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Erbil welcomes Newroz, despite ISIS threat

By Ruwayda Mustafah Rabar 19/3/2015
Celebration of Nawroz in Erbil. KRG website photo.
Celebration of Nawroz in Erbil. KRG website photo.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - Although the Kurdistan region is on high alert, with battles raging against ISIS just kilometers from the capital, many locals feel secure enough behind the frontlines to speculate on the future.

A trip to the iconic Qaysari Bazaar last week showed Kurdish national sentiment running high, with posters of Peshmerga plastered all over the market hailing the fighters as the “Lions of Kurdistan.”  

“We feel safe. We don’t have any concern regarding security issues. We have our Peshmergas on the frontline against IS, and they will not be able to enter Erbil,” said 35-year-old Mohamed Ali.

The sense of stability is so strong, some Erbil residents like Ali found time to focus on more mundane complaints, namely the crippling impact of low oil prices and an ongoing entho-sectarian shift in the area

Ali has four children and rents a small modest house. He is frustrated with the Iraqi government for freezing  the Kurdistan region’s share of the annual budget, which has delayed civil servant salaries. Ali has not been paid for the past three months, forcing him drive a taxi driver to cover expenses.

“There will be inevitable changes in the dynamics of war,” said Azad Kak Rash, adding the Kurds should be prepared for unforeseen changes on the battlefield.

With Newruz just around the corner, Kak Rash, 26, said appreciate the sacrifices of Peshmerga forces.

“People have a heavy heart because of those killed on the battlefield. Newruz is not how it used to be,” he said.

At Machko’s Tea-Shop, opposite the bazaar, former Peshmerga Rashid Sabir Shexa, 63, expressed concern over Iranian influence in Iraq, and alleged intentions to form a neighbouring “Shiite state.”

“Iran wants to turn Iraq into a Shiite state,” said Shexa, who participated in the uprising against Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, as he sipped his tea in his blue Kurdish traditional garment.

He continued: “Turkey faces many problems in terms of its influence in Iraq. The Iranian government has more influence primarily because of its Shiite affiliation, something that Turkey lacks.”

Shexa believes Kurdish leaders should keep a balance between the various coalition forces aiding Peshmerga forces in the fight against ISIS through military equipment and air power.

“There seems to be a competition amongst allied forces. Nonetheless, I think Kurds should be united to fight IS, and should not take sides, but keep a balance,” Shexa said.

Despite the decline in business and lack of jobs patriotism and pride were still on display as Newroz approaches on Saturday.

Just ask Luqman Rasul, 45, who sells Kurdish flags, nationalist CDs, key-rings and pins.

“Kurdistan is secure. Nothing can threaten Erbil,” he said. 


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Argushi, USA | 19/3/2015
All of this is possible because of our brave peshmerga and their sacrifices. As a proud Kurd in USA I hope and pray that we will never forget them and their family. long live Kurdistan and may God protect our loin peshmerga. Because of them I am so proud to tell anyone here that I am a Kurd.
Liberty | 19/3/2015
We should all band together, worldwide, to make Newroz 2015 the biggest and loudest and proudest yet.. To show ISIS and all other enemies, that NOTHING will break Kurdish spirit. The Kurds who have died fighting IS, have done so to protect and preserve our culture and our traditions.. Let's honour them by keeping our culture and practising our traditions!
Cat | 19/3/2015
Situation in Kobani area and Cizire:
Dane | 19/3/2015
Go get back the caged Peshmerga fighters IMMEDIATELY by a foreign team of tactic experts BEFORE they will be burned alive during Newroz, as announced by those Isil sickos.
Marcopolo | 19/3/2015
Argushi@ you enjoy your time in uSA. why do not you join pehsmarge to fight ISIS?. It is not enough to say you are a proud kurd but doing nothing except talkinmg behind pc

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