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Aerial view of Cizre
Aerial view of Cizre
Cizre is located in Turkey
Coordinates: 37°19′30″N 42°11′45″E / 37.32500°N 42.19583°E / 37.32500; 42.19583Coordinates: 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)
Population (2012)[2]
 • Urban 106,831
 • District 124,804
 • District density 270/km2 (690/sq mi)
Post code 73200

Cizre (pronounced [dʒizˈɾe]; Kurdish: Cizîr or Cizîra Botan, Arabic: جزيرة ابن عمرJazīrat Ibn ʿUmar, Syriac: ܓܙܝܪܐGzirā 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) 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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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 (European route ) (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 Malikiye in Syria, was in use between 1940-1972.[12]

2014 Riots[edit]

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[edit]

Main article: 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. The town had limited access to water and food and many of the injured were prohibited to receive professional medical treatment. As many as 12-20 civilians were reported killed.[14] The Council of Europe raised concerns about "disproportionate use of force by security forces against civilians."[15]

Renewed Curfew[edit]

On 13 December 2015 the Turkish authorities renewed the curfew of Cizre city. As of 15 January 2016, 54 civilians have been killed in the city.[16] During the curfew, Turkish authorities can be seen to be using tanks and other heavy weapons in civilian populated areas of the city.[17][18][19]


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.[20]

The current mayor of Cizre is Leyla Imret. As a 27-year-old woman, she is currently the youngest mayor in Turkey.[21] During the siege of Cizre, she was removed from her post for charges of inciting hatred and supporting terrorism.[22]

See also[edit]


  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. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  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. ^ a b "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. ^
  14. ^ "Turkey Kurds: Many dead in Cizre violence as MPs' march blocked". BBC. 10 September 2015. 
  15. ^ "Turkey 'must ensure access' to besieged Cizre, says Council of Europe". BBC. 11 September 2015. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "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. 
  21. ^ "Leyla İmret, Cizre'de rekor oyla seçildi". Hurriyet. 2014-03-31. Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  22. ^ "Interior Ministry removes Cizre mayor from post". Today's Zaman. 11 September 2015. 
  • J. Obermeyer, Die Landschaft Babylonien (1929)
  • A. Ben-Jacob, Kehillot Yehudei Kurdistan (1961), 22, 24–25, 30.
  • Encyclopaedia Judaica (2008)
  • Aurel Stein, Notes on Alexander's Crossing of the Tigris and the Battle of Arbela, 1942, The Royal Geographical Society.