Recently, Afghanistan has entered its darkest period in history. Due to the Taliban regime, the country has been divided into two factions, the anti-Taliban and Taliban. The latter view anything that is not Taliban as a threat to their existence, and thus treat those people, phenomena, and values with extreme hostility and violence. One of the values that has been targeted by the Taliban is Nawroz.
The Taliban view themselves as absolutely good and all others as absolutely evil. They believe their values are perfect and should be defended and expanded, while anything unknown to them is rejected and destroyed. This applies to religious and non-religious phenomena, values, and teachings alike; the Taliban are able to give them a spiritual aspect through their interpretation in order to support or oppose them. Just recently, on March 10, a member of the Taliban shot and killed a bride for listening to music while they themselves were singing, dancing, and listening to music at a checkpoint in the Kuz Kunar district of Nangarhar province. However, videos recorded and published by Taliban fighters and officials show that they listen to music and dance in private circles, government offices, and even mosques. Yet, listening to music and dancing is forbidden for others and carries a heavy penalty. This demonstrates that the sanctity and legality of an act is not a principle for the Taliban; rather, what matters is whether it is familiar or unfamiliar to them. Therefore, since Nawroz has no connection with the Taliban, it has been placed in the position of sanctity. This group, which now dominates the entire country, give themselves the right to determine everything, even the level of happiness and sadness in our society and what it should be happy about and what it should not.
Many who have a dogmatic view of religion, such as the Taliban, expect the people of Afghanistan to conform to their standards of appearance and thought. They want people to share their likes and dislikes, and to be happy when they are happy and sad when they are sad. However, this expectation cannot be met in a situation where those involved cannot find a common language and create mutual values. When we deny each other’s existence and fail to respect the interests of others, we cannot reach a common language and values, resulting in the current situation.
Afghanistan is now a broken, heartbreaking, and exhausted society, with many internal and external factors contributing to this state of affairs, all of which stem from a lack of mutual acceptance. If regional countries and world powers intervene, it is due to the absence of mutual acceptance. Similarly, if internal conflicts undermine the legitimacy of governments, it is because of mutual negation. Likewise, if corruption is a major factor in the collapse of the republic in 2021, it is because of the negation of others and the acceptance of familiars only, which has caused suffering for all. One of the most immediate consequences of this is the domination of the Taliban and the closure of schools, with girls in Uruzgan Kandahar, Bamyan, Badakhshan, and Faryab bearing the brunt of this. In some cases, certain ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups may be less affected, while others may be more adversely impacted. No one is safe from the calamity that is occurring in the country. Therefore, this situation must come to an end one day, and our collective pain must be addressed, which is only possible through a collaborative effort. To do this, the first requirement is to recognize and respect each other’s values.
The celebration of Nawroz can bring together all the inhabitants of Afghanistan and foster better relationships with its western and northern neighbors. Unfortunately, our society has created many enemies, both within and outside its borders. Politicians’ actions have caused the people of Afghanistan to view each other as more enemies than friends. These enemies are not all human; some are Buddha statues and Rustam’s throne, while others are mobile phones, computers, television, social networks, and certain books, and even certain words of a language. In such a hostile environment, it is not rational to consider Nawroz an enemy and be hostile towards it. Denying this ancient value does not benefit anyone, but its acceptance can be a source of encouragement for the people of Afghanistan and help to reduce social and political divisions. Just as Nawroz lovers expect their opponents to celebrate this festival with them, they should also make it a priority to respect and accept their values.
The celebration of Nawroz has no relation to religion or language, as it is a festival that celebrates the renewal of nature as a cause for joy. Even if Zoroastrians may have honored this festival at some point, this does not mean it is Zoroastrian. Similarly, when Islam arrived and this festival persisted, it did not become Islamic. This festival is not associated with any religion; it is a cultural and emotional response of humans to the changing of nature. Omar Khayyam’s “Nawroznama” states that this day has been celebrated since the Jamshid era, and that the name “Nawroz” was given to this celebration by Jamshid himself. He wrote: “And after him, the kingdom passed to his brother Jamshid, and from this date, one thousand and forty years had passed, and the sun passed on the first day of Farvardin and came to the ninth tower since four hundred and twenty-one years had passed from Malik Jamshid, this cycle was over, and the sun came back to the first day of Farvardin. He made the Diwan subservient to him and told him to build Garmaba (public bath) and weave Diba (fine silk fabric) … he received musk, Ambergris, Camphor, saffron, oud, and other good things. He made a celebration and called it Nawroz and told the people to celebrate that day every year, naming it a new day as the new month of Farvardin comes.” (Khayyam, Nawroznama)
According to Khayyam, this festival has been celebrated by kings and people since its inception. Even when it appeared later in the era of Zoroaster’s Gestasb, this festival has remained alive and celebrated. The non-religiousness of this celebration is likely the main factor for its survival. Additionally, when the Greeks came, or the Muslims conquered these areas and converted people to Islam, this festival was still able to endure. This celebration is still alive in its glory and authority and is even expanding into new areas due to migrations and freedoms. Central Asian countries, which were not allowed to celebrate Nawroz under Soviet rule, now celebrate this day magnificently. Therefore, it is not wise to be hostile to Nawroz for religious reasons and attribute this historical celebration to a specific religion. As previously mentioned, this festival was accepted by Zoroastrians, and Zoroastrian rituals were included in it. However, it was not a Zoroastrian festival. Even now, in some Islamic countries, Nawroz contains some rituals, including the prayer “ya muqallib al-qulub wal-absar…” but the Nawroz ritual has not become Islamic. There is no need to link it to religion, and on the contrary, we should not be hostile to any non-religious phenomenon and value. Among the numerous enemies that the people of Afghanistan have made for themselves, they should not add another enemy called Nawroz.
Nawroz and other occasions and celebrations should be utilized as a means of mutual acceptance, as this festival can bridge the gap between different religions, classes, and groups in the divided society of Afghanistan. This can lead to the establishment of friendship and respect for each other’s cultural and historical assets.
As we suffer from poverty, insecurity, lack of health services, school closures, kidnappings, and torture from east to west and from north to south in these days, we can still find joy in being together. Nawroz brings greenness and freshness to the north and central Afghanistan, and it can do the same in the east and south if we cultivate the capacity to accept each other, reconcile with ourselves, fellow Afghans, and nature. Furthermore, the cultural values of those who oppose Nawroz should be respected and honored.