23 February 2016, Diyarbakır
I am in Suriçi district with Lale Mansur, Zeynep Tanbay, Ferhat Tunç, Ayşegül Devecioğlu, Bahri Belen, and Dilek Gökçin, who came from Istanbul today. We are meeting Sibel Yiğitalp, the HDP (People’s Democratic Party) Diyarbakır deputy who is on constant watch in Sur. Ms. Yiğitalp is able to talk with the families inside from time to time. A heavy bombardment is going on. Small particles are falling where we stand.
We listen to phone conversations with the people in the basements. Remziye talks:
“Here, we are in Hell. We got out of our house and reached Savaş neighborhood, I assume it is Savaş neighborhood. There is no water. We are in the basement of a house. The above floors are demolished by bombs, 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 hear children voices over the phone:
“One of my daughters is ten years old, the other is eight months. Their names are Sevbin Topal, Beritan Topal, the one who is talking now. There is my neighbor Melek with me right now. She has also a child, eight years old.”
“Boom” Mom Run!
Then Sevbin talks:
I feel bad. Bombs come. I am ten years old, born in 2006, tomorrow is my birthday. My sister keeps crying, she keeps shouting, “boom 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 psychology 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…”
It hurts to hear a ten-year-old talking about killing herself.
Our Demand: Opening a Humanitarian Corridor Under the Watch of a Civilian Group
Today, we will meet again with the authorities 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 would go out from basements, people want to come out in groups and they need a group of observers to “inspect.” In other words, they need 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 cease-fire 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 Yiğitalp, Ziya Pir, Feleknas Uca, and Gültan Kışanak, 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
We hold a short meeting to discuss how the civilians can come out at 16:00. The co-chair of the Diyarbakır HDP branch explains:
“People in Sur are in basements in three neighborhoods. At least 120 people are there. We got the names of some of them. About fifteen of them are below the age of ten. The Governor agrees to a cease-fire only for one hour. It is not possible to carry out the wounded in such a short time. The people get scared that they would be treated as armed militants. This prevents them from coming out."
We observe that it is 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 do 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 that 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 four to five 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 would mean spreading seeds of anger and hatred that would last for many years.
Allow us, let us take these people out alive. The state would not lose anything if a civilian group is involved. Such a move may enable the start of a dialogue, which we need so much these days. Let us spread seeds of dialogue instead in Amed!
[This article was first published in Turkish on T24. It was translated into English by the author.]