18 August 1992: When Şirnak Was Turned Into a Dead City


Yesterday was the 21st anniversary of the massacre that took place in the Kurdish city of Şırnak in Turkey.

In an attempt to wipe Şırnak off the map on 18 August 1992, Mete Sayar, Turkish brigade commander, attacked the city, killing 54 people, mostly children and women in a massacre. For three days, homes were burned, livestock were killed, people were brutally massacred and Şırnak was turned into a dead city.

20,000 out of 25,000 residents fled the city, Amnesty International reported.

During the massacre, a curfew was imposed in the town and when it finally ended, the whole city was in ruins.

While the town was under bombardment, there was no way to get an account of what was happening in the region as journalists were prevented from entering the city centre which was completely burned down by the security forces.

For that reason, the massacre could only be exposed after some of the residents managed to approach reporters in secrecy.

Şırnak was under fire for three days and tanks and cannons were used to hit buildings occupied by civilians, survivors of the massacre said.

“We have never forgotten what happened on 18 August 1992. The people who have lost their lives here are all martyrs of democracy for us. It was a massacre. Those who committed the massacre of Şırnak had the same mentality with those who committed the Halabja massacre,” Kurdish politician Selim Bayar said.

On 26 August 1992, Amnesty International sent requests to then Prime Minister, Süleyman Demirel, Interior Minister Ismet Sezgin, Emergency Legislation Governor Ünal Erkan and Şırnak province governor Mustafa Mala, to immediately initiate an independent and impartial inquiry into the events, to ensure no-one was mistreated in police custody and to make their findings public. But this call was never heard.

Even though 21 years have passed after the massacre, none of the state officials responsible for this war crime has been brought to court despite the irredeemable damage they have done to the city.

Moreover, then Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel and İsmet Sezgin, Minister of Interior, manipulated the Turkish people, alleging that the PKK raided Şırnak.
In Radikal Daily, journalist Celal Başlangıç reported an incident which revealed important facts about this genocide attempt.

On 14 September 1992, Mustafa Emekçi, President of the Progressive Journalists Association (PJA), along with Aziz Nesin, and Veli Özdemir, members of the Honorary Council of the PJA, went to Şırnak and met with brigadier general Mete Sayar.

During the meeting, Sayar made a statement that would finalize the discussions on who raided Şırnak on 18 August:

I am trying to make a beautiful painting here. If the people of Şırnak attempt to put a small stain on this painting, I will throw it over their heads. Actually, I already did.

“You have hanged a signboard which reads “How happy is he who says I’m a Turk” at the entrance of the city. I am Turkish but I am not happy. How come a Kurd can be happy,” Aziz Nesin replied.

Mete Sayar jumped to his feet, saying “You are the first civilians that I have spoken with. Now!” and showed them the door.

“When the dust settled, and guerilla numbers were revised steadily downwards and locals started to talk, it became clear that there had been no PKK force, not even a small one [present in the town]. The battle of Sirnak had not been a battle but a drawn out punitive spasm, a two-day spree by vandals wearing the colors of the Turkish state and trashing anything they saw,” British journalist Christopher de Bellaigue, stated in his book Rebel Land: Among Turkey’s Forgotten People.

The 18 August massacre in Şırnak is only one of the numerous war crimes of the Turkish state. Before the eyes of the whole world, Turkey launched a genocidal campaign with only one aim, which was to annihilate Kurds in their indigenous region.

The fact that successive Turkish governments adopted a genocide program against Kurds has been pointed out by certain researchers, one of whom is Mark Levene.
Levene says that the genocidal practices were not limited to cultural genocide, and that the events of the late 19th century continued until 1990.
Actually, the Kurdish genocide is still going on right now.

21 years after this massacre, Turkey still continues its belligerence, aggression and state terrorism with no change of its repressive and murderous policy on Kurds.
Going beyond its own borders this time, Turkey has initiated and escalated a new assault against Kurds in Rojava (West Kurdistan in Syria) by providing arms and financial resources for the Al-Qaeda militants willing to shed the blood of innocent people.

But why is Turkey so dedicated to killing an indigenous people of the Near East?

After the establishment of the Turkish republic in 1923, the Kurds were first seen as “mountain Turks”, and now as “terrorists” by the country’s officials. The only way to deal with these “terrorists”, therefore, according to the anti-Kurdish discourse adopted by Turkey, is force.

This is the mentality of the Turkish state which makes Kurds the victims of the most horrendous massacres.