Is Şırnak one of the 81 cities of Turkey?
I am in Şırnak, one of the Kurdish cities that was under curfew for 8 months, between 14 March-14 November 2016 . 70% of the city has been totally destroyed. 8 of the city’s 12 districts do not exist anymore. The streets that I walked on before, the parks, the main square of the city, Cumhuriyet Meydanı, where I met together with the Şırnaqi youth years before, none of them exit. There are no streets left. One of the biggest districts, Bahçelievler, with a population of 12.000 has now been flattened. It is hard to believe that there were houses, shops, parks, schools and life before. It is hard for me to believe that I am in Şırnak.
There has been huge destruction in other Kurdish cities; in Cizre, Nusaybin, Yüksekova and Sur as well. None of them are like Şırnak. Think about a city, that no longer has a city center!
While looking at the remains of Şırnak, the HDP parliamentarian Aycan İrmez said to me: “Most of the city was destroyed after the operations finished on the 3rdof June. More than 10.000 houses were ruined. The property of Şırnaqi people were distributed like prize goods of a war. The state did not allow people to enter their own houses and to save their belongings.”
A woman now living in a tent told me how she entered her house:
“I snuck into the city with my husband and my 2 kids one night. I entered my home and tried to take the air conditioners, but we couldn’t move them. Then we quickly moved to the kitchen and tried to remove the boiler, but there was water inside and we couldn’t manage it either. Suddenly, a man saw us. He was from the company, responsible for demolishing Şırnak. He said “Stop! You can’t enter your house. As a company we won the contract from the state, which includes all your belongings. He had big guns. He took us to a bus where there were other people, like us, who tried to enter their homes. The bus took us outside the city. I was only able to take my umbrella from my home”
Another Şırnaqi man said: “We entered our houses like thieves.”
“Şırnak is a Turkish city”
To enter the city is a different kind of hard work. It is worse than passing into another country. There was a line of cars more than one kilometer long. I waited in the car for half an hour, before deciding to walk. I walked to the control point. What I saw was, a control point like that of a border! Hundreds of police, army, tanks and barbed wire fences… After the barbed wire fences there were four booths like at the borders. The policemen were checking identity cards inside the booths. After passing another barbed wire fence, I finally entered Şırnak 1.5 hours later.
When I had visited the city 2 months before, there was a big plaque at the entrance of the city, which said: “Şırnak is one of the 81 cities of Turkey”. Now the writing on the plaque has been changed to simply say: “Şırnak is a Turkish city.”
Şırnak, one of the main Kurdish centers was burnt in 1992 by the state. Hundreds of people died, more than 20,000 people were forced to migrate. After 24 years, in 2016, Şırnak was again destroyed by the state. Before the curfew, the population was 64,000. Now the population is 30,000. 50,000 people are homeless. There are no residential areas left in Şırnak. Thousands of people live in tents and have migrated to rural areas, while others are left to live in overcrowded conditions, several families living together in the few houses that are left standing.
I have learned that the state has blocked all kind of aid to Şırnak. There is no interest from NGOs , aid organizations, media and international organizations in Şırnak. The city is totally isolated from the outside world, left alone with it’s ruins and pain.
I can’t help but wonder: Is Şırnak really one of the 81 cities of Turkey?