Arrival of spring marks the beginning of New Year in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin and the Balkans. The first day of the New Year ‘Nauroz has been celebrated in many traditional ways in this part of the world for centuries. There are, however, resistance to these traditions from more orthodox and extremist forces who see it as a pre-Islamic era practice that needs to be dropped.
This year, the day fell on Tuesday, March 21. On this very day, a group of students associated with the Islamist party- the Jamiat-e-Islami Pakistan, stormed a Nauroz party on the Punjab University campus. The ‘Islami Jamiat Talba’ beat those gathered there to welcome the New Year, and set their belongings on fire. The IJT is a right-wing student body that often operates in university campuses across the country as the de facto moral police. IJT members have in the past objected to Valentine’s Day celebrations and the playing of music at certain cultural events.
The day is meant to embrace each other, celebrate the gifts of nature and promote the culture of coexistence.
In Afghanistan for instance, people prepare ‘Haft Mewa’ (the Seven Fruits) on the New Year’s Day-made from seven different dried fruits served in their own syrup, for the friends, relatives and neighbours who visit each other’s homes on this day. Similar traditions of sharing happiness exist in Iran, the Central Asian states, Turkey, Iraq, Albania, Armenia, China, Georgia and many other countries.
In some countries, the farmer community are commemorated for their services throughout the year.
None of these practices disrespect any religion or community. As part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Nauroz belongs to everyone, and those trying to resist it with force, and impose their agenda violently needs to be stopped.