Kobani Kurds between Erdogan, ISIS and Assad

Today's good news from Kobani is tempered by some very disturbing news. Medhaj News, citing sources on the ground in the ISIS-besieged town in northern Syria, reports that Kurdish fighters have now captured more than 80% of Kobani, with just two ISIS-held pockets left in the east. This is a dramatic turn-around from just a week ago, when ISIS was in control of some 40% of Kobani. Simultaneously, however, the Syrian opposition network in its electronically coordinated consensus process, agreed to adopt the slogan "Yes to Turkey's Conditions for Intervention"—with the announcement on Facebook actually showing the image of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a glorified pose.

This is the same Erdogan who has for weeks (at the very least!) been more or less openly conniving with ISIS—closing the border, barring both Kurdish fighters from crossing into Syria to come to Kobani's defense as well as Kurdish refugees attempting to flee ISIS to safe haven in Turkey. Troops and tanks lined up at the border, doing nothing as ISIS tightened its grip on Kobani, not a kilometer the south. And this is not to mention Kurdish claims of more direct aid to ISIS, such as allowing the jihadists to use Turkish territory as a sanctuary and transfer zone for their black-market oil. And after this inevitably sparked Kurdish protests across Turkey, he unleashed harsh repression—while employing cynical rhetoric equating ISIS and the PKK, because they are both "terrorists." (Sic!) This as the PKK-allied YPG militia was leading the desperate and genuinely heroic resistance to ISIS at Kobani! Finally, Erdogan intervened—on the wrong side, actually bombing PKK targets in eastern Turkey. And this as his troops actually resorted to gunning down Kurdish refugees at the border.

These abuses continue. Kurdish refugees from Kobani have been detained at the border and held without charge on suspicion of being part of the YPG. According to a reporter for The Guardian who visited the area, guards have attempted to break a detainee hunger strike by denying food to all the detainees unless the strikers agreed to break their fast. "They said, 'either you all eat or none of you eat'," according to one interviewed detainee. AFP reports that the detainees fear they are to be forcibly repatraited to Syria to face possible extermination at the hands of ISIS.

Yet amid the conniving with ISIS, Turkey has been preparing military action in Syria. The nearly inevitable conclusion is that Erdogan has been waiting for ISIS to crush the YPG, allowing him to then cross into northern Syria under the guise of "liberating" it from ISIS and establish a Turkish occupation zone, thereby destroying the Kurdish autonomous zone in the region. It recalls Stalin holding his armies back at the very gates of Warsaw in September 1944 to give the Nazis time to put down the Polish uprising in the city, sparing the Red Army the trouble!

And Erdogan's imperial allies may be in on this game. The War Nerd blog notes that, while the US finally did start backing up the YPG with air-strikes on ISIS positions at Kobani, it was with the utmost reluctance and equivocation.

With an enemy like [ISIS], you'd expect the freedom-luvin' rulers of the US to be fairly enthusiastic about helping the Kurds defend Kobane. But they've never been into it, inventing one excuse after another for leaving the Kurdish YPG militia to face these friggin' monsters all by themselves. The Pentagon's Press Secretary John Kirby even said it was the Kurds' own fault:

"We don't have a willing, capable, effective partner on the ground inside Syria. It's just a fact. I can't change that."

That's utter crap, of course. You'd be hard put to find better light infantry than the YPG anywhere in the world. But that was the scenario the Pentagon had worked out: Kobane would fall, Islamic State would move in, tsk-tsk, what a tragedy, and the sooner that tragedy happened, the better for everyone.

A non-stop grinner, Admiral Kirby kept "warning," which is to say, "hoping and praying," that Kobane was going to fall one of these days. Kirby was worse than an end-times preacher, just as eager for the disaster he was supposed to be preventing. Here's Kirby, preaching Armageddon in a briefing on October 9:

(CNN) — U.S. airstrikes "are not going to save" the key Syrian city of Kobani from being overtaken by ISIS, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby.

"I think we all should be steeling ourselves for that eventuality," he told reporters in a daily briefing Wednesday.

It's unusual for a Pentagon flack to speak that plainly. They usually prefer the language of what "could" or "may" happen. But there was Kirby, a week ago, saying bluntly that Kobane, like a sinner rejected by Calvin's God, was not going to be saved. And, if that wasn't enough, he adds a little advice for the press: "…[W]e all should be steeling ourselves for that eventuality."

We have noted similar rhetoric from Secretary of State John Kerry

It is very disturbing that the Syrian opposition may be going along with this game. While the YPG and FSA are now cooperating against ISIS, in the past there have been tensions between the FSA and Kurdish insurgency in northern Syria—even dubious accuations that the YPG was collaborating with the Bashar Assad regime. It is a shrewd move on the part of Erdogan to adopt the Syrian opposition's demands—including for a no-fly-zone, avidly sought by those under Assad's aerial bombardment in Aleppo and Hama, often with the crude but ultra-deadly "barrel bombs." But as the AP report on Erdogan's proposal makes clear, his "no-fly-zone" would also include a Turkish-controlled "buffer zone" in Syria's north—or Rojava, as it is known to the Kurds.

Speaking to World War 4 Report at an Oct. 17 rally by local Kurds in solidarity with Kobani at New York's Union Square, Mehmet Fidan of the American Kurdish Association said that Erdogan's no-fly-zone proposal is a cover for "putting Turkish soldiers there to destroy the Rojava self-government system. We are not opposed to a no-fly-zone, but not under Erdogan's circumstances. We want no Turkish soldiers on Kurdish land."

"Don't forget that just two years ago, Erdogan and Assad were good friends," he added, expressing skepticism about the Turkish leader's intentions. "Erdogan was not expecting Kurds to resist for a month against ISIS. He was hoping to use ISIS to gain a strategic advantage against the PKK and the Kurdish opposiiton."

Asked about the Kurdish role in the Syrian revolution, Fidan said: "We as Kurds want our right to live in peace and democracy. We want the same for the Arabs, Christians and Alawites. Assad should leave power. I have zero sympathy for this guy's regime."

Slogans at the rally, in addition to "STOP ISIS TERRORISM" and "HELP KURDS FIGHT ISIS," included "TURKEY STOP HELPING ISIS!"

  1. Call for Solidarity with Kobanê

    The Turkish activist network Gezi Platform issued the following statement that was distributed at the Oct. 17 rally in New York's Union Square:

    Call for Solidarity with Kobanê

    On Monday, October 6th, ISIS forces entered the autonomous Kurdish canton of Kobanê in Western Kurdistan (North Syria) following a siege which began on September 15th. Defending Kobanê are the skilled but ill-equipped People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), who are up against The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a religious extremist organization bent on slaughtering, enslaving, and raping hundreds of thousands of civilians using advanced American and Russian weapons.

    The International Coalition led by the US, which bears great responsibility for the present bloodbath in the region, has been hesitant and late in taking any action that would have hindered ISIS from entering Kobanê. For the time being the US has contented itself with remaining as an onlooker to the ongoing barbarism, at times bombing some secondary targets only for appearance. Although this attitude seems to be changing as a result of rising international pressure, this will not prevent the International Coalition from being responsible for a potential massacre in Kobanê, if the Kurdish forces are ultimately defeated.

    Turkey, a strategic partner of the the US in the region, bears a particularly big responsibility for the current situation. The city of Kobanê is presently besieged by ISIS from three sides. The fourth side in the north is the border to Turkey. Kurds throughout the region have been demanding for weeks from the Turkish government to open up a corridor from other Kurdish cantons from Northern Syria to Kobanê, so that they can concentrate their military forces there to fend off ISIS. Turkey, however, is purposefully obstructing any such movement into Kobanê. This is particularly hypocritical, since it has been well-documented that the Turkish government has been financially and logistically assisting Islamist fundamentalists besides ISIS, including allowing cross-border movements in order to overthrow the Assad Regime.

    The march of ISIS into Kobanê has ignited massive demonstrations throughout Turkey, particularly in North Kurdistan (Southeast Turkey). The response of the Turkish government has been one of violent repression, leading to the death of 35 protesters on the first few days of the protests. All of these events have seriously threatened the ongoing but fragile peace process between the Turkish government and the Kurdish National Liberation Movement. The end of this peace process would most likely be the start of a bloody civil war in Turkey, which could spark further turmoil across the entire Middle East.

    In short, we are convinced that the International Coalition and Turkey are waiting for ISIS to first crush Kobanê, and then the other autonomous Kurdish cantons in the region–all of which stand as the only way of establishing peace through pluralistic and democratic governing in the region. This is nothing but playing with fire.

    We are calling for solidarity with the resistance in Kobanê and helping the Kurds echo their demands. ISIS must be swiftly and decisively defeated. To that end, the Turkish government must stop its military manipulation of the situation for its own interests. We demand that the Turkish government allow Kurdish forces located beyond Kobanê unrestricted access to the city by opening its border gate to Kurds rather than ISIS fighters. Moreover, any attempt of Turkey with or without the support of the International Coalition to create a buffer zone in Kobanê must be stopped, for such posturing lays the ground for an invasion of other Kurdish territories. If Kobanê falls, the result will be an uncontrollable spiral of more wars and massacres across the whole of the region–and history will clearly note who is responsible for it!

    Long live the resistance of Kobanê!

    Bijî berxwedana Kobanê!

    Gezi Platform NYC

    Via Jadaliyya

    1. Gezi Platform statement on Kobani updated

      Gezi Platform on their Facebook page notes Oct. 27: "The second paragraph has been rephrased in order to avoid misunderstandings…"

      We are deeply critical of the decades-long expansionist and military policies of the International Coalition led by the US. The coalition shares the full responsibility for the present bloodbath in the region with the Turkish Government whose collaboration with these policies, covert support for ISIS and discriminating policies against the Kurds continue to amplify their devastating effect. We affirm that a long term resolution to the conflicts in the region can only be achieved through an end to the self-interested Western military actions in the region. Thus we call upon the international community to focus their efforts in providing unconditional support to the local resistance forces by delivering supplies, and by mounting pressure on Turkey to open and preserve a supply corridor into Kobanê. Even though the provision of this support shall not redeem the Coalition Forces and the Turkish Government from their responsibility in the ongoing brutality and massacres, we believe such a move will help avoid future massacres and lay the foundation for a solution moving forward.

  2. ISIS chic in Istanbul

    Amid Erdogan's nearly open connivance with ISIS, a deeply disturbing "ISIS chic" seems to have caught on in Turkey. Hurriyet Daily News reports that Turhan Özyazanlar, the coach of Istanbul's Sarıyer football team was beaten by fans—and hospitalized—after one of the team’s trainers posted messages on social media decrying ISIS atrocities in Kobani. AP posts alarming images of ISIS t-shirts and other such gear on display at an Islamic bookstore in Istanbul, and notes ISIS supporters provoking clashes with leftist students at Istanbul University.