“My mother never cried next to us, not to demoralize us. She would say ‘I am sorry for our loss, there is nothing else to be done’. But she would secretly cry. The first day, my mother applied henna to Cemile’s hands, then she cuddled her up in bed. When the morning came, my aunt and others came and washed the deceased. The next two days we kept her refrigerated so her body would not stink. We would not let my father come close because he has heart problems”
…Thousands of people, their rage turned into a flood, it was running down the streets. The “Kobane is about to fall” quote, was said during a time when ISIS attacks were the most intense and it lighted the fuse of serhildans – rebels – that were accruing all around the country. Every moment, news of someone dying would be taken. On the night of 7 October, the tension arose at the ghettos that I went to follow the clashes between thousands of young people and the police, another dimension was added to the incidents when the special operations police came. Power cuts armoured vehicles, gas bombs.. We were worried that a massacre was going to take place. In the middle of utter darkness and chaos, in case of a possible incident taking place, I would not have had any opportunity to explain that I am a journalist. I was trying to reach the city centre through streets I did not know, by walking very close to the building in a neighbourhood where there was no security of life, but it was not looking possible to run the blockade. A young kid started a motorcycle, at the moment he was about the start, I ran and caught up with him, jumped on his back and told him “I am a journalist get me out of here”. While I was moving away from the scene, explosions, sirens and a crowded noise was building up in waves…
Diaries, 7 September 2014, Urfa
It has not even been a year over this incident, time and space had changed but the experiences were repeating themselves. I was behind a trench in the dark streets of Cizre where snipers were shooting down civilians and tension was persisting. All the entry points to the Cudi neighbourhood were blocked by armoured vehicles. When I was thinking of a safe route back to the house I was staying at, following an interview I had done I heard a motorcycle engine starting. In a matter of seconds my experiences on the night of 7 October flashed before my eyes. I went next to the young person and said hi and told him what his motorcycle reminded me of. The young person smiled, told me “brother I can take you wherever you want to go”. I thanked and we chatted for a while. In these lands war is like a night terror that falls onto every living being that breaths; and every living being has met death. The young person was the witness of a story that had ached our consciences, he was the elder brother of Cemile…
Cemile had passed away on the third day of the clashes. She had opened her eyes to a world in the middle of wars and the bullets had opened a huge hole in her tiny little heart when she was only 10 years old in Cizre, a place that was turned into a fire ground by lust for power. Her life was taken away together with the smile fading from her face.
I ask her brother “How did it happen?”. He remained impassive for a while and then he started to recount: “we heard noises of the clashes around eight-nine o’clock. My parents were out at the door trying to figure out where the noises were coming from. They shot at our house randomly, it was the snipers from where the highway commission is. Four bullets hit our door. When we looked at the tip of the bullets, we realised that they were different, Cemile was shot in front of the door, the bullet hit her right in the middle of her heart. I mean, it entered from her back and came out of her chest. While I was taking her inside, she died in my arms.”
He told the incident at once. At first I didn’t know what to say, then I did what I had to and continued with my questions…
Who opened fire at you?
I don’t think it was the police officers, soldiers from here. I mean, in fact, we are not in bad terms with them. They come with their kids and shop at our stores every day. They did not loose off bullets on us, not even a day. When there is an incident, a protest, they intervene with gas bombs. These attacks were made by a special battalion.
Could you see from where fire was opened at you?
As a matter of fact only one spot sees the door of our house. When looked from where the highway commission is, she was shot in crossfire. Now when you look at the marks on the door, there are four points. After Cemile was shot, when we were carrying her in, they continued shooting randomly at us.
So were they able to see that she was a child?
Of course they could see that she was a child. We were at the back, she was standing in front of the door, she could not go out. I said “Don’t go out, they are shooting” but she was right in the middle of the door. As soon as she opened the door they shot, she fell half way through the door.
Me and my mother we went and took her away. My uncles came, on their way here they also opened fire on them. They also fired towards the son of my uncle, I mean it missed by 10 cm distance, it passed next to his ear and hit the wall. He fainted then and there. We did not know who to move, who fell martyr. We moved her in, the other stayed on the ground, she died in our arms. My mother was quite restrained, she was telling us not to scream, she was trying to calm us down, but she died in our arms, I checked her pulse she had passed away.
How did you take her to the mortuary?
MPs came, they said “we will take the body to the mortuary”. As a matter of fact, if people did not come, we would not be able to take the body. At that moment cobras (armoured vehicles) arrived, they told us “No more than four persons can come”, they start shooting at us randomly, MPs were there too. They opened fire on the deceased as well, everyone was running away, people started to escape, the deceased’s body was about to remain there. Me and my elder brother were not able to abandon the body. It is our sister, how could we, we would not have run away even if they would kill us. Even the MPs started to feel uneasy. Then Şırnak MP Faysal Sarıyıldız stepped in, he said that no more than four persons shall come on the funeral vehicle. Thus we left her and then we came back.
She stayed in the mortuary for five days. They conducted her autopsy as “unclaimed”. The autopsy for those that were shot during the first four days was conducted by the Şırnak Mortuary as “unclaimed”. In Şırnak they even told the people that “if you want we can give you the deceased, you bury them here” but the people did not accept this and replied that “unless the families arrive no one is to bury them”. The people waited for 7-8 days in front of the mortuary so that no one would take the bodies. On the day that the curfew was lifted, they sent them to the state hospital here. They put them in mortuary. Because my parents would not be able to handle it, I went and identified her myself.
When I went to the mortuary for identification I looked at the bodies of 7-8 other persons. For instance the mother of one had arrived, the siblings were there as well, they did not let them in. I looked at each and every body, they had taken out the eyes of some, cut the ear of another, shot another in the back, some were in pieces due to bombs … I mean, what had these people done and they shot them. And they go on to say that “these are all PKK members”, “terrorists” …
Do you know others that lost their lives?
There are sons of my uncle, they also opened fire at their home. My aunt and uncle’s wife had both passed away. The daughter in law and the mother in law were both shot and killed while they were talking in front of the house… First the mother in law was killed and then the daughter in law was shot then then shot at the father in law. There they also shot a 10 month old baby from the ear and foot sole. We tried to go to their place as well to take them to the doctor before anything grave had happened, but they were shooting on us. I mean we could not even go there. They were our relatives as well, the children of my uncle.
What are you experiences for this time period?
I could not even be sad, because there were 19-20 more people besides my sister, who was I supposed to cry for, her or them… They are all equal before my eyes, they are all my brothers and sisters. The 65 years old man is the same age as my father, whom I shall be sorry for. I hope they rest in peace. I hope that those that are responsible do not get away with it. My sister was 10 years old, I was looking at her picture today, I felt really bad. They turned us into this. From another point of view, I have a 10 month old baby, is he also a terrorist! Well then, when he grows up he shall take revenge of his aunt. In other words, if state does this, then the 10 years old child wants to seek revenge of his father when he grows up. He joins PKK, he takes the mountains, says that “the state has killed my father, why shall I stand still”. That’s the way it goes.
That’s the way it went in Cizre. We said goodbye to each other, then he disappeared into the night.
Translated by Faika Deniz Pasha