Saving Kobanê: The Town that the World Can’t Afford to Lose to ISISPosted: October 2, 2014
William Gourlay reports: Few people had heard of the Syrian town of Kobanê until recently. But since coming under sustained attack in the last fortnight by Islamic State (ISIS) militants, the town has attracted international attention as at least 160,000 people have fled across the border to Turkey. Kobanê now stands as a barometer of the success – or possible failure – of the campaign to counter ISIS.
That the US-led coalition is not making a concerted effort to relieve Kobanê is puzzling to say the least. It appears that the PYD, which represents Syrian Kurds, has little direct contact with Western powers, so its appeals are not reaching appropriate ears.
Despite being significantly outgunned, the Kurdish YPG militia have proven highly effective in their fight against ISIS, a struggle they have carried on for almost two years without outside support
Pressed hard against the Turkish border, Kobanê (also known as Ayn al-Arab) is one of several autonomous Kurdish territories within Syria. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia of Kobanê have been defending their homeland doggedly, but, significantly outnumbered and outgunned, they have steadily conceded territory.
“While most Syrian Kurds are Sunni Muslims, amongst their ranks the YPG count local Syriac Christian units. They also include significant numbers of female fighters, some of whom have attracted the attention of Western media.”
Kobanê, valiantly resisting ISIS thuggery, has become a rallying point for Kurds across the Middle East, Europe, the US and Australia. Many Turkish Kurds have attempted to cross the border to join to the fight against ISIS. Others maintain a vigil from the uplands around the Turkish border town of Suruç.
“Concerns are also raised about the PYD’s links with the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK initiated a terror campaign to establish a Kurdish state in Turkey in the 1980s…”
Turkish armed forces have not taken part in the hostilities, but after several stray ISIS shells landed in Turkish territory, tanks were brought into position at a vantage point overlooking Kobanê.
“…The Turkish government has been in negotiations with the PKK since late 2012, but still classifies the group as terrorist. The US, EU and Australia also list the PKK as a terrorist organisation, largely at the behest of Turkey.”
The US has undertaken some air strikes in defence of Kobanê, but these have not stopped ISIS’s advance.
Despite being significantly outgunned, the Kurdish YPG militia have proven highly effective in their fight against ISIS, a struggle they have carried on for almost two years without outside support. It was YPG brigades that crossed the Iraq border in August to come to the aid of the Yazidis stranded and at the mercy of ISIS on Mt Sinjar.
William Gourlay is a PhD candidate in Middle Eastern Politics at the School of Social Sciences at Monash University. Gourlay Graduated with BA from University of Melbourne in 1990. Since have worked as a teacher in Turkey, freelance journalist and since 2001 as commissioning editor for Lonely Planet in Melbourne and London. Graduated with Master of Islamic Studies at Monash in 2011, with a thesis examining the legacy of the reform movement in the Islamic Republic in Iran from 1995 until 2008. Currently doing a PhD investigating Kurdish identity in Turkey.
- ISIS Beheads 9 Kurdish Fighters Including Women near Kobane (ibtimes.co.in)
- IS attack on Kurdish town (angryarab.blogspot.com)
- Kobane’s Fall Looks Imminent as ISIS Surrounds Town [PHOTOS] (ibtimes.co.in)
- Kurds at Turkish border see little hope Islamic State won’t take Kobane (star-telegram.com)
- IS massacre ‘would end Turkey-Kurds peace’ (news.com.au)
- Isis captures Syrian Kurdish village (morningstaronline.co.uk)
- Kurds at Turkish border see little hope Islamic State won’t take Kobane (stripes.com)
- Kurds explicitly requesting US airstrikes to stop ISIS from entering Kobane (indybay.org)
- Video of ISIS terrorists passing the Turkish border to attack Kurds in Kobane (liveleak.com)
- Islamic State gains spark exodus and hopes for Turkish action near border (smh.com.au)