Posted on March 26th, 2012 No comments
On March 17, I was pleased to take part in a black tie gala at the historic building of the Organization of American States. The annual event to celebrate the arrival of spring was hosted by the Nowruz Commission, which I helped found in 2010. The event was supported by the Embassies of Kazakhstan, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and various Central Asian countries.
We were all honored to be joined for the evening’s festivities by several U.S. Government officials, congressmen, diplomats, business executives and academics who were eager to learn more about the cultures of Nowruz-observant nations. Exhibits by Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Turkey, as well as ours, which included items of traditional Kazakh clothing, music and educational information about the traditions of the Nowruz holiday were visited – and praised – by the honored guests. The event also featured a beautifully decorated a Chaikhana, or tea-house, where a local dance group “Silk Road” performed magnificent folk dances.
The gala was also featured by performances by musicians from Turkey, Azerbaijan, the Kurdish communities of Iraq and the Iranian community in the U.S. The duo of Kazakh musicians — alto violinist Arman Alpysbaeva and violonist Aisha Dosumova — left the public mesmerized by their virtuoso performance of two Mozart compositions and E.Brusilovskiy’s “Bozaygyr”.
In my opening remarks to the august group, I spoke to the importance of Nowruz in strengthening friendship between peoples, as well as preserving our common ancient traditions of giving, caring and “rebirth of friendship.”
For Kazakhs, like the citizens of many other Eurasian nations, spring is the time of hope and the beginning of a new cycle of life. It is marked by the observance of the New Year, called Nowruz (in Kazakh, it is pronounced “Nauriz”). In Persian, it means “New Day” and marks the beginning of the calendar year, which occurs on the vernal equinox in March. Universally, Nowruz is a time for family and friends to celebrate together, cherish the past memories and anticipate a better year to come.
As the guests enjoyed their meals, a documentary about the good works of the Nowruz Commission was screened. Among its charitable endeavors, and consistent with the best of Nowruz’s charitable traditions, the Commission has recently carried out several humanitarian projects supporting young people and orphans from our troubled neighbor Afghanistan.
I, and my co-founders – Bijan Kian, and the well-known philanthropist, Nasser Kazemini, are tremendously proud of the work done by the Commission and very grateful to its members, who include: Bill Veale, Executive Director, US-Kazakhstan Business Association, Dussenbay Kasseinov, the Secretary-General of TURKSOY and Darkan Nurmaganbet, President of the Kazakh American Association, among others.
Thanks in part to the efforts of the Commission, Nowruz is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. The first major step toward recognition of the holiday in the United States was made on March 19, 2008, when First Lady Laura Bush hosted a ceremony at the White House, which I was honored to attend.
Two years later, on the occasion of the establishment of the Commission, President Nursultan Nazarbayev sent a message to President Barack Obama expressing his conviction that the noblest work of the Nowruz Commission will provide an impetus to strengthening friendship between Kazakhstan and the U.S.
This year, the Nowruz Commission’s activities and membership has expanded to include representatives of the UK, Italy, Turkey, Georgia and Tajikistan, who were appointed Nowruz Ambassadors charged with promoting the celebration in their home countries.
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton annually extend their greeting to those celebrating Nowruz. This year, the President issued a video greeting on March 21, saying, “in communities and homes from America to southwest Asia, families and friends are coming together to celebrate the hope that comes with renewal.”
The Secretary of State in her message said: “For over 3,000 years, Nowruz has been a time of hope for millions of people around the world. The spirit of compassion, family, and renewal is deeply woven throughout all of the rich cultural traditions of Nowruz, and reminds us of our shared commitment to a better world.”
My dear friends, I want to take this opportunity to wish you, your families and friends a joyous Nowruz — complete with its lucky seven blessings of joy, good fortune, wisdom, health, wealth, vibrant growth and, most importantly, heavenly protection – for the New Year and beyond. It is my sincere hope that next year, we will have shared our customs and traditions with an even wider audience, and that the good works of the Nowruz Commission continue to touch the lives of our friends and neighbors who are the most in need.
Erlan A. Idrissov