Aerial view of Cizre
Coordinates: TR 37°19′30″N 42°11′45″E / 37.32500°N 42.19583°E / 37.32500; 42.19583Coordinates: TR 37°19′30″N 42°11′45″E / 37.32500°N 42.19583°E / 37.32500; 42.19583
Country Turkey
Province Şırnak
  Mayor Vacant
(mayor has been imprisoned)
  Kaymakam Ahmet Adanur
  District 467.64 km2 (180.56 sq mi)
Elevation 377 m (1,237 ft)
Population (2012)[2]
  Urban 106,831
  District 124,804
  District density 270/km2 (690/sq mi)
Post code 73200

Cizre (pronounced [ˈdʒizɾe]; Kurdish: Cizîr or Cizîra Botan, Arabic: جزيرة ابن عمر Jazīrat Ibn ʿUmar, Syriac: ܓܙܝܪܐ Gzirā or Gziro) is a town and district of Şırnak Province in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of Turkey, on the border with Syria, just to the northwest of the Turkish-Syrian-Iraqi tripoint.

It is populated by a majority of Kurds in addition to Assyrian/Syriac people and other minorities. 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 Koeppen climate classification) with wet, mild, rarely snowy winters and dry, extremely hot summers. Daily summer temperatures of 113 °F (45 °C) or higher are common, as well as below freezing temperatures in the winter.

Climate data for Cizre, Şırnak province. (altitude:379m.) (1985-2012)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 11
Average low °C (°F) 2
Average precipitation mm (inches) 118
Source: Weather2[3]


Classic era and Middle Ages

Cizre is historical Gazarta 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 Armenia.

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, further identified with the Roman stronghold of Bethzabde (Syriac: ܒܝܬ ܙܒܕܝ, Bēṯ Zaḇdai), although Stein (1942) is sceptical of this.

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 e Sabtha.[4] 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.[5][6]

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,[7] 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 against the Ottoman Empire.[8]

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.[9] The remaining Armenian population, located in the rural parts of Cizre, was massacred on 8 August 1915. Few managed to survive.[10][11]

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 D-380 (via Midyat) and D-400 (European route ) (via Nusaybin) that connect Mardin with Şırnak, as well as the route D-430 to Silopi run through the town.

The border checkpoint in Cizre, the gate to Malikiye in Syria, was in use between 1940-1972.[12]

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.[13] 17 of its citizens who fought with fellow Kurds died in Syria during the Siege of Kobanî.[8]

2015 Siege of Cizre

During the Turkey–PKK 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.[14][15] 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.[16] The Council of Europe raised concerns about "disproportionate use of force by security forces against civilians."[17]

Second Curfew

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.[18] On 11 February, military operations in the city ceased.[19] On 1 March 2016, it was announced that the curfew would end the following day.[19] Human rights groups claimed that 263 had been killed, including at least 92 civilians.[15]

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.[15][14]

In April 2016, the Turkish Human Rights Association watchdog submitted a report to the United Nations detailing the mass killing of over 120 Kurdish civilians in Cizre. [20]

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.[21]


The mayor of Cizre, Aydın Budak, 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.[22]

The current mayor of Cizre is Leyla Imret. As a 27-year-old woman, she is currently the youngest mayor in Turkey.[23] During the siege of Cizre, she was removed from her post for charges of inciting hatred and supporting terrorism.[24]

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. "Cizre, Turkey Travel Weather Averages (Weatherbase)". Weatherbase.
  4. G. Levenq, v. Béth Zabdai in Dictionnaire d'Histoire et de Géographie ecclésiastiques, vol. VIII, Paris 1935, coll. 1241-1244
  5. Michel Lequien, Oriens christianus in quatuor Patriarchatus digestus, Paris 1740, Vol. II, coll. 1003-1004
  6. Pius Bonifacius Gams, Series episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae, Leipzig 1931, p. 437
  7. Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 849
  8. 1 2 "Turkey and its Kurds: Dreams of self-rule". The Economist. 14 February 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  9. 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.
  10. Kevorkian, Raymond (2011). The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 0857730207.
  11. Korucu, Serdar (13 September 2015). "100 yıllık hikaye: 1915'te Cizre'de ne yaşandı?". Radikal.
  12. "Letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs" (in Turkish). Cizre Ticaret ve Sanayi Odası. November 29, 2005. Retrieved March 15, 2009.
  13. Cale Salih, Aaron Stein. "How Turkey misread the Kurds".
  14. 1 2 "Turkey: Families return to shattered Kurdish town of Cizre – 'a second Kobani'". IB Times. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  15. 1 2 3 "Turkey eases curfew after assault on PKK rebels leaves Cizre in ruins". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
  16. "Turkey Kurds: Many dead in Cizre violence as MPs' march blocked". BBC. 10 September 2015.
  17. "Turkey 'must ensure access' to besieged Cizre, says Council of Europe". BBC. 11 September 2015.
  18. "Number of bodies taken to morgues in Cizre increases to 123". TodaysZaman. 14 February 2016. Archived from the original on February 17, 2016.
  19. 1 2
  21. "Turkey: Deadly Truck Bomb Hits Cizre Police Checkpoint". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Associated Press. 26 August 2016. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  22. "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.
  23. "Leyla İmret, Cizre'de rekor oyla seçildi". Hurriyet. 2014-03-31. Retrieved 2014-03-31.
  24. "Interior Ministry removes Cizre mayor from post". Today's Zaman. 11 September 2015.
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