Taliban cancel public holiday for Nowruz but say celebrations allowed

 Statement by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden Marking Nowruz


Jill and I extend our best wishes to all who are celebrating Nowruz in the United States and around the world today — including in Iran and across the Middle East, in Central and South Asia, in the Caucuses, and in Europe.

The Nowruz holiday brings family and friends together around the table to give thanks for loved ones, count our blessings, share meals and gifts, reflect on the year that has passed, and welcome the arrival of spring and the possibilities of a new season. That spirit of new beginnings and the joy of Nowruz is reflected in our own Haft-Sin table at the White House, representing our hopes for the new year. It is a recognition and celebration of the vibrant cultures and friendships of our many diaspora communities in America who make extraordinary contributions and strengthen the fabric of our nation every day. To everyone celebrating, Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak — we wish you a Happy Nowruz.

 Afghanistan's Taliban administration said there would be no public holiday for the Persian New Year this week, but said they would not stop people from celebrating the festival.

Persian New Year, known as Nowruz and celebrated throughout Iran and Central Asia, is a popular festival in Afghanistan and usually marked by a public holiday, when families gather to prepare festive dishes and welcome the beginning of spring.

Mohammad Yunus Sidiqi, spokesman for the labour ministry, told Reuters that there would be no official public holiday on Monday, when Nowruz was set to take place.

An information ministry spokesman said the holiday was not in accordance with Islamic law, but that private celebrations by civilians would be allowed.

"We are not officially celebrating Nowruz," said Abdul Ahad Amad, head of publications at the information ministry. "If people want to do something we are not preventing them."

The Islamist Taliban took over the country in August. The international community and many Afghans have called on the group to form a representative government and recognise the pluralism of the country, which is made up of multiple ethnic groups and cultural influences.

Though workers will have to return to the office and public university students said exams had been scheduled for Monday, there were signs that Afghans would still celebrate.

Colourful flags were strung up across streets in parts of Kabul and the leaders of mosques in the capital and the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif said they were preparing for a traditional banner-raising ceremony known as Jahenda Bala, but were waiting for guidance from authorities on whether they would be able to go ahead.

"The coming of Spring is engrained and rooted in our history, our literature, our cultural memory, our traditions, and our cultural heritage," said Munazza Ebtikar, a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford focusing on the history and anthropology of Afghanistan.

"Celebrating Nowruz has become a political act, it's about preservation and resistance," she said.

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