Kobanê: Heroic defence resists ‘Islamic State’ assault; 'Kobanê will be a grave for IS'

The People’s Democracy Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtas, who won nearly 10% in the recent presidential election. The HDP is leading a big campaign of solidarity with Rojava against the IS assault.

By Dave Holmes

September 27, 2014 -- Green Left Weekly/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Besieged since September 15, the northern Syrian Kurdish-majority city of Kobanê (Arabic name: Ayn al-Arab) has mounted an heroic, all-out resistance to the murderous 'Islamic State' (IS, formerly referred to as "ISIS") gangs.

As of September 25, despite all the superior heavy weaponry deployed by the IS, it appears that fierce resistance and determined counterattacks have halted or slowed the assault. Nonetheless, the IS thugs have pushed closer to the city centre than ever before and the situation remains perilous.

Kurds flock to Kobanê to join defence

Kobanê, 135 kilometres north-east of Aleppo, hard up against the Turkish border, is a vital part of the "Rojava Revolution". Its system of "democratic confederalism" is an inspiring attempt to build a society inclusive of all ethnicities and religious communities and to empower women. The contrast between this humane, democratic project and that of the brutal, fundamentalist, women-hating "Islamic State" could not be greater.

Kurds are the majority community in Rojava (Rojava means "West" as in West Kurdistan) but many other ethnic and religious groups are also part of this experiment (Arabs, Assyrians, Syriac Christians, Turkmen). In this sense, Rojava is a model for the entire Middle East.

The defence of Kobanê has become a national cause for the Kurdish people.

While tens of thousands of residents have sought refuge in Turkey, most of the people have not left. Often residents take the elderly and children across the border and then try to return to fight.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has led a decades-long struggle for Kurdish rights in Turkey, has called on Kurdish youth to go to Kobanê. Thousands of Kurds have crossed into the city from Turkey to join the defence effort led by the Peoples Protection Units-Women's Protection Units (YPG-YPJ). Three-thousand PKK fighters have reportedly left their bases in Iraq's Qandil Mountains heading for Kobanê.

In the east, a YPG force is advancing on the IS-held town of Til Ebyad, west of Serêkaniyê (Ras al-Ayn) between the Kobanê and Cizîre cantons (districts) of Rojava. This new front is an attempt to reduce the pressure on Kobanê. The YPG has inflicted heavy losses on the IS gangs but faces stiffening opposition.

Kurds have established a solidarity camp and vigil on the Turkish border opposite Kobanê. It has been attacked by Turkish police with water cannon and tear gas. The protesters want to stop Turkey's support to the jihadis and prevent IS wounded crossing into Turkey for treatment. There are plans to monitor 160 kilometres of the border to inhibit the Turkish-IS collaboration.

Turkish government supports IS

Turkey, which has long oppressed its large Kurdish minority, is implacably opposed to the Rojava Revolution. Without Turkey's support, the IS gangs would be in a much more vulnerable position.

Rhetoric notwithstanding, the Turkish authorities are giving direct support to the IS killers. Villagers have witnessed trains unloading tanks, weapons and ammunition at the border opposite IS-controlled villages. Just before the assault on Kobanê began on September 15, witnesses reported that several thousand jihadis came in buses and were escorted across the border by Turkish soldiers.

A private hospital, supported by government-linked entities, has been established in Antep (Gaziantep, about 90 kilometres from Kobanê) to treat wounded jihadis. It is hardly a secret, with photos being published in a daily left-wing newspaper.

And now the Turkish government is floating the idea of a "buffer zone". The would be on the Syrian side of the border. Clearly, it would not be aimed at the IS but at buffering Turkey from the deeply unpleasant reality of a democratic, self-governing, multi-ethnic, Kurdish-majority Rojava.

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan used to say that achieving a settlement with the country's large Kurdish minority was his main priority. But Turkey's flagrant support for the Islamic State would seem to have killed off any meaningful negotiations with the Kurds.

Arm the defenders of Kobanê

Despite the courage and commitment of the people, Kobanê faces a tremendous challenge fighting an opponent backed by state power and armed with superior weaponry. If the city should fall there will be a massacre and a question mark placed over the Rojava Revolution. Conversely, if the IS can be checked it will be a great victory.

The West (including Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott) talks about waging war on the IS but the real fight against the fundamentalists is being waged on the ground by the YPG-YPJ and the defenders of Kobanê.

If the West were serious it would immediately supply artillery, anti-tank missiles and armoured vehicles to Kobanê to enable it to offset the captured US and Russian weaponry of the IS. But no one should hold their breath waiting.

Behind Turkey's war on Rojava

By I. Zekeriya Ayman

September 27, 2014 -- Green Left Weekly -- With the US and allied governments, including those in Arab countries, carrying out air strikes in Syria, Turkey's government is trying to convince the West it does not support the Islamic State (IS) forces the US is targetting.

Newly elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (the former prime minster) linked the adjective “terrorist” with “IS” for the first time on September 23 during a US TV interview while attending the United Nations climate summit.

“Turkey will do whatever needs to be done to stop this terrorist organisation, militarily, and politically”, he said.

But the truth is that IS has received vital support from the Turkish government. It is known that IS has received crucial support from Turkey, which include:

  • Turkey positioning itself as an easy bridge for IS foreign militants to reach Syria, and Iraq;
  • Trapped IS militants in Syria and Iraq escaping to Turkey to regroup and train;
  • IS casualties being treated in Turkish hospitals and even having an hospital exclusively for their use;
  • Turkey providing basic needs to IS under the guise of “humanitarian aid”;
  • The Turkish government providing weapons and ammunitions directly to IS and provided safe passage for arms deliveries from elsewhere; and
  • Turkey opening and closing its borders to suit IS.

The main reason Turkey's regime has supported IS, besides its interest in the toppling the Syrian regime, is the growing Kurdish resistance in Syria and the creation of a revolutionary “liberated zone” in the Kurdish territory of Rojava.

The “Rojava Revolution” is the first revolutionary project in the Middle East not supported by any major political power since the 2011 Arab Spring. This is a real people’s revolution, led by the Kurdish liberation movement, that is generating hope in the Middle East. It suggests that revolution may be possible without the backing of the super powers.

The Turkish government had a secret policy of maintaining a “buffer zone” on its border with Syria to stifle the Rojava revolution.

So what has changed? The US has declared its intention to “destroy IS” and the Turkish government believes this may revive its failed attempts to demolish the Rojava uprising.

Turkey has been the most enthusiastic government in the world about the demise of the Bashar Assad regime. At the start of the Syrian uprising the then-Turkish foreign minister, now Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu, boldly predicted that “Assad’s days were numbered”.

Turkey's government believed it. But it was the prediction that collapsed, not the Assad regime. These recent US air strikes have renewed hopes that Assad may go.

Turkey's government also seems to have calculated that it cannot rely on the IS to crush Kurdish resistance. Its best bet is actually the US.

If a ground operation follows air strikes in Syria, Turkey will be more than happy to occupy Syria from north ― providing an excellent opportunity to deal with the Kurds.

The US attacks on IS in Iraq and Syria send a clear message to all that the US is not finished in the region, yet. The US pushed hard for Sunni Arab countries and Turkey to come on board with the air strikes.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and Turkey had no choice but to support the US-led anti-IS “coalition”.

Turkey won’t change its policy to kill the Rojava revolution but will try to kill it from within this coalition.

Turkey's government will pay a hefty price, domestically, for its support of the US-led coalition against IS. Its religious base will ask questions. But it is a lower price than it would pay if it went against US interests.

Turkey's left is well aware of US plans in Iraq and Syria. The People’s Democracy Party (HDP), which gained significant support at the recent presidential elections, is leading a huge campaign in solidarity with defence of the Rojava city of Kobane against IS attack.

Thousands of Turkish-Kurdish youth trying to enter Syria to join the war against IS and have clashed with Turkish police at the border ― but many have managed to join the fight. HDP MPs have visited the Syrian border to show their solidarity with Kobane resistance and now many other groups are visiting in solidarity.

[I. Zekeriya Ayman is a Kurdish–Turkish leftist living in Melbourne.]

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From GLW issue 1027

YPJ commanders: Every inch of Kobanê will be a grave for IS

September 27, 2014 -- FiratNews.com -- As the attacks by ISIS gangs on Kobanê continue, two resistance commanders, Meysa Ebdo and Meryem Kobanê, said they would defend their positions to the end, adding: "every inch of Kobanê will be a grave for ISIS."

Clashes between the YPG-YPJ forces and the barbarian ISIS [now also known as "Islamic State, or IS] gangs are continuing around Kobanê. The YPG-YPJ forces are fighting heroically and inflicting heavy losses on the ISIS gangs. We spoke to commanders Meryem Kobanê and Meysa Ebdo regarding the latest stage of the fighting.

ISIS advance halted

Meryem Kobanê said that since September 15 the ISIS gangs have been mounting attacks on Kobanê using heavy weaponry seized in Mosul. She added that in the last three days the gangs' advance has been completely halted and that the YPG-YPJ are in control of strategic hills on the southern and western fronts, where they are continuing to make effective strikes on the gangs.

We will turn the town into a hell for ISIS

Meryem Kobanê said ISIS was doing its utmost to enter the town, adding: "we have made a clear decision to resist to the last fighter. We will not allow them into the town, and have taking effective measures. But in the eventuality that they do get into the town, we will turn it into an inferno for them."

We fought for days without food or water

Meryem Kobanê said the YPG/YPJ fighters had put up a stiff resistance in arduous conditions, “at times we fought for days without food or water. Since the area is mainly desert and as we don't have armoured vehicles, a lot of the time we could not convey food and particularly water to our fighters. The will power and belief of our comrades overcame these shortcomings. Some fighters sacrificed themselves in order to get ammunition to the front."

Every inch of Kobanê will be a grave for ISIS

Meysa Ebdo said they would undertake comprehensive operations against ISIS, adding: "we will of course factor in all possibilities. We are making our preparations. It will not be easy to take this town. Even if thousands of ISIS members come into the town, we will turn it into hell for them and they will be defeated. This is a possibility, but as one of the commanders here I do not think the gangs will be able to enter Kobanê."

ISIS plans to take Kobanê are a fantasy

“ISIS plans to take Kobanê are just a fantasy. They have yet to learn of the power of Kurds equipped with the Apocu philosophy."  Ebdo added that the ISIS gangs had aimed to seize the town within a week, but that Kobanê was not like Mosul.

Allegations of Turkish tank involvement

Ebdo recalled that some of the tanks used against the YPG-YPJ forces were new, and that it has been claimed they were given to ISIS by Turkey, adding: "Turkey already supports ISIS. Therefore, we consider it is highly likely these claims are true."

Turkish state support for ISIS is a betrayal of the peace process

Ebdo emphasised constant Turkish support for ISIS, saying: "We are aware that Turkey's recent role has been despicable and hypocritical. It is also a betrayal of peace talks being carried out with leader Apo, and will have bad consequences for Turkey. The Turkish state should abandon these policies immediately."

Firat Volkani inflicting heavy blows on gangs

Ebdo said that the Firat Volkani Alliance, established earlier this month from components of the Free Syrian Army, were fighting determinedly on the southern and western fronts in particular, adding that since the attacks began hundreds of young people had been armed, while security in the town and outside was provided by trained fighters.

The young people should return and join the resistance

Ebdo called on people who had left the town to return and join the resistance. She said: "there is conflict, so we cannot say anything about the elderly, women and children having left, as clashes are continuing around the town. But thousands of people are also returning every day as they see the stern resistance of the YPG. I want to call on young women and men to return to Kobanê to join the defence of the town."

The people of the North must not abandon the border

Ebdo added the following regarding the border protests in North Kurdistan: "the solidarity protests at the border are a great source of morale for us. We want these protests that prevent Turkish state support for ISIS gangs to continue. For us it is important to have something to rely on as we are encircled on three sides. These actions by the people from the North should continue with the participation of millions."

Kobanê is invincible

Ebdo concluded by saying: "World public opinion should know that we have a tradition of never surrendering. We are the successors of the Beritans and Mazlums and therefore Kobanê is invincible. Kobanê will not surrender. Even if the gangs take Kobanê it will not be a defeat as we will not give up. People should know that our resistance and freedom march will continue."