Kobani in the balance; Kurdish protests escalate

ISIS militants have captured the headquarters of Kurdish fighters defending the northern Syrian town of Kobani, with the UN's Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura warning that thousands will likely be massacred if the town falls. Massively outgunned Kurdish militia are struggling to prevent ISIS forces from closing off the last escape route for civilians still in the area, prompting an appeal for urgent military aid. US warplanes have intensified air-strikes against ISIS positions at Kobani, but ISIS now controls 40% of the town, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "The capture of the headquarters will allow the jihadists to advance on the border post with Turkey to the north of the town," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. "If they achieve that, they will have the Kurdish forces inside Kobani completely surrounded."

Kurdish sources on the Turkish side of the border say ISIS has control of Kobani's courthouse, police headquarters and the main municipal building. Ashya Abdullah, co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish political party PYD told VOA's Kurdish service from Kobani there is "very, very intense fighting" between ISIS and the PYD's YPG militia in the town's streets. Kobani's defense chief, Ismet Hasan, told VOA: "For 25 days we have been resisting the IS with light weapons, but with the full determination of YPG fighters and the people of Kobani. We will continue resisting against IS terrorists but we need heavy weapons. If the US can provide us weapons that are capable of eliminating their heavy weapons, like tanks and artillery, and continue air-strikes against [ISIS], we are confident we will be able to kill them all."

The death toll from Kurdish protests across Turkey has now reached 29. A curfew has been imposed in Diyarbakır for the first time since 1992, and the army has been called in to patrol parts of the city. Ominously, some of the 10 dead in Diyarbakır were killed in inter-Kurdish clashes between supporters of the PKK and militants of the Hüda-Par, or Party of God, also known as the Turkish Hezbollah (although a Sunni formation with no ties to Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah). This has raised bitter memories of the early 1990s, when conflict between the PKK and Hüda-Par claimed hundreds of lives. PKK followers assert that Turkish intelligence created the  Hüda-Par in an effort to divide Kurds and weaken the insurgency. It now appears to be aligned with ISIS. (Today's Zaman, Oct. 9)

The website We The People has a petition calling for the United States to provide weapons to the YPG, while a Facebook page demands that the US Remove the PKK From the Terrorist List—which would be a requisite for arming the PKK-affiliated YPG.

A group of Turkish anarchist activists are meanwhile mobilizing in support of the Kurds—and have even crossed the border to support the resistance at Kobani. They call themselves Devrimci Anarsist Faaliyet (Revolutionary Anarchist Action), and are veterans of last year's Taksim Square protests in Istanbul. Speaking to the UK's Channel 4 News, the group claimed it has visited Kobani on three occasions, bypassing Turkish border guards and helping Kurdish refugees to escape into Turkey.

Editor Iskender Doğu of the anarchist-oriented ROAR Magazine writes from the Turkish-Syrian border:

Before anything else, what has to be made absolutely clear is that the Kurds are not protesting to demand a military intervention by Turkey, as has been presented in several mainstream media outlets. Instead, the protesters—Kurds and sympathizers alike—demand an end to Turkey’s covert support for ISIS and for the border at Kobanê to be opened in order to let refugees out, and humanitarian aid and weapons in. Every single person I spoke to in Diyarbakır, Urfa, Suruç and in the villages at the border agree about one thing: ISIS could never have grown as big as it did, and conquer as much of Rojava as it has done, were it not for the material, financial and logistical support the extremists received from the Turkish state.

Meanwhile, DC-based Turkish blogger Mutlu Civiroglu runs a telephone interview with Anwar Mosle, the PYD president of Kobani canton, in which he supports the US-led air-strikes and calls for more:

The jets carry out a good mission, especially for the well-being of civilians. That’s why the continuation of air strikes in Kobane against ISIS is important. The destruction of ISIS's tanks, Humvees and other heavy vehicles is of utmost importance. Today they carried out a car bomb attack. That's why American, British, French and all other coalition partner's [sic] jets should continue targeting ISIS in Kobane Canton. ISIS receives reinforcement from Tal Abyad and Raqqah. The coalition partners should be tracking them better. They must stop them. So that we can finish them off inside Kobane and save the civilians.

So Voice of America portrays the defenders of Kobani as eager for US aid—which is technically illegal due to the hypocritical "terrorist" designation of the PKK—while the anarchist press portrays them as disdaining any US assistance even in their desperate need. US Secretary of State John Kerry meanwhile makes clear that, belated air-strikes on ISIS positions at Kobani notwithstanding, the US considers the town expendable. He told Reuters: "Kobani is a tragedy because it represents the evil of ISIS but it is not the definition either of the strategy or the full measure of what is happening with response to ISIS."

If, following Marx and Hegel, the historical process unfolds through contradiction, there is certainly no shortage here…

  1. Turkish blame-the-victim propaganda

    A piece of egregious Turko-fascist propaganda by one Ceylan Ozbudak on Al Arabiya is currently making the rounds on Facebook. Her hed charges that the PKK is "dragging Turkey to war," and her lede refers to the PKK as a "Marxist-Leninist terror organization" (buzz). She accuses PKK supporters of torching buildings across Turkey during the protests (no link or documentation provided), and assails them for their occupation of the Europarliament building (as if they had nothing to be angry about). She claims "there are few Kurdish civilians left in Kobane"—a cynical assertion contradicted by the town's governor Anwar Moslem in the interview we link to above. She portrays the PKK (still an official US-designated "terrorist organization"!) as manipualating the West in a conspiracy to "divide Turkey," and closes, with absurd unintentional irony: "It is time to listen to Turkey, and not impose decisions from London, Washington, and Paris."

    Talk about getting it 100% backwards. The problem is precisely that the US and its Western allies are giving Turkey a free hand to use ISIS as a proxy to crush the Kurdish autonomous zone in Syria instead of forthrightly supporting the Kurds against ISIS. The greatest irony is that this is what could explode the ceasefire bewteen the PKK and the Turkish state, and make a renewed Kurdish insurgency to "divide Turkey" a self-fulfilling prophecy…

  2. Facebook censors PKK?

    Facebook has apparently blocked the page we link to above calling for removal of the PKK from the US "terrorist organizations" list. Clicking on the link now goes to a page saying: "Sorry, this page isn't available. The link you followed may be broken, or the page may have been removed." Is it really illegal even to advocate removal of a "terrorist organization" from the list? Even one the Pentagon is collaborating with, albeit on a de facto basis? We'd be happy to get a test case going here. World War 4 Report is now fomally calling for removal of the PKK from the US State Department's "Foreign Terrorist Organizations" list. OK, guys?