Cizre (pronounced [ˈdʒizɾe]; Kurdish: Cizîr[3], Classical Syriac: ܓܙܝܪܐGzirā or Gziro) is a town and district of Şırnak Province in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, on the Turkey-Syria border. It is in Turkish Kurdistan, just to the northwest of the Turkish–SyrianIraqi tripoint.

Cizre is historical Gazarta d'bar 'Umar (Syriac: ܓܙܪܬܐ ܕܒܪ ܥܘܡܪ‎)[4] and Jazīrat Ibn ʿUmar (Arabic: جزيرة ابن عمر‎), an important town during the Abbasid period and the Crusades as a gateway connecting Upper Mesopotamia to the Armenian Highlands.

Population and etymology

Cizre is populated by a majority of Kurds, in addition to Assyrian/Syriac people, Arabs, Turks and Armenians. It is surrounded by the Tigris on the north, east and south; this gives it its name, which means "island" in Arabic (جزيرة, jazīra).


Cizre has a mediterranean climate (Csa in the Köppen climate classification) with wet, mild, rarely snowy winters and dry, extremely hot summers. Cizre has a mean temperature of 6.8°C in coldest month and a mean temperature of 34.2°C in hottest month. The highest temperature ever recorded in Cizre was 49°C, which is the highest temperature ever recorded in Turkey.[5]


Classic era and Middle Ages

During the Early Iron Age, Cizre was in the kingdom of Kumme, north of Assyria. In classical antiquity, it was located in Corduene (Kardu). In 19th century scholarship, it was often named as the location of Alexander's crossing of the Tigris in 331 BC, and was identified with the Roman stronghold of Bethzabde (Syriac: ܒܝܬ ܙܒܕܝ‎, Bēṯ Zaḇdai). However, modern scholarship rejects this - James Crow notes: "It was formerly thought that Bezabde stood close to modern Cizre, on the west bank of the Tigris. However archaeological survey has located a major Late Roman site at Eski Hendek, 13 km (8 miles) north-west of Cizre. The outline of the city is trapezoidal and was aligned above the river. It may be seen to be divided into two distinct enclosures, with an annexe to the west and clear traces of projecting towers and multiple defences".[6]

Bethzabde was part of the Roman province of Mesopotamia. The chronicler Msiha Zkha speaks of three bishops of Beth Zabdai in the 2nd and 3rd centuries: Merza, Soubha-liso, and Sabtha.[7] In 360 Bishop Theodorus was deported by the Persians, along with the general population, and died as a result of the forced march. Another bishop, Maras, was one of the Fathers of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and in 458 was one of the signatories of the letter of the bishops of Mesopotamia to Emperor Leo I the Thracian after the death of Proterius of Alexandria.[8][9]

In the late 4th or early 5th century Beth Zabdai or Jezira became a Nestorian bishopric, known as Beth Zabdai (later Gazarta d'Beth Zabdai). On entering into communion with Rome, it became the eparchy of Gazarta of the Chaldean Catholic Church. In 639 it became the seat also of the Syriac Orthodox Church and in 1863 the eparchy Gazarta of the Syriac Catholic Church. These Christians were severely reduced in the 1915 Seyfo massacres and the structures were allowed to lapse or were incorporated into other jurisdictions. Bethzabda is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see,[10] but has not been assigned to any bishop.

In medieval Islamic tradition, Cizre is the location of Thamanin, the town founded by Noah at the foot of Mount Judi where Noah's Ark came to rest, and a "tomb of Noah" as well as a "tomb of Mem and Zin" can be visited in Cizre. Al-Masudi (d. 956) reports that the spot where the ark landed could still be seen in his time. Benjamin of Tudela in the 12th century adds that ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb had made the remnants of the ark into a mosque.

Early modern

In the 19th century, it was the site of a Kurdish rebellion of Bedir Khan Beg from the Emirate of Bhotan against the Ottoman Empire. They rebellion was eventually subdued in 1847.[11][12]

Cizre was home to an Armenian community of about 3,000. However, in late June 1915, during the Armenian Genocide, the Armenian males, along with a few Syriac bishops, were arrested, tortured, and subsequently murdered. Many of the victims had their throat slit and were then thrown into the river Tigris. The women were deported on rafts towards Mosul. A few survived through the means of adoption by local Kurds; however, most were raped and/or drowned.[13] The remaining Armenian population, located in the rural parts of Cizre, was massacred on 8 August 1915. Few managed to survive.[14][15]

Under Turkish Republic

Within the Turkish Republic, Cizre was part of the Mardin Province until 1990, when it was incorporated into the newly established Şırnak Province.

Districts of Şırnak, with Cizre colored yellow

Cizre is located on the River Tigris, which forms the border line with Syria at this area. The state roads (via Midyat) and D.400 (European route E90) (via Nusaybin) that connect Mardin with Şırnak, as well as the route to Silopi run through the town.

The border checkpoint in Cizre, the gate to Al-Malikiyah in Syria, was in use between 1940-1972.[16]

2014 Riots

In October 2014 least 35 people were killed when riots broke out in the city over Turkey’s response to the civil war in neighbouring Syria, blocking Kurdish fighters from crossing the border into Syria.[17] 17 of its citizens who fought with fellow Kurds died in Syria during the Siege of Kobanî.[12]

2015 Siege of Cizre

During the Kurdish–Turkish conflict in September 2015, Cizre was blockaded by Turkish Security Forces, who besieged the town and placed a curfew for eight days, after the YDG-H, an organization founded by youth who sympathize with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), in an attempt at self-rule, had raised barricades, planted explosives and dug trenches in the city.[18][19] During the curfew the town had limited access to water and food and many of the injured were prohibited to receive professional medical treatment. According to the Turkish government, most of the dead were PKK militants, however, according to the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, 20 civilians were killed.[20] The Council of Europe raised concerns about "disproportionate use of force by security forces against civilians."[21]

Second Curfew

Cizre, March 2016

On 13 December 2015, the Turkish authorities renewed the curfew on Cizre city to repress Kurdish militants. The siege lasted until 11 February 2016. The Turkish Army stated that 659+ PKK militants had been killed during the curfew. By 14 February, 123 bodies were reportedly amassed in local morgues, most of the bodies were reported to have been burnt. On 7 February, a large-scale operation was conducted in the Cudi neighbourhood and a number of buildings were hit by artillery. Turkish army claimed that 10 PKK militants had been killed in the operation, whilst pro-Kurdish sources claimed that those killed were civilians. Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) claimed that 70–90 injured civilians had been forced to stay in the basements of buildings in Cudi for 20 days.[22] On 11 February, military operations in the city ceased.[23] On 1 March 2016, it was announced that the curfew would end the following day.[23] Human rights groups claimed that 263 had been killed, including at least 92 civilians.[19]

By March 2016, residents started returning to a devastated city. According to IB Times, the level of damage to the city was comparable to the Siege of Kobanî. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu pledged to rebuild Cizre.[19][18]

In April 2016, the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) submitted a report to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concerning the killing of 120 Kurdish civilians in Cizre. [24]

Follow-up violence

On 26 August 2016, 11 police officers were killed and 78 other people wounded when an explosives-laden truck was detonated at a police checkpoint about 50 metres from a police station near the town. The state-run Anadolu Agency blamed the Kurdistan Workers' Party for the attack.[25]


$3.4 billion reconstruction plan started after the operations for the damaged areas. 67,000 homes were planned to be built as well as factories, hospitals, sports stadiums, and police stations. [26]


Leyla Imret, a former mayor of Cizre, and German politician Cem Özdemir, 15 September 2015

The former mayor of Cizre, , was arrested in December 2009 as part of the KCK investigation. In October 2011 he was removed from office by the Ministry of the Interior before his trial had concluded.[27]

In 2014 Leyla İmret was elected as mayor. As a 27-year-old woman, she was the first female mayor of Cizre and one of the youngest mayors in Turkey.[28] During the siege of Cizre, she was removed from her post for charges of inciting hatred and supporting terrorism.[29]

In the Municipal elections 2019 Mehmet Ziriğ was elected mayor of Cizre with 76.99% of the votes.[30] In late October 2019, Ziriğ was dismissed and Kaymakam Davut Sinanoğlu was appointed as an acting Mayor.[31]

Places of interest

See also


  1. ^ "Area of regions (including lakes), km²". Regional Statistics Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. 2002. Retrieved 2013-03-05.
  2. ^ "Population of province/district centers and towns/villages by districts - 2012". Address Based Population Registration System (ABPRS) Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. Retrieved 2013-02-27.
  3. ^ Avcýkýran, Dr. Adem (ed.). "Kürtçe Anamnez, Anamneza bi Kurmancî" (PDF). Tirsik. p. 57. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
  4. ^ Thomas A. Carlson et al., “Gazarta — ܓܙܪܬܐ ܕܒܪ ܥܘܡܪ ” in The Syriac Gazetteer last modified December 9, 2016,
  5. ^ "Türkiye'de ve Dünyada Kaydedilen En Düşük ve En Yüksek Değerler". Turkish State Meteorological Service. Archived from the original on 30 June 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  6. ^ Crow 2018a, p. 235.
  7. ^ G. Levenq, v. Béth Zabdai in Dictionnaire d'Histoire et de Géographie ecclésiastiques, vol. VIII, Paris 1935, coll. 1241-1244
  8. ^ Michel Lequien, Oriens christianus in quatuor Patriarchatus digestus, Paris 1740, Vol. II, coll. 1003-1004
  9. ^ Pius Bonifacius Gams, Series episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae, Leipzig 1931, p. 437
  10. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 849
  11. ^ Klein, Janet (2012). Jongerden, Joost; Verheij, Jelle (eds.). Social Relations in Ottoman Diyarbekir, 1870-1915. Brill. pp. 167–168. ISBN 9789004225183.
  12. ^ a b "Turkey and its Kurds: Dreams of self-rule". The Economist. 14 February 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  13. ^ Üngör, Uğur Ümit (2012). The making of modern Turkey : nation and state in Eastern Anatolia, 1913-1950 (1. publ. in paperback. ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 98–9. ISBN 0199655227.
  14. ^ Kevorkian, Raymond (2011). The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 0857730207.
  15. ^ Korucu, Serdar (13 September 2015). "100 yıllık hikaye: 1915'te Cizre'de ne yaşandı?". Radikal.
  16. ^ "Letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs" (in Turkish). Cizre Ticaret ve Sanayi Odası. November 29, 2005. Archived from the original on March 15, 2008. Retrieved March 15, 2009.
  17. ^ Cale Salih, Aaron Stein. "How Turkey misread the Kurds".
  18. ^ a b "Turkey: Families return to shattered Kurdish town of Cizre – 'a second Kobani'". IB Times. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  19. ^ a b c "Turkey eases curfew after assault on PKK rebels leaves Cizre in ruins". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  20. ^ "Turkey Kurds: Many dead in Cizre violence as MPs' march blocked". BBC. 10 September 2015.
  21. ^ "Turkey 'must ensure access' to besieged Cizre, says Council of Europe". BBC. 11 September 2015.
  22. ^ "Number of bodies taken to morgues in Cizre increases to 123". Today's Zaman. 14 February 2016. Archived from the original on February 17, 2016.
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^ "Watchdog Submits Footage of Mass Murder of Kurds in Turkey to UN". Retrieved 2020-03-25.
  25. ^ "Turkey: Deadly Truck Bomb Hits Cizre Police Checkpoint". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Associated Press. 26 August 2016. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Ministry of Interior, the PKK's hidden structure of the city of KCK / TM to begin operations on September 21, was arrested in Sirnak". Haber Monitor. 2011-10-15. Retrieved 2011-10-23.
  28. ^ "Carl von Ossietzky Medal Awarded to Leyla İmret". Bianet. 8 November 2018.
  29. ^ "Interior Ministry removes Cizre mayor from post". Today's Zaman. 11 September 2015. Archived from the original on 12 September 2015.
  30. ^ "Şırnak Cizre Seçim Sonuçları - 31 Mart Şırnak Cizre Yerel Seçim Sonuçları". (in Turkish). Retrieved 2019-05-20.
  31. ^ "Trustee Appointed to Cizre Municipality in Şırnak". Bianet. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  32. ^ "The Mausoleums of Mem and Zin are Restored". Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  33. ^ "Ulu Camii". Retrieved 2020-05-07.


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