The footage of a Kurdish journalist shot as the Turkish army laid siege to her home city of Cizre (Cizîr) was frighteningly reminiscent of atrocities in Kurdish areas of Iran, director Fariborz Kamkari told Cineuropa in an interview in July.
Kamkari collaborated with journalist Berfin Kar to produce Kurdbûn, a documentary that details the Turkish military’s year-long blockade of Cizre, a city on the Turkish side of the Turkey-Syria border. Even though the siege took place far from his own birthplace in Iranian Kurdistan, Kamkari said he immediately recognised Cizre’s plight from his own childhood experiences.
“It reminded me of the same situation which had unfolded so many years earlier in Iran, when I was a child,” Kamkari said. “I was also a resident in a besieged city for over 40 days with my family, under the bombs. I come from the western region of Kurdistan. I was stunned by the similarity between the two experiences.”
Kar amassed more than 50 hours of footage from the siege. Yet it took Kamkari just minutes to realise the impact a shared project could have.
“Straight away, I knew how I’d set the documentary out: it would bear witness to what had happened in Cizre whilst also offering a wider perspective and exploring the Kurdish resistance,” he said.
In 2015 the Turkish government abandoned a peace process to resume its decades-long conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has struggled for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since the 1980s. During the ensuing conflict, the Turkish army laid siege to Cizre, imposing round-the-clock curfews that lasted for months and bombarding residential areas.
The post-2015 period in Turkey has seen the government adopt increasingly authoritarian measures against political and civil opposition, with criminal charges regularly levelled against critical journalists.
Kar is one such journalist facing these charges. But she intends to go back and face them rather than being found guilty in absentia, Kamkari said.
“Berfin said: ‘If they convict me, I won’t be able to go back. I’m going back in order to defend myself.’ It’s highly likely she’ll be convicted,” he said.
The film has been distributed in in Italy, France and Switzerland.