Notes from Cizre

Cizre diary beginning September 2015

The summer heat is different in Botan (one of the regions occupied by Kurds in Turkish Kurdistan.) We have been out of water for days; in order to drink, we draw muddy water from the well. We won’t survive if we don’t drink. Our bodies sweat constantly. Everything is covered in dust. The babies have no food left and they cry. The older children consider all this is a game and they go on playing inside the burned-out houses.

The sound of weapons hasn’t stopped in days. The corpses in the neighborhood mosque are starting to smell. The stink will make us sick. The Co-Presidents of the people’s assembly, Mehmet Tunç and Asya Yüksel own the only generator in the neighborhood. They stop at each street corner so that the residents can recharge their electric torches. They are very strong. From what source do they draw their strength and their energy? I admire them. Not once have they abandoned the people in the midst of the confrontrations.

For days now, our reports have consisted of lists of deaths. I look at the young people resisting death. They smile. They are not desperate in any way. They say: “We will see better days eventually, that’s for sure.”

We enter a house. A mother is near the corpse of her daughter killed by the police. The ambulance does not come. The corpse has been on the ground for several days. The family still has a bit of ice in the freezer. The mother thinks this ice will stop the stench of her daughter’s dead body. The girl, Cemile Çağırga was only 12 years old. She was targeted and shot in front of her home. Emine, her mother, says: “Cemile came to see me and said: mummy, there are cameras down below and they are filming. I said all right, daughter. She had already seen herself on other recordings. Later, we went down too. After all, we have relatives living nearby and we were worried about them. We have rights too, as human beings, and they keep restricting our rights. At that moment, we heard the shots. First, light gunfire, then with heavier weapons. At that sound, her two uncles and I came up to the house immediately. I saw Cemile on the ground. I took her on my lap and she said “oh, mama.” That was the last time she spoke the word mama. She died. We brought her inside. The hospitals were taken, we couldn’t bring her there.”

“I had a daughter, now she is dead, we had named her Cemile. I was so happy to have another child. Her brother wasn’t at home then. He had gone to work in the fields of hazel trees. He called to know the baby’s gender. He missed his native town so, being so far away. He asked us to name his sister Cemile, Cizira Botan, in honour of the town of Cizre, in the Botan region.”

“This is not the first time…”

“In 1992 also, the State set our house on fire. I was inside with my daughter, my father-in-law, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and her daughter. Those seven people became martyrs. After that day, I joined the struggle. I am one of the Saturday Mothers” (mothers in search of relatives who have disappeared since the 90s.) I was searching for my missing daughter. Now, my other daughter has also disappeared.”

“What are we then?”

With a heavy heart, we leave this women who holds out against pain with such persistence. We go back out on the street. There is a funeral in almost every home. We enter a house from which we hear the sound of laments. There are two bodies on the ground, those of Maşallah Edin and her daughter-in-law Zeynep. The laments are for them.

Eyaz tells us he saw his mother and his wife Zeynep agonizing for hours. For hours, they attempted to crawl over to the bodies but, each time, a sniper opened fire on them. Still in a state of shock, Eyaz says: “First, they shot my wife. She had our child in her arms. When they shot her down, my mother tried to pull back my wife and my child into the house but they shot at her also. Then my uncle and my sister-in-law attempted to recover them, and were both wounded. After more than three hours, my mother and my wife bled to death.”

There is another funeral one street over, the laments from one mix in with the laments from the other.

Everything in the house shows the impact of bullets – the walls, the windows, the furniture. The house belongs to Osman Çağın, shot down by governmental forces. His torn and bloodied slippers are still in front of the door. His niece Asiye tells us: “My uncle was in his grocery shop. The assaults began suddenty, my uncle was shot down attempting to re-enter the house. We called an ambulance but it did not come. My uncled bled to death.”

“My son went out and never came back”

The situation is the same in the Yafes neighborhood in a district where the violation of rights grows heavier every day. Zeliha Taşkın, mother of 18 year old Ösgür Taşkın killed in Yafes says: “I hold the State responsible for taking my only son from me. I am a mother, they call me a terrorist instead of hearing my laments. My son wanted to get married, he had dreams. My son is one of the thousands of others in this country who were assassinated without living his dreams.”

“The State inflicted on us the experiences of Kobanê and of Gaza”

Hacera Süne sits in silence. The corpse of her daughter Meryem Süne waited for days, covered in ice in a neighbor’s cold room to prevent the stench. She is sad and proud. She looks up and says: “Write down what I’m about to say” and shouts: “My mother, they called a terrorist, had 7 children. What did they want from a 53 year old woman? The State claims that the scenes recorded here are lies, that they come from Gaza and Kobanê. It’s true that the State is inflicting on us what they live in Palestine and Kobanê. At least, Israel and ISIS take responsibility for their actions. This State doesn’t even do that much.”

21 people were massacred in only 9 days

Sitting in a corner, I look at my notes. I see how many deaths I covered in this brief period.

As entered in my notebook:

September 4

The attacks and massacre began on the night the governor of Şırnak imposed the “curfew”

September 5

the neighborhoods were attacked with heavy weapons until morning. 3 citizens wounded, one seriously, in Boas avenue in Nur neighborhood during attacks by the police with grenade launchers from armored vehicles.

Nur neighborhood under heavy attacks in the morning and swept by fire from sharpshooters. Two young men were killed at dawn in the neighborhood, Mehmet Emin Levent (21) and Said Çağdavul (19).

A youngster wounded in the foot in Nur neighborhood. H.B. (15) was treated by citizens as he could not be taken to the hospital for security reasons. B.I. (16), Umran Asrak (18), Zinet Dirican (30) and Meryem Işcen (40) were seriously wounded by random shooting by the police.

September 6

Muhammed Tahir Yaramış, a 35-day old infant lost his life around 3 AM in the Nur neighborhood because he was ill and could not be taken to the hospital since the police forbade the entry of the ambulance in the neighborhood. Baby Muhammed’s corpse was placed on the ground at the mosque, next to that of Sait Çağdavul (19) killed by the police. Also laid out at the mosque are the bodies of Hacı Ata Borçin (70) and Wetban Bülbül (65) who died of heart attacks under the explosions and of Mehmet

Emin Levent (21) who could not be buried either.

The police sprayed bullets along Idil, avenue, Aşk, Botaş, Yafes and Dörtyol avenues, and the residents have covered the streets and avenues with canvas curtains to block the policemen’s view.

Cemile Çağırga, 13, lost her life following shots fired from a police armored vehicle in the hills of Cudi neighborhood.

September 7

Shots from an armored vehicle sprayed three children who had gone out to get bread. Murat Babyiğit (9) was taken to Cizre’s governmental hospital while Botan Imrag and the other child were taken back to their homes.

At approximately 6 PM, Ö.M. 13, was seriously wounded by shots to the stomach and taken to the hospital in Şırnak.

September 8

The family of Ibrahim Çiçek (80) wanted to take him to the hospital because he was ill. But the old man had to wait for hours because, once again, the police forbade the entry of ambulances in the neighborhood, and he died in the middle of the road.

Zeynep Kaçar (aged between 55 and 60 years) suffered a stroke. The ambulance sent to pick her up was forbidden entry in the neighborhood. A woman by the name of Ayriye Kalkan, victim of post-partum hemorraging, could not be taken to the hospital either.

Thousands of people from the Cudi neighborhood began a march in support of their neighbors in the Nur neighborhood, and in support of the resistance. Soldiers, police special forces and sharpshooters all shot at the crowd. There was much confusion and many wounded.

Nur neighborhood was subjected to attacks by grenade launchers during which a woman by the name of Güneş Sank was wounded. People were deprived of access to the hospital for 5 days since entry was forbidden to ambulances, and did their best to treat the sick and the wounded with available resources.

September 9

Shots swept over the neighborhood of Yafes. The police have imposed a blockade on the neighborhood and fired at it from armored vehicles. Shots from these vehicles located on the road circling the neighborhood killed Meryem Süme (53) when she was hit in the stomach while sitting in front of her house. So far in Cizre under blockade by police and soldiers, 10 citizens ahve been massacred. As for the body of young Cemile, kept in the freezer by her mother, attempts were made to protect Meryem Süme’s corpse with bottles of frozen water.

In the neighborhood of Yafes, Özgür Taşkın (20) was seriously wounded by police gunfire at approximately 5 AM. Despite repeated appeals by HDP deputies, access of the ambulance was forbidden. Wounded, Özgür Taşkın bled to death at approximately 8:30 AM. In the same neighborhood, two other young people were wounded by police fire. We are still waiting for the evacuation of the dead and the wounded. Since the assault launched on September 4 on Cizre, ten other people beside Özgür have been massacred.

September 10

The names of those massacred in 24 hours in Cizre: Masallah Edin, Zeynep Taşkın, Esref Aydin, Sait Naici, Sürme Karane, Sait Esref Erden. Among the seriously wounded: Ayse Edin, Ekrem Dayan and Berxwedan Taşkın, I year old.

Truck drivers blocked for over a seek in Zaxo in Southern Kurdistan started a protest march toward the frontier. Turkish soldiers opened fire on them as they attempted to cross the border near the village of Kotite. One of the truck drivers was killed and six others were injured.

September 11

A child by the name of Selman Ağar (10) was killed during an attack by the police.

September 12

Mehmet Erdoğan (75) and father of 5 children was shot in the head by the police as he stepped out to get some bread. His body remained in the street where he was killed in Nur neighborhood. Sahin Açik (70) died of a heart attack during an assault that lasted all night.

NOTE: Months later, in December 2015, a second curfew was imposed on Cizre. This curfew lasted for months and hundreds of people were killed. Among them, a three-month old baby, Miray and many elderly citizens. After the massacre, houses were demolished. The thousands who lost their homes were forced to live in tents on the outskirts of the town.