I wish all who celebrate nowruz a fresh start of the new year. It is a bittersweet celebration, as too many people are either trying to survive war, or living under repression. Many families will not be complete at tonight’s dinner table.
In these challenging times, from Northern Iraq to Iran, from Azerbaijan to Syria, people are in need of a new year, in need of spring.
This day should remind us in Europe, of our responsibility in limiting the immense human suffering of people celebrating Nowruz today. While the world waits in anticipation what results the negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran may bring, we can not allow the talks to eclipse other important topics.
In particular Iran’s human rights situation, which has not improved as was hoped, must be a top priority for Europe to address. It is a heart felt topic for the many Iranians who have fled from the Islamic Republic to Europe over the years.
In Syria, a vicious war rages on. The innocent civilian population continues to be the target of both Assad’s barrel bombs and IS’s medieval brutalities.
The cynical and barbaric attacks by IS are aimed at minorities in Iraq and Syria in particular. The Kurdish people are in the frontlines of defending their territories and their people. Women and girls are equally attacked, and treated without any respect by terrorist fighters.
Kidnappings, and the ongoing fight against jihadist terrorists, causes many families in Iraqi Kurdistan not to be complete at tonight’s dinner table.
Less prominently featured in our news headlines, but very worrying, is Azerbaijan. Where the government is cracking down on journalists and opposition figures as well as human rights defenders.
All together we see a somber picture of too much manmade suffering. Light comes from the courage and relentless aspiration of people to live freely despite all the enormous challenges.