Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Happy New Year Mr President


AFGHANISTANU.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the Persian New Year (1390, which started on Monday) with a video message, as he has done every year of his presidency.

Nawroz festival (also spelt nowroz, nowruz and several other ways) falls on spring equinox and is celebrated across a wide swathe of Central Asia and surrounding areas — it is a public holiday in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kashmir and Kyrgyzstan, according to Wikipedia.

But Obama’s message was addressed almost entirely to Iranians. “This is a holiday for the Iranian people to spend time with friends and family,” Obama said, launching a discussion of the country’s past and future challenges, after just a briefest of  “best wishes to all who are celebrating Nowruz in the United States and around the world”.

His choice of words did not go unnoticed in Afghanistan, currently host to almost 100,000 U.S. troops. The popular holiday was once banned as “un-Islamic” by the hardline Taliban — who U.S. troops are fighting — and has been  celebrated enthusiastically again since their downfall in 2001 .