Crimean Tatars not celebrating Nowruz, says association head

Crimean Tatars are not celebrating this year's Nowruz festival on March 21 to demonstrate their opposition to Russia's annexation of Crimea

Crimean Tatars are not celebrating this year's Nowruz festival on March 21 to demonstrate their opposition to Russia's annexation of Crimea

ISTANBUL - Crimean Tatars are showing their opposition to Russia's annexation of the Crimea by not marking a first day of spring festival, called Nowruz, traditionally a day "of happiness and jubilation," according to the head of an Istanbul-based association of the peninsula's ethnic minority.

"Crimea is facing a Russian invasion. Crimean Tatar people are all struggling for their life and homeland," says Ergun Sevimsoy, from the Crimean Tatars Cultural Foundation in Istanbul.

Nowruz, celebrated every year on March 21, is also the beginning of the Persian year.

The day is traditionally celebrated with a picnic, local dancing, horse racing and traditional wrestling. It is celebrated annually on March 21 and families in many parts of the world gather to observe the rituals.

Last year, a well known Crimean Tatar singer, Server Kakura, came to Istanbul to celebrate Nowruz with their fellow Tatars in Turkey -- of which there are seven million, or ten percent of the population.

"Crimean Tatars living in Turkey are happy here, but those in Crimea are struggling to save our homeland. However, we have a strong motivation to persevere in a determined way: the statement of our leader Mustafa Abduldzhemil Qırımoglu 'I prefer death to another exile,'" Sevimsoy said.

Enjoyed by people of several different faiths and cultures, Nowruz is said to have originated in Iran but is also celebrated by the people of Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey and observed in Bosnia, Caucasus, Crimea, India, Macedonia, Serbia, and among Uighurs and Salars of China.

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