Tuesday 7 October: Forces of the “Islamic State” movement (ISIS) have entered the Kurdish city of Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border.
After taking a hill commanding the city on 5 October, ISIS has now begun to enter at ground level.
Kobani had taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees and was touted at one time as a safe haven for those escaping IS.
Previous incursions of IS members into Kobani had been quashed by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), but it looks like street by street fighting will now see the city taken, leading to a massacre of Kurds and other minorities who have previously fled the ISIS. Something over 180,000 have fled onwards into Turkey.
ISIS has continued to bombard the area with artillery and fire power that is way beyond the light arms and machine guns of the YPG and other Kurdish fighters.
Reports of individual bravery from the Kurdish forces include Arin Mirkin from the YPG Women’s Protection Unit, who died in a grenade attack which also killed ten IS fighters.
Turkey remains a barrier to an effective fight against ISIS in the region. Troops have massed on the border with Kobani in order to stop aid, people, and arms going in both directions.
The Turkish Government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ensured that some parts of the border have been permeable for Syrian opposition forces since 2011, but areas directly neighbouring Kurdish controlled territory have been severely restricted.
On Thursday 2 October the Turkish parliament voted 298 to 98 to authorise the Turkish military to enter Syria or Iraq in action against ISIS, and to allow foreign troops to launch operations from Turkey. The parliament previously authorised Turkish military operations to enter Iraq or Syria to attack Kurdish separatists, or to thwart threats from the Syrian regime.
But it looks as if any Turkish military action will come only after the Kurds have been crushed and massacred, leaving Turkey able to control territory it takes from ISIS without any Kurdish challenge.
Turkish academics protesting against their government’s stance have written:
“In expressing our solidarity [with Kobani], we need to stress the fact this statement is not a call for any military aggression or occupation, including that of the Turkish military. We encourage the Turkish government to negotiate with the Kurdish representatives in good faith to ensure the ongoing peace process, which holds much promise.
“As Kurdish political representatives of Rojava [Syrian Kurdistan] have repeatedly declared, if they are recognised as a legitimate authority and provided with the needed weaponry and other support, they are capable of driving away the threat of ISIS.”
Erdogan’s Government has called on the Kurds to join the official Syrian opposition to Assad, and suggested that they will get Turkish support if they do that. Because of the increasingly fractured Arab-chauvinist coloration of the opposition, Kurdish groups have refused to do so, and Turkey continues its long held opposition to Kurdish autonomy.
Turkey’s intransigence stems from its campaign against Kurdish right and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
When 49 Turkish hostages were captured by ISIS, Turkey entered into negotiations for their release and reached a bargain meaning that ISIS members held by anti-Assad forces that have a relationship with Ankara released their prisoners and allowed them to return to ISIS-held positions.
Turkey maintains it will not participate in the US-led airstrikes over Syria or Iraq.
Socialists can have no confidence in the US-led coalition: its bombing in Afghanistan over nearly 13 years has allowed the Taliban to rebuild a political base, and in Iraq it intervenes on the side of a Shia-sectarian Baghdad government and in league with such powers as Saudi Arabia.
Campaigners are calling for:
• Solidarity with the forces in Kobani and Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) against ISIS;
• Open criticism of the Turkish government for its repression of its own Kurdish citizens and Kurdish refugees from Syria;
• A demand on all countries in the region that they allow arms to flow to the Kurdish fighting forces (YPG and others);
• An end to British and Western military alliance with Turkey unless it allows arms and Kurdish fighters back into Syria to defend their people from ISIS.
The US led airstrikes have had little impact against ISIS, which continues also to make advances in Iraq.