Scenes of devastation after clashes in Kurdish town of Cizre in Turkey


Images coming out of southeastern Turkey show the town of Cizre in ruins. Located in the predominantly Kurdish province of Sirnak, fighting there has recently become as intense as the battles raging just across the border in neighbouring Syria.

Since June, the town has been the site of fierce clashes between Turkish government forces and the PKK. On Thursday, the Turkish government announced the end of its military operation and announced a 24-hour curfew. Although minor skirmishes between the Turkish Army and groups from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have existed for at least four decades, the collapse of a major ceasefire last year has plunged the town into an all-out war, leaving hundreds of civilians in the crossfire.

All photos provided by Cihan Olmez. 

Photos circulating on social media and in some Turkish media outlets show the sheer devastation and the bodies of men and women lying in the rubble of buildings. While the government in Ankara claims that the dead are “PKK terrorists,” officials from the People’s Democratic Party – a pro-Kurdish organisation – blame the government for carrying out a massacre in Cizre.

Over the past two days, at least 80 bodies were collected and sent to various morgues in and around Sirnak province, according to journalists in Cizre.

“There is no life here anymore, nobody can go out of their house, and children haven’t been to school in months.”

26-year-old journalist Cihan Olmez, who is originally from Cizre, has been stranded in an apartment in the town’s Sah neighborhood.

All information we get is from our friends and lawyers who have access to hospitals and police stations. Apart from the people arrested, we know that there are at least 150 people dead and more than 100 injured since June.

This includes children, women, and men of all ages, as well as PKK fighters. We don’t know how many of them are fighters, how many are civilians. We are still waiting for their families to identify them. Most of the victims have yet to be identified.

It has been 10 days since we've been stuck inside because of the shootings. Before that, we were at least able to go out and do some reporting. This morning, my friend who went out to report was arrested due to the curfew.

Two days ago, there were PKK fighters everywhere. Now, they are either dead or captured by the Turkish forces. Today [Friday], the police are searching homes one by one for militants. But the PKK has been in this town for the past 40 years and I think that every resident is somehow related to a fighter.

From almost 120,000 people originally living in this town, there are a few thousand left because so many fled the fighting in the past several months. Most people I know fled to Adana, Aynteb, or Istanbul. Most of their houses have been destroyed.

Photo of a young Kurdish female fighter sparks controversy

At the height of clashes earlier this week, several Twitter users supporting the government’s military operation in Cizre uploaded pictures showing the body of a young Kurdish female fighter who was reportedly killed by the army. In some photos, she was stripped of her clothes. These photos have further escalated the tension among Kurds and Turks on social media sites.

While the young woman has yet to be identified by her family, journalists in Cizre following the case closely believe that she was shot at night and later stripped of her clothes by Turkish forces in the morning. Turkish authorities have not yet reacted publicly.

In the first picture, she is seen in her military uniform, face down, leaning towards the wall. In other photos, she is seen flipped over, lying on her back and half naked. In other photos she is totally naked. Side-by-side photos uploaded on social media show the fighter before and after she was stripped of her clothes. They were obviously taken at the same location : notice the white object by the wall. Moreover, other pictures form other angles confirmed the pants and the boots she was wearing in the first picture are the same than those lying on the ground on the second picture.

According to journalists and activists in Cizre, the photos were made public by several Twitter accounts that they believe belong to members of the security forces; however, these are not verified accounts.

Post written by France 24 journalist Van Meguerdichian.