Will world betray Kobani?

The main Kurdish armed group in Syria on Oct. 3 again called on Kurds across the region to help prevent a massacre in Kobani as ISIS forces closed their ring around the town and pummeled it with artillery fire. The statement issued by the YPG vowed "never ending" resistance to ISIS in its advance on Kobani. "Every street and house will be a grave for them." It urged: "Our call to all the young men and women of Kurdistan…is to come to be part of this resistance." Turkish soldiers meanwhile lined up on the neaby border—but rather than intervening to stop the ISIS advance, used armored vehicles and water cannons to prevent Kurdish PKK fighters from crossing to come to the aid of besieged Kobani. Turkish forces also prevented Kurds fleeing Kobani from crossing into Turkey. Refugees who had managed to escape from ISIS-held territory told reporters at the border the usual tales of torture, beheadings and rape. The sad spectacle came on Eid al-Adha, an important festival day in the Muslim calendar. (The Guardian, Reuters, Oct. 3)

The voices of outrage at the absurdity of this situation are all too few and far between. On the left, ROAR Mag has been among this honorable few. Jerome Roos writes, in a piece entiled "If Kobanê falls, the US and Turkey will be to blame"…

Though shamelessly under-reported in the international media, the battle for Kobanê is of crucial importance for the fight against ISIS, the fate of the Kurds, and the future of the region more generally. As one of the few strongholds of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Kobanê is both a major thorn in the side of ISIS and the site of a thriving popular experiment in democratic autonomy. Yet the momentous struggle of the People's Protection Units (YPG) and the Women's Protection Units (YPJ) is being blatantly ignored by the US-led coalition and cynically exploited by the Turkish state, both of which appear to be content to let ISIS slaughter the local population and decimate the Kurdish resistance…

Turkey, for its part, has been accused of colluding with ISIS in a dual attempt to oust its regional nemesis, the Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad, and at the same time undermine the Kurdish struggle for autonomy. It is a public secret that Turkey — an important US ally and the second biggest military force in NATO — has long kept its borders open to extremist militants trying to enter Syria to join the insurrection against Assad, even allowing ISIS fighters to cross back into Turkey to regroup, receive medical treatment, and sell Syrian and Iraqi oil on the black market. At the same time, it has prevented thousands of Turkish Kurds from crossing the border and joining their compatriots in the defense of Kobanê, even firing teargas at Kurdish refugees fleeing from Syria…

This historic betrayal of the Kurds by Turkey and the US is not the first, and it certainly will not be the last. However, this time around the betrayal is all the more despicable because the Syrian Kurds have been by far the most organized, the most democratic and the most courageous armed opposition to ISIS on the ground.

Liz Sly of the Washington Post asks "The US acted to save Iraq’'s Kurds. Why not Syria's?"

The Islamic State advance on the obscure Kurdish town of Kobane has been watched by Turkish troops, monitored by spectators and broadcast live across the world by news channels since the militants launched their offensive two weeks ago. The town is so close to Turkey that the minarets of its mosques can clearly be seen from the Turkish side of the border, as can some of the movements of the approaching Islamic State fighters.

But in stark contrast to the response to the onslaught against Iraq’s minority Yazidis and Kurds in August, there has been no serious international effort to halt this Islamic State offensive against Kurds in Syria — neither from the Turkish forces deployed in strength around the area nor the U.S. warplanes now flying at will around northern Syria and regularly dropping bombs on Islamic State positions elsewhere.

Bizarrely, as Kurds accuse Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan of covertly back ISIS, Erdogan himself just made an utterly perverse statement equating ISIS with the PKK forces heroically resisting them. "The IS for us are the same thing as the PKK," Erdogan said. "It's erroneous to consider and regard them separately." (RIA Novosti)

Thanfully a New York Times op-ed by Asli Aydintasbas, is a columnist for the Turkish daily Milliyet, provides some long-overdue corrective to this sinister propaganda, calling on Turkey to actually back the PKK against ISIS. Aydintasbas urges that "the Kurds are our only reasonable allies in a region of turmoil."

And what of the "mainstream" left (as opposed to the dissident left, such as ROAR) in the United States? CommonDreams informs us that the depressingly predictable Jeremy Scahill is just saying all the depressingly predictable stuff:

What I'm saying is that the United States, through its policies, created the very threat that it claims to be fighting now, and in continuing this policy, what President Obama is doing is embracing the very lies that made the Cheney-Bush Iraq War possible. And in the process, he's creating yet another generation of people in the Islamic world who are going to grow up in a society where they believe that their religion is being targeted, where they believe that the United States is a gratuitous enemy. And so, this is sort of an epic formula for blowback.

In other words, not a syllable of encouragement to the defenders of Kobani, but an implicit endorsement of ISIS in its repugnant claim to represent the Islamic "religion." In addition to showing us that he doesn't know the meaning of the word "gratuitous." He adds that "Lockheed Martin is making a killing off of the killing." A cute line. An obvious fact. And something extremely unlikely to mean much to those about to be overrun by ISIS.

  1. Turks in talks with Kurds to counter ISIS?

    Despite the acrimony on both sides, Turkish Weekly reports that Salih Muslim, leader of the PKK-aligned Democratic Union Party (PYD), had a lengthy meeting with Turkish intelligence officials on Oct. 4, at which he was urged to join the ranks of the Free Syrian Army—and to distance himself from the PKK.

    Muslim’s visit came after Selahattin Demirta┼č, leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a Kurdish party in Turkey, requested help from the Turkish government in the Syrian Kurds’ fight against ISIS. In a meeting with Demirta┼č last week, Prime Minister Ahmet Davuto─člu said he did not want Kobane to end up in the hands of the jihadists.

    The Turkish government had earlier expressed strong concerns about the imposition of a de facto autonomous region in the north of Syria.

    Will the PYD break from the PKK as the price of Turkish aid? Or will Turkey come in to rout  ISIS at the very last moment, and then cleanse Kobani of PKK forces and occupy the area?

  2. Revolutionary Kurdistan in arms against ISIS

    Accounts in the movements@manchester blog and (of all places!) the women's magazine Marie Claire each give excellent coverage to the YPG militias defending Kobani, especially highlighting the role of women. There are 7,500 in the YPG's Women's Protection Unit (YPJ), all serving at will without formal military contracts. This is the fruit of the consensus decision-making process in the areas of PKK/PYD control, in which women are guaranteed a 40% quota. The accounts recall George Orwell's descriptions of the anarchist militias in Homage to Catalonia...