Scenes of resistance from Cizre under siege


CIZRE | The list is long of residents of the town of Cizre who have died over the past nine days: Mehmet Emin Levent; two elderly victims of heart attacks; Sait Çağdavul, 19; Tahir Yaranmış, a baby; Osman Çağı, 18; Cemile Çağırga, 12; Ibrahim Çiçek, 80; Meryem Süne, 53; Özgür Taşkın, 18, Masallah Edin, 44; Zeynep Taşkın, 18; Esref Erden, 65, Sürme Karane, 60; Muhammet Dikmen, 70; Bünyamin Iviç, 15, Selman Ağar, 10; Sait Maici, 18; and Mehmet Erdoğan, 75.

Not a single day of the curfew has gone by without someone being killed or seriously wounded. Armored vehicles are posted all over and security forces rain explosives on the town, particularly on the Nur neighborhood. Nonetheless, residents fear they will face an even bloodier massacre should they flee from their homes.

Zeynep Taşkın, aged 18, was attempting to cross the street with her baby in her arms when snipers shot her down. No sooner had she fallen that the grandmother was killed beside her while attempting to save the baby. Words fail to describe the moments of terror lived by that tiny baby, crying with no one answering him.

Cizre is not how you imagine. On the day that turned out to be the last day of the siege, we headed toward the Nur neighborhood in order to testify about the residents’ attempts at forging peace through resistance.

Women resist and build a communal life

On every street in Cizre, communal arrangements handle daily tasks. Children tie ropes around empty water jugs in order to hold noise demonstrations as a protest. We pass through a crowd of hundreds of children playing in this one-instrument orchestra, on route to the Cizre women tirelessly baking bread in their back yards. With first-aid kits strapped on their backs, girls of 12 and 13 run through the streets like frontline medics while their mothers bake the bread over backyard fires. The sound of unending explosions is enough to leave anyone in shock, yet the people of Cizre manage to survive through community sharing.

Leyla, 19, sings by the fire. She has a beautiful voice. The week-old baby on her knees was born prematurely on the day the assaults were launched against the town. Leyla says her baby doesn’t have a name yet; she hasn’t felt like giving her one.

“When all this will be over, when we can experience that joy, I will give my daughter the first name that will come to mind,” she says. “It must be a name that will remind me of the resistance and serhildan (intifida) as if it were yesterday, every time I will hear it.”

Too worried over the fate of her people, Leyla hasn’t found much time to look after the baby. “But this is my first baby. I was so excited throughout my pregnancy! Now, all I want is for the massacre to end before it spreads even more,” she says.

Children with nothing but muddy water to drink

Cheered on by the children, we take to the sewer to reach Özkan street, where the explosions are at their most intense. We reach the street thanks to the fearless women of the neighborhood.

Here, residents share a single generator they feed with the gas siphoned out of their cars. They use the generator to pump water up from the well. Although there is very little of it, the residents try to provide what clear water they can find to feverish children who, failing all else, must drink muddy water.

The elderly women in the neighborhood run from one street to another to reach mothers giving birth all over Cizre. We learn there have been dozens of births since the beginning of the curfew.

The slogan repeated every night: “If we make it through this night…”

In the Nur neighborhood, we witness the spirit of resistance despite the nightly shooting and launching of grenades. The residents explain they survived similar war tactics against civilians in the 90s when the Turkish State waged a dirty war in the region. Now, they are more hardened than ever.

“The minute we lose our morale, we will lose our struggle,” they say. The lack of food is a major problem, but Cizre inhabitants seem unshakeable, claiming the vegetable they planted in their gardens will ripen any day now.

The streets fill up in early evening. Wherever the zone is secure, the neighborhood mothers build fires in front of their house, and sing local traditional songs. Youngsters prepare tea on the fires and pass it around, while the older mothers sit inside, boosting the morale of their dozens of visitors with stories of their experiences in the 90s. When the grenade explosions grow in intensity, the residents respond with slogans and banging on pots and pans, while the volunteer medics go in search of the wounded.

The neighborhood women lead the noise demonstrations and occasionally organize brief marches throughout the streets, while the children gather debris left by the explosions. Every night the explosions grow stronger, but the usual comment by the residents is simply: “If we make it through this night, it will all be over.”