December 24, 2015
A Pakistani journalist’s notes from Cizre in Turkey, where the Kurdish struggle for dignity is getting bloodier everyday
By Kiran Nazish
In October this year, I spent some time in the Kurdish city of Cizre in southern Turkey with families of school teachers, doctors, journalists and politicians, mostly Kurdish, but not all.
The Turkish government had just lifted a curfew and people were still reeling from the violence that had taken place in the preceding weeks.
Residents shared videos and images of their experience, as I attended funerals and meetings in neighborhoods that were seized from the ‘outsiders’, now guarded by barricades manned at times by young boys with Kalashnikovs no more than 12 years old, who guarded the streets from, what they called, ‘The Enemy State’.
The Turkish government however, calls these Kurds ‘terrorists’.
At night, between 2:00AM to 5:00AM, there would be exchange of fire between the two sides and occasionally the Turkish military would launch rockets. The night I was leaving Cizre, one Turkish rocket landed two streets away from where I was staying.
That was in October. With sporadic breaks, November was the same, if not worse. More curfews and killings on both sides. By December, according to YDG-H (the pro PKK youth militia) over 10,000 Turkish troops had surrounded about 2,000 Kurds who have taken up arms in a struggle with the state, .
Hundreds have been killed in the fighting with the Kurdish PKK targeting Turkish security forces and Turkey’s military bombing PKK positions, cutting off towns in the south-east. Some figures note about 200,000 civilians have been displaced.
Last Monday, two protesters died in a clash between police and Kurdish demonstrators over a curfew imposed in Diyarbakir.
The city was placed under curfew in November after a pro-Kurdish lawyer, Tahir Elci was shot dead in a fight between police and unidentified gunmen. Two Turkish policemen also died in that shoot-out.
This past week I have been getting messages from people in Cizre with whom I stayed and students I went to see in colleges and academies. Their call is desperate: “Please stop these persecutions,” “Please get our voices heard,” “Will these shootings stop, I am scared for my father who has to go to his shop everyday. We are a family of eight.”
These are young kids, some only 12, 13, 14 years old, the age of Malala Yousufzai when she was attacked by the Taliban in Pakistan. Some of these children just want to see their parents alive. And go to school, and then college and then universities, and get jobs and have a life, like any member of a civil society.
Such children don’t just live in Pakistan or Cizre, they are deprived in so many places, that we have to prioritize our investigations into such violence. Often, just covering the violence is much, much less complicated, and twisted than the Turkish-Kurds and their struggle.
It is a long debate, how to cover the Turkish-Kurdish conflict, how to get access, and how to make fact checking easier in places like this.
What’s not debatable is, that in places where civilians suffers at the hand of the state, and has to create its own militia for protection to stop that violence, as journalists we can’t look away.
Kiran Nazish is a Pakistani journalist, currently based in New York as a fellow at the New America Foundation.