, 17, a student in Erbil was excited that Kurdish youth had access to these types of festivals now.
“This is the first time I’ve come to an event like this. I’m so happy and so glad that these types of festivals are now going on in Kurdistan,” she said. “I’m really happy because Kurdish youth and Kurdish young people really need this because we have a lot of talented people, a lot of smart actors so we really need these kinds of things to show the world our energy and our culture.”
When asked what she would like the world to see about Kurdistan, Sava replied, “I want the world to see everything Kurdistan has to offer, but the most important thing is our history,” she said.
“We have had a very bloody history like Anfal and Halabja. We are really hurting. Our people are brokenhearted so all of the people outside need to know that we are strong, stronger than anyone could imagine.”
Unidentified festival goers flash the peace sign behind of a large crowd at Erbil's first color festival.
“Now, the most important thing for us to be independent,” Sava added. “It’s our hope and dream.”
The Kurdish flag is also called the colorful flag by Kurds. It was the only flag allowed into the event. No one could bring any other type of flag depicting any political affiliation.
The event takes place as the Kurdistan Region is scheduled to hold an independence referendum in 10 days.
See more images from the the colorful event in a photo gallery.