Military officials of Kurdish forces in Syria warned Kurds living in the war-torn Middle Eastern country Monday that militants of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, planned to launch terrorist attacks during the Kurdish New Year's holiday of “Newroz,” which is celebrated between March 18 and 24. The Kurdish military police has implemented several security measures to thwart potential attacks in the Syrian cities of Efrin and Qamishli, including bans on motorcycles, gunfire, and fireworks throughout the six-day holiday period.
Newroz celebrations were reportedly barred from being held in the cities at night, which included a ban on all fires associated with the famed ritual of Muslim practitioners jumping over bonfires as a symbol of “rebirth, rejuvenation and reconciliation” for the New Year and the arrival of springtime. The Kurdish police called on Kurds across the country to report anything suspicious over the holiday period to local law enforcement.
The Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria has been fighting ISIS militants throughout the six-year Syrian Civil War with the help of American-led airstrikes. The Kurds, who are Sunni Muslim people that make up the fourth largest ethnic group in the region, reportedly ant to form an independent nation and view both the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and ISIS militants fighting him to control the country as roadblocks to their end goal. Between 25 and 33 million Kurds, who have their own language and culture, live in the mountainous region between Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia, CNN reported in March 2016.
Kurds in Syria were subjected to several discriminatory policies under Assad’s rule. Before the Civil War that has claimed the lives of more than 470,000 Syrians broke out in March 2011, Kurds were banned from wearing traditional attire or singing in Kurdish in public. Since the Kurds aligned themselves against Assad in the bloody armed conflict, they were stripped of their Syrian citizenship.
ISIS militants conducted an attack on the first day of the Kurdish New Year’s celebration last year in the Makhmour region of Northern Iraq where five suicide bombers ambushed a U.S.-led joint militia of Kurdish and Iraqi soldiers, leaving two Iraqi soldiers dead. Another Islamic State suicide bombing at a Kurdish wedding celebration in northeast Syria in October 2016, reportedly killed 36 people, including 11 women and children.