Can the Kurdish question be settled by killing people in Sur?

Ebril, Kurdistan (openDemocracy) – Allow us, let us take these people out alive. The state will lose nothing if a civilian group is involved.”

Part of Diyarbakir’s old city walls. Wikicommons/ Bertil Videt. Some rights reserved.We are in Surici district with Lale Mansur, Zeynep Tanbay, Ferhat Tunc, Aysegul Devecioglu, Bahri Belen and Dilek Gokçin who came from Istanbul today. We meet Sibel Yigitalp, the HDP Diyarbakir deputy who is on constant watch in Sur. Ms. Yigitalp is able to talk with the families inside from time to time. A heavy bombardment is going on. Small snippets of information filter through to where we crowd around.

We listen to the phone conversations with the people in the basements. Remziye talks:

“Here, we are in hell. We got out of our house and managed to reach the Savas neighbourhood, I assume it is the Savas neighborhood. There is no water. We are in the basement of a house. The floors above us are destroyed by bombing: the ceiling may collapse. Two of my daughters have chicken-pox. I could not take them to the hospital. I would not dare to go out. There are snipers all around. It is like an apocalypse.”

We ask about the children’s voices over the phone:

“One of my daughters is 10 years old, the other is 8 months. Their names, Sevbin Topal, Beritan Topal, the one who is talking now. There is my neighbor, Melek with me right now. She also has a child, 8 years old.”

’Bom’ mom run!

Sevbin talks:

“Bombs come. I am 10 years old, born in 2006: tomorrow is my birthday. My sister keeps crying, she keeps shouting, “bom mom, run”. I am scared too. Bombers come to our house. We will die beneath one building, no one will see our bodies. My mom’s mind is disturbed. Here it is cold. The helicopter throws bombs when it sees smoke, so we don’t use the stove. Save us if you can. If you cannot, either the police will kill us, or we will kill ourselves…”

How it hurts to hear a 10 year old talking about killing herself.

Our demand is:  to open a humanitarian corridor under the observation of a civilian group.

Today, we will meet the authorities again to try to convince them to open a corridor for the trapped civilians, the wounded and the children. We visit the Governor’s office, express our demands for the safe passage of the entrapped. In order to prevent any shootings while people leave the basements, people want to come out in groups with a group of observers who can “inspect” the process. In other words, a humanitarian corridor.

The parliamentarians from the Green Party meet the Governor at the same time. As we leave  the Governor’s office, we are told that there will be a ceasefire between 16:00-17:15;  people can come out during this time. They also announce this on the web. We meet with the Green parliamentarians in Sur. The HDP deputies Sibel Yigitalp, Ziya Pir, Feleknas Uca and Gultan Kısanak, the co-mayor and party members are there on watch. The relatives of those trapped inside also gather.

Bombardment starts when the people are supposed to come out

Manifestación kurda en Berlin. Image Source: Montecruz Foto, Flickr, Creative Commons

Manifestación kurda en Berlin.
Image Source: Montecruz Foto, Flickr, Creative Commons

We hold a short meeting to discuss how the civilians can come out at 16.00. The co-chair of Diyarbakır HDP branch explains:

“People in Sur are in basements in three neighborhoods. At least 120 people are there. We have the names of some of them. About 15 of them are below the age of ten. The Governor agrees to ceasefire only for one hour. It is not possible to carry the wounded in such a short time. The people get scared that they will be treated as armed militants. This prevents them from coming out.”

We agree that it is surely difficult for the people to come out without feeling secure.

Bombardment starts at 16:15 in Sur, the time when the people were told they could come out. How on earth can the authorities expect people to come out under bombardment? Seda Aslan comes, the daughter of Saniye Surer staying in a basement with her three children. We get connected by phone. Saniye Surer cries:

“They are trying to kill us here. They bomb. How can we go out? They throw (tear) gas inside. They keep shouting “surrender!””

I want to ask the authorities the same question. How can people come out under heavy bombardment, without any civilian presence, without anything they can trust? If you think the lives of people and children really matter, let’s find and operate a mechanism to give them the feeling of security when they come out. Stop the fire at least for 4-5 hours, let us go there as a civilian group and call upon the people to come out. You cannot settle the Kurdish question by killing people in Sur. On the contrary, this can only mean spreading the seeds of anger and hatred which will last for long years.

Allow us, let us take these people out alive. The state will lose nothing if a civilian group is involved. Such a move may enable us to start the dialogue which we so need in these days. Let’s plant the seeds of dialogue starting with Cizre.

This report prepared by NURCAN BAYSAL for openDemocracy.