Reflections of Newroz from the Diaspora
Newroz, the New Year, a time of hope, a time of love, a time of new beginnings has come around again.
Spring blooms across the land, and new flowers emerge shyly, forged by the breath of a winter coming to an end. Golden narcissus and red poppies jealously compete for space, each vying for a greater share of the sun’s love. The women wear newly sewn dresses, their beads and the hues of their clothes shine like a thousand living, dancing rainbows. The children, unaware of the wars and the statelessness they are to inherit, skip and play with excitement.
Perhaps this year Kurdistan will be freed and the wars will end, the refugees will return, the healing can finally begin. Surely, another year can’t possibly go on in this way, an open wound of a nation, bled dry, crippled beyond recognition.
Surely this year will be different?
Newroz comes each year- cycling through the still ongoing wars, the fresh graves, the children orphaned, the women widowed, the lives destroyed- and one must wonder if there will ever be a time when she no longer decides to come around; tired of the tyranny of men, tired of bringing hope to a hopeless land, tired of the same story, the same old myths and tales renewed with new, shinier weapons.
Yet, a thousand fires are lit each Spring Equinox, in the hope of tyranny ending, invoking the cherished memory of Kawa’s fight for freedom against Zahāk’s oppression a millennia ago. The fire of Newroz has been burning for millennia, but the tyranny continues unabated, and yet, hope, like an ever blooming flower, lives eternal. This is what Newroz is. At her heart, her eternal hope for a better tomorrow blooms unblemished, unwavering in her dedication that life will be different – better. This is why she comes around each year, bringing garlands of hope, wrapped in the promise of expectant optimism; even if the land she walks on is occupied and burnt worse than the year before.
For us, living in exile, in the diaspora, another year has come around. As the cold gloom of winter sets in, we receive calls from excited family and friends- even those in the deep embrace of the terrors of war and we hear the catch of excitement in their voices. It is Newroz, after all. For us living in exile in the diaspora, the disconnect from home and Kurdistan is like an ever fresh wound. This wound of non-belonging- of alienation, of displacement, of being a refugee, of rootlessness- feels like an integral part of your identity has been painfully, irrevocably stripped away from your skin, layer by layer.
For us Kurds, statelessness structures our lives, brands our psychology, rebirths our exilic trauma across generations with the agonizing realization of semi-existence; a mirage of being, never part of the living. Only an observer, only a by-stander, only half alive, a monstrous hybridity of half breathing, half existing, of loss and non-being.
Statelessness is to be the eternal refugee, forever stepping on uneven, shifting ground. Statelessness is to be estranged from your body, the deluge of trauma you need to escape from- recoiling and shirking from yourself like dying from an incurable disease. Statelessness, that torturous actuality, who’s open wounds fester; and diaspora whose conditional safety comes at such a terrible price.
Loss of identity or safety? Loss of life or safety? Loss of culture or safety? To die with honor from their chemical weapons on your motherland or to choose to feed your hungry child one more meal? The price we pay for sins we have not committed, for inheriting the role of the meek and the wretched of the earth. From this pilgrimage- an unwelcomed refugee to the ever shrinking borders of the diaspora- you are forged by another fire, branded into a resilience, a durability, a tenacity you were forced to bear. A resilience and courage you must hide with the shame of the stateless, the dirty refugee, the unwelcomed guest, barely tolerated, hardly understood. Diaspora, whose final price is the proverbial death of who you were. Once the freedom fighter, the revolutionary, the teacher, the doctor, the engineer- now rebranded into a sterile, assimilated automaton of the new system, the new nation, of commodified, narrow existence in an alien, foreign culture.
Of course, the door to returning to a lost paradise is- according to the bigots- always open. So are the arbitrary prisons, executions, the sudden falling of bombs, and the hysterical search for the lost limbs of your children’s shattered bodies. We always knew that the home of our memories has long been tortured, and bombed into a horrifying, gruesome skeleton of its past glory.
The lost homeland, the beloved motherland, now a barren, desolate land whose trees are burnt, and whose sacred mountains are now bare of life, bare of hope. How does an orphaned child of war return to a mother, and a home, it never knew? And so, the irony of statelessness is that there is no home to return to; alien even from your own people, disassociated from imagined communities you dreamed would embrace you only to recoil when they realize you are not truly one of their own after all.
How do I tell you of my Newroz this year, and the years before it? How do I write of not belonging, so that I, the refugee, the displaced can be seen by you? How do I speak of losing your culture, being alienated from it, so that you occupy only the land of nothingness, separation and isolation knotted into your very existence? How do I voice the intolerable ache of nostalgia; your identity, your essence unfold from a distance, alien from it, as you occupy only the abyss of limbo?
Yet, Newroz, the New Year, a time of hope, a time of love, a time of new beginnings has come around again.