Sarah Parker writes about the siege by ISIS of Kobanê, and the need for urgent solidarity.
The city of Kobanê in Aleppo province, northern Syria, is being heroically defended against ISIS by local people and by the People’s Protection Units (still mainly Kurdish but including Arabs and Assyrians). A high proportion of the fighters are women, mainly young but also middle-aged, and some Free Syrian Army forces who have moved to Kobanê are also fighting there, but the defenders have no heavy artillery and only a few home-made armoured vehicles, while ISIS have all the heavy weaponry and vehicles they captured in the summer from the Iraqi army and possibly from the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party), as well as weapons and vehicles given them by their sponsors. ISIS is able to shell heavily from great distances, and have concentrated most of their Syrian forces round Kobanê, so for some days the situation has been critical, although the defenders are very determined and seem to be just about coping.
Since 15 September ISIS has been staging its heaviest attack so far on 3 sides of Kobanê, one of the Kurdish three autonomous regions in Syria (the fourth side is partly covered by Turkish army). ISIS is receiving ever more blatant assistance from Turkey, which the US and its allies seem to be doing nothing effective to hinder. Recent More than 100 and villages in the enclave have had to be evacuated to reduce the number of civilian casualties and to allow the self-defence forces a clear run and by now more than 130,000 non-combatants have fled into Turkey. The remaining population, normally 200,000 but doubled in size by refugees from Sinjar and Aleppo and elsewhere in northern Syria are at risk of massacre if Kobanê falls.
Mass protests by Kurds on the border at Kobanê have been taking place, and sometimes people have managed to rush the border at Pirsus /Suruç to go into Kobanê to aid the defence effort. One report from villagers who came through to Kobanê said that they had seen about 3000 men escorted over the border into Syria in the middle of the night by Turkish soldiers, presumably to reinforce ISIS. This follows previous reports that the old Berlin-Baghdad railway line is being used by the Turkish army to resupply ISIS. Protesters, some having travelled from distant parts of Turkey, are patrolling the border, watching out for Turkish soldiers helping ISIS recruits to cross the border. Some clashes have broken out, including near the Iraqi/Turkish border in Kurdistan. So the Turkish army does not have full control of the border, which means there is some hope that people can get in with ammunition and more weapons.
YPG forces from the next autonomous canton along to the east, Jazira, are also fighting ISIS around Serekani to try to get through to the west relieve the siege of Kobanê. On 30 September news agencies reported fighting around Rabia in Northern Iraq; it sounds as if peshmergas and YPG (Kurdish People’s Defence Forces) have jointly driven ISIS out of Rabia, which in theory will make it easier to clear ISIS out of the rest of Shengal and to allow Kurdish fighters to go from Iraq to Syria, into the Jazira autonomous area. This will allow reinforcements to Jazira, which will make the task of breaking through to the west more likely.
Public and diplomatic pressure on Turkey is key to restraining its actions around Kobanê. Far left leaders from Turkey including leaders of ODP (Freedom and Solidarity Party), EMEP (Labour Party) and HDP (People’s Democratic Party) visited a couple of days ago. Kurdish politicians from Turkey have visited several times. The Kurdish PYD (Democratic Union Party) leaders in Syria, in the Qandil mountains in Iraq, and in Turkey are calling for actions to demand that NATO restrain Turkey from helping ISIS in Kobanê. Kurds have been stepping up their demonstrations throughout Turkey and all over Europe, including occupying Schipol and Franfurt airports, and increasing numbers of hunger strikes, including outside the European Parliament, where Salih Müslim, co-chair of the PYD in Syria, is holding meetings with European politicians this week to ask them to put effective pressure on their governments to push Turkey to change its lethal support for ISIS. We need to support the Kurdish actions, as the situation in Kobanê is extremely serious, and predictably a deafening silence is coming from governments and most politicians around the coalition, as Turkey is a key ally, and imperialism does not like the radicalism of YPG in Syria or its ally PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party).
LATEST – HUNGER STRIKE FOR KOBANE
The Kurdish community in London is holding a hunger strike in front of 10 Downing Street until Saturday 4th October when they will march into Central London. The protest demonstration will be staged under the slogan “Resistance and defence of Kobanê is the resistance and defence of humanity” as part of the mobilisation of the Kurdish people living in Europe in solidarity with the growing Kobanê resistance against inhuman gangs now calling themselves the Islamic State. The demonstraton organised by the UK Kurdish Assembly, Free Youth Movement, Roj Woman’s Association aims to raise awareness and demand that the UK government support the Kurdish resistance.
Demonstrators to take part in the hunger strike appeal that:
– The UK Government must provide the Kurdish forces with advanced weapons.
– The UK, EU and US must officially recognise the three cantons declared autonomous regions in Rojava Kurdistan (Northern Syria).
– The UK government must enforce an embargo against all the states that support ISIS, beginning with Turkey.
– NATO must stop its member Turkey aiding and arming ISIS immediately.
– The UN must not permit a Buffer Zone on Kurdish land proposed by Turkey who openly supports ISIS.
– The UN and international women’s organisations must investigate the situation of kidnapped women and begin a plan of action for their rescue.”
Please go along to visit the hunger strikers if you can.