Kurdish community celebrates its New Year in Cape Town

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

The local Kurdish community will celebrate its freedom alongside musicians at the Cape Town Festival today (SATURDAY).

Festival founder Ryland Fisher said they decided to hold the event on Human Rights Day this year “so that we can remember the people who have made sacrifices so that we can all be free”.

The one-day festival will unfold at the Company’s Garden in central Cape Town from 9am until 6pm. It is free to the public.

Fisher said it “gives people from the Cape Flats an opportunity to own a part of the city centre for one day”.

“We provide a platform for community artists to perform on a big stage in front of a diverse audience. This year we will have community artists from Atlantis, Delft and Langa while our headline act will be Jonathan Rubain who still lives in Hanover Park,” he said.

“This fills me with pride because I also grew up in Hanover Park. We will also have the Rosa Choir which is a diverse group of singers.”

Former Idols winner Karen Kortje will also perform at the event.

The festival started when Fisher edited the Cape Times newspaper and ran the One City, Many Cultures campaign in 1999.

Fisher said the festival, like the campaign had intended, “aims to create a more tolerant, integrated and inclusive city of Cape Town”.

The festival has grown over the years to platform international voices too.

This year it will feature the non-profit Kurdish Human Rights Action Group (KHRAG). The latter will inform locals about the struggle for Kurdish rights in various countries.

KHRAG will offer homeless people a meal at Baran’s restaurant on Greenmarket Square as part of its Newroz celebration. At 6pm, it will screen a Kurdish film at the restaurant, which will be free to the public.

Baran Kalay, an executive member of KHRAG and owner of Mesopotamia restaurant on Long Street, said Kurds “usually feed poor people when we have a celebration”.

“It is a sadaqah (donation) to those who are hungry and poor,” said Kalay.

He said Newroz marked the “triumph of light over darkness” in Kurdish history. It also marks the Kurdish new year.

Kalay said Newroz started “thousands of year ago when the evil King Zahak killed children to cure a disease”.

“A Kurdish hero, Kawa, who had lost six sons to Zahak, went up to the king’s castle and slew him… For the Kurdish people, this story represents their oppression and liberation,” said Kalay.

He added: “Even though Kurdish people today face challenges from the Turkish government and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, we still celebrate this day of freedom. And we want to celebrate with the South African community.

“Even if we still face challenges, we are free in our hearts and minds.”

The New World Foundation in troubled Lavender Hill will meanwhile hold a protest “against the gang violence and shootings in our community” from 9am today.

It said: “Residents are unhappy about the recent shootings and general violence in the communities caused by the gangs. This protest is an appeal to the gangs that live in these communities to stop their shootings and violence which is causing fear… people are losing their lives.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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