This letter is to call attention to the alarming humanitarian situation in Cizre, a district of the Şırnak province in the southeast of Turkey, and to ask for your solidarity and support. As Hafıza Merkezi, we have been conducting field work in Cizre since 2012 as part of our goal to document one of the grave human rights violations of Turkey, namely enforced disappearances. According to our tentative data, 75 persons were forcibly disappeared in Cizre, especially during the 1990s. For the last four years, we have been in Cizre several times and conducted 42 semi-structured interviews with the relatives of the disappeared, mostly with women. The relatives of the disappeared, mostly wives, as well as the representatives of the grassroots victims’ organizations, the municipality and the ordinary people of Cizre, have all been extremely helpful and cooperative during our fieldwork. The peace process was ongoing at that time and the situation in Cizre was relatively hopeful back then.
Nowadays, this promising situation has drastically changed. For more than 5 months now, the parties of the peace process, both the government of Turkey and the armed guerilla forces of PKK, declared that the peace process is frozen and pending. Moreover, after the election of 7th June, a government has not been established and therefore there will be another general election on November 1, 2015. The conflicts between the armed guerilla forces of PKK and the Turkish army recommenced throughout the southeastern Turkey. As a result, the government created ‘zones of security’, meaning zones under the military authority and Cizre was among one of these areas. Six days ago, a curfew has been declared for Cizre. The inhabitants of Cizre strongly oppose this curfew and they have continued to be in the streets. In the meantime, the rest of Turkey lost contact with Cizre since the telephone and internet connections have been cut off. We are only able to follow the recent developments through a report of the parliamentarians of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) drafted at the fourth day of the curfew. According to this report:
- Six civilians, including two children, have been killed because of the police or army officers’ random shootings in the streets of Cizre. The brutality of security forces, including random shootings, physical ill treatment and torture and constant verbal attack vis-à-vis the inhabitants of Cizre reveals the urgency of the situation.
- There is only one doctor in the public hospital, where there is a police blockage and the hospital staff is not allowed to accept new patients due to the existing curfew even if their situation is grave. The patients who need to leave the hospital upon discharge cannot leave the building either. Several ill people, who need constant health care, are in a dangerous situation right now after four days of curfew.
- The corps of the dead people cannot be buried due to the curfew. Therefore, the families of the murdered citizens are keeping the dead bodies of their loved ones in their houses and doing their best to avoid the decomposition of the body.
- For the last four days there is no electricity and water in Cizre. Given the fact that the temperature is extremely high in Cizre (approximately 40 °C nowadays), there is a serious risk of epidemics.
We are deeply concerned because of these latest developments. The protection of the civilian population during the conflicts is of utmost importance in order to avoid any kind of human rights violation, especially for places like Cizre that is already marked by the huge traces of state violence. We are calling both parties, the Turkish state and the PKK, to go back to their previous political positions and continue the frozen peace process. We, in the meantime, want to emphasize that the protection of the civilian citizens during the conflict is primarily the duty of the government. An independent human rights fact-finding is urgently needed in Turkey. The government’s duty in the primacy and the urgency of the prot ection of the civilians under any circumstances should also be emphasized.
Your support to call the attention of the international human rights community to this grave situation as well as to call for the continuation of the cease fire and peace process is much needed.
Many thanks in advance for your support and solidarity,