Village burnings and forced evacuations were a common policy of Turkey in the 1990s during the fighting between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish armed forces.
Kösreli (Hesana) village, at the foot of Mount Cudi overlooking Silopi, is one of more than 4,000 villages evacuated in the region in at the time for reasons of “security”.
Many villagers became refugees. Some settled in the Makhmour Refugee Camp in Iraqi Kurdistan and some migrated to Europe, leaving their homes behind.
More than 25 years later, seven Assyrian families returned to their villages, MA reports.
Returning families have rebuilt their destroyed homes and repaired their sacred sites, so the atmosphere of abandonment hanging over the village has dissipated over time.
Although there is silence in wintertime due to some families spending the winter in other places, the village is lively in the summer months. However, the families still feel state oppression in their village.
Not everyone can enter the village, which has a gendarme checkpoint at the entrance. People the gendarmes do not approve of cannot even attend weddings or wakes in the village.
Those who want to go to the village hope to enter after a security data check, but their names must then also be approved by the village mayor. People who are not approved by the mayor have to leave. Locals find this attitude humiliating but they prefer to remain silent as at least they are able to return to their homes after decades away.
Hinna Koçun returned to the village a year ago with her husband and five children.
“Our life here was very difficult, because there was poverty, there was oppression. There wasn’t even a doctor in the village. We used primitive methods of production. We used to sow grain,” she explains.
She is now very happy that she is back home.
“Myself and my husband missed this place. We heard that four or five families had returned, and we said, ‘we’ll go too’. We are relieved. There are people we know, we have friends here.”
She adds that she wants to stay in the village permanently, not just in the summertime.
“People are slowly returning to their birthplace. Some only come and stay in the summer. We would really like our village to be rebuilt as before, like everyone else’s, and we would like the people to return.”