Cizre Basement Massacre

March 21, 2013

On March 21, 2013, Abdullah Öcalan’s letter calling for peace was read out during the Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakır. This was a call for ending the armed conflict that has been going on between the Turkish state and PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) for more than three decades. The negotiations between conflict parties lasted less than three years and ended just after general elections on June 7, 2015. The clashes between PKK and Turkish state forces intensified after PKK declared self governance in the Kurdish cities. They continued until March 2016 and hundreds of Kurdish civilians and militants were killed and about half a million of Kurdish people were forced to migrate.

On August 10, 2015, the Democratic Regions Party made a statement in Şırnak and they declared self-governance. This was the first of self-governance declarations that would follow in the coming days and months. After a while, the government declared curfews in provinces that had declared self-governance. This was followed by intense clashes in many provinces and districts with civilian populations. According to the data gathered by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), between August 16, 2015, and March 18, 2016, there were at least 63 officially confirmed round-the-clock and open-ended curfews in at least 22 districts including Diyarbakır, Şırnak, Mardin, Hakkari, Batman, Muş and Elazığ. In this period, at least 310 civilians, including 72 children, 62 women and 29 people over 60 years old lost their lives during the clashes.

Cizre had been under curfew several times during the clashes but the longest and the most violent one lasted from December 14, 2015 to March 2, 2016 nearly three months. According to the report of Mazlum-Der, between 203 and 266 people were killed during the military curfew and the fighting between state forces and militants in Cizre, the majority of whom were killed when Turkish security forces stormed three residential basements in which hundreds were sheltering from the fighting. According to the OHCR report based on interviews with witnesses and family members of the victims of the basements, up to 189 persons, mostly internally displaced populations fleeing security operations, were trapped for weeks in basements without water, food, medical attention and power, during the coldest months of the year and lost their lives. Some victims from the basements used their phones to draw attention to the mass human rights violations occurring in the basements. Especially the phone call of Mehmet Tunç who later died, was heard by the world through Nuçe TV, but no help was delivered to the people.

The perpetrators of these human rights violations remain unpunished to this day, as most of the cases have been dismissed by the Turkish Constitutional Court. According to the lawyers working on the case, the state did not carry out an effective investigation into the massacres and failed to fulfill its obligations by dismissing most of the cases and letting evidence, like camera footage from the scene, be destroyed or concealed.


People gather in front of damaged building
People gather in front of damaged building, Sertaç Kayar, Cizre, March 2, 2016


A family standing against ruined building
A family standing against ruined building,Mezopotamya Agency,Cizre


Curfew imposed on Cizre town of Şirnak province investigation and monitoring report, Malzumder, 10 May 2016

Unprecedented destruction' of Kurdish city of Cizre, DW

Turkey: No effective investigation into Cizre basement massacres in three years, says lawyer, Medya News, 15 December 2021


Report on the human rights situation in South-East Turkey, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, July 2015 to December 2016, February 2017