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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 March 2006, 14:49 GMT
In pictures: Norouz - New Year festival

Kurds celebrate New Year with fire jumping in Istanbul

People across Central Asia are celebrating Norouz, the beginning of the year according to the Persian calendar.

Kurdish children gather around a fire in Kirkuk, northern Iraq

The first day of spring, or vernal equinox, Norouz is a time for new clothes, family visits and fires - which some people jump over to banish darkness.

Afghan horseman play Buzkashi

Afghan horsemen mark the occasion with a traditional game of Buzkashi - when players show their prowess by grabbing a headless carcass of a goat or calf.

Iranian woman picks out goldfish in Tehran

A major tradition is the display of the Haft Seen - seven things beginning with S in the Farsi language or other symbols of life such as goldfish.

An Afghan vendor at Kart-e Sakhy cemetery

An Afghan vendor rests after building his stall at Kabul's Kart-e Sakhy cemetery where many visitors come for family prayers.

Police watch Kurdish Norouz celebrations in Mersin

In Turkey, Norouz has taken on nationalistic significance for the Kurdish minority, and police are often present at festivities to ensure order.

Kurds celebrate Norouz in Diyarbakir

The biggest gatherings in Turkey take place in Diyarbakir where up to one million Kurds have been known to gather.

Akra, Iraq

In Akra, in mountainous northern Iraq, Kurdish inhabitants light fires and display a huge Kurdish flag from the mountaintop.

Women in traditional Uzbek costume in Tashkent

Cultural festivals take place across the region, including in the Uzbek capital Tashkent.





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