Fear and death stalking Cizre

Fear and death stalking Cizre

Gülden Aydın CİZRE
Fear and death stalking Cizre

AA Photo

The streets of the Sur, Cudi, Nur and Yafes neighborhoods, where clashes have been intense, are adorned with banners and slogans. I pass through an identity check on every street. Tens of residents who I talked to say they have lost their hopes about the peace process.

“They say peace process; they step out of anti-riot vehicles, kill children and leave. Where do these bullets come from? Does the state not know the bullet it [fires]?” said one Cizre local.

The days are calm in Cizre, but when the sun sets, the streets turn into a different world. Every night, hand grenades, Kalashnikov fire and rocket launchers shake the air. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, the shops are open, children are playing, and women are chatting on the street corners. In the Sur, Cudi, Nur and Yafes neighborhoods, every street is draped with posters and slogans. The state does not reveal its face either in the Cizre city center or its neighborhoods. There is not a single police or a police car. Only one entrance/exit way has been left open. All other streets are cut with ditches and some with barricades.

‘Tiger team’ on the streets

Among the graffiti on the walls, “Tima Pling,” meaning “Tiger Team,” stands out the most. This is the name of the team that conducts the identity, car and body searches from 9 p.m. until the sun rises. They patrol in groups of eight to 10 people. They are aged between 15 and 20, are masked and have heavy armor. They carry rocket launchers, Bixi guns and Kalashnikovs.

The youngsters, the elderly, the women and the children of Cizre talk, but when it comes to taking photos, they refuse out of fear of the police. An elderly shopkeeper shows the ditches and says, “If it wasn’t for the ditches, they would have come and taken hundreds of our youths.” The residents of Cizre are angry. They say “Cizre has become Kobane” or “Cizre has exceeded Kobane.”

“A child is killed every night. I don’t send mine to school out of fear. Cizre has even exceeded the old Cizre,” says Nahide, a mother of eight.

Trust is gone, doubts are everywhere

While talking to children in the Sur neighborhood, two youngsters came up to us and said: “You are agents. We don’t trust you. We will call the Tiger Team,” before insisting on seeing my press card.

I pass through an identity check on every street that I enter. Some of the children warn their friends, saying, “She [probably] isn’t a journalist, she’s [probably] police.” A child with a bandage around his head due to a wound caused by a gas canister fired by the police runs away from me scared.

The residents of Cudi, Sur, Yafes and Nur say they have abandoned their hopes about the Kurdish peace process.

Another criticism is about the state’s police patrols with armored and unlicensed vehicles, carrying pump-action rifles and break-action shotguns. People claim that such police officers are commiting crimes.

ISIL has come to Cizre

Cizre residents particularly draw attention to a youth organization that calls itself the “Şeyh Sait Youth,” who are actually Hezbollah members and dress like People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters, wear masks and carry Kalashnikovs. Locals said groups of 10 to 15 people were patrolling their neighborhoods of Kale, Alibey, Dapkapı, Yeni Çarşı and a part of the Nur neighborhood, conducting identity checks.

“The Şeyh Sait Youth intercepts our children and say, ‘Call the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party], we are looking for gangs, we have come to clear them out,” said one Cizre resident. They claim that the Şeyh Sait Youth is supported by the government, and even insist that they have seen this group stepping out of armored vehicles and conducting searches.

“ISIL [The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] has come to Cizre. Like in Kobane and Sinjar [Şengal], ISIL is killing our children in Cizre too. We haven’t left the cemeteries for the past one and a half months,” said one shopkeeper in Cizre.

'Latest killings threatening chances of peace

Democratic Society Congress (DTK) co-chair Hatip Dicle said in a Jan. 14 speech in Cizre that the jailed leader of the outlawed PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, said everyone should be prudent and act sensitively.

Closing the ditches, not wearing masks and opening shutters came onto the agenda after this message, but just as the crowd was dispersing after the speech, 12-year-old Nihat Kazanhan was shot dead, rendering Öcalan's message ineffective.

The ditches have not been closed, and masks continue to be worn.