Turkey has eased the 24-hour curfew imposed on the mainly Kurdish town of Cizre nearly three weeks after declaring the successful conclusion of military operations there.
The curfew was lifted at 5am local time yesterday allowing residents to return to their conflict-stricken neighbourhoods for the first time since 14 December. But it will remain in effect at night between 7:30pm and 5am.
The town near the borders of Syria and Iraq is one of a handful of mainly Kurdish districts where security forces conducted operations against militants linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
On 11 February, security forces in Cizre declared victory over the Kurdish rebels, who had raised barricades, dug trenches and planted explosives to protect the area in which they hoped to establish self-rule.
A first wave of arrivals reached the town at the break of dawn, their vehicles carrying children and personal belongings.
Police inspected their documents as well as the contents of their cars and bags as they trickled into the town near the banks of the Tigris river.
The level of damage in some neighbourhoods evoked the early days of conflict in neighbouring Syria.
Shell casings littered the streets of the Sur neighbourhood where residents made a grisly discovery – the body of an unidentifiable male.
Resident Serif Ozem said: “Those who did this are not humans. What took place here is a second Kobane in a country that is supposed to be a democracy.”
Kobane is a predominantly Kurdish town in northern Syria that suffered a brutal siege at the hands of the Islamic State group. Curfews remain in place in the historic district of the main Kurdish city of Diyarbakir – which is also called Sur – and in Idil, a district in Sirnak province, where Turkish forces are continuing their operations against Kurdish militants.
In Diyarbakir, an improvised explosive device went off prematurely, killing a suspected bomber and wounding four children, the governor’s office said.
In Cizre, Ayse Magi, a mother of five, inspected the damage done to her modest home with tears in her eyes.
Two mortars had punctured the ceiling of her bathroom and hallway.
She is among many residents who were displaced by the fighting but chose to remain within the city despite the gruelling 24-hour curfew.
“The shelling came all the way here, there is no way we can live here,” she said.