Kobanê appeals for support against assault by 'Islamic State'

[Green Left Weekly, #1026, September 24, 2014]

Since September 15, the city of Kobanê in the Kurdish-majority liberated area of Rojava in northern Syria has been under intense attack by the murderous forces of the 'Islamic State'.

In July Kobanê (Arabic name: Ayn al-Arab) was besieged by 5000 IS thugs armed with US heavy weapons seized from the disintegrating Iraqi army. The defenders managed to hold out and inflict a heavy defeat on the IS gangs. But this time the attack appears far more serious.

As of September 19, 21 outlying villages had fallen to the IS. Located 135km north-east of Aleppo, hard up against the Turkish border, Kobanê is now besieged on three sides. The IS forces are using rockets, artillery and tanks to bombard the defenders.

Normally home to 350,000 people, Kobanê's population may have doubled due to people leaving exposed areas and seeking safety in the city. While Kurds are the majority, the diverse population includes Arabs, Armenians and Turkmen. Rojava's "democratic confederalism" form of organisation is striking in its effort to be inclusive of all ethnicities and religions, as well as to empower women. It is the polar opposite of the genocidal, women-hating IS.

The defence of the town is being conducted by Rojava's armed forces, the YPG-YPJ (Peoples Defence Units-Women's Defence Units). The YPG has waged an heroic struggle against the IS gangs for two years. But as, Carl Drott wrote on Rudaw.net recently:

Lack of heavy, advanced weapons has been the Achilles' heel of the YPG. During a recent visit, Rudaw could also confirm the use [by the IS gangs] of cluster munitions, which lay strewn around a YPG position after the latest IS attack. In open terrain or simple dug-outs, the YPG forces are extremely vulnerable to concentrated 'Blitzkrieg'-style attacks.

Turkey has long given extensive support to IS and without it the group would be in a very difficult situation. Now it appears that Turkey is directly sending weapons and munitions to the IS killers. Trains have been sighted unloading vital supplies at isolated border crossings where IS collects them.

The Kobanê government has appealed to the world for support. Kurds in Turkey are preparing to set up camps on the border to prevent IS recruits crossing and to stop the regime providing support to the IS gangs. The leadership of the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers Party which has led a decades-long struggle for Kurdish rights in Turkey) has called on Kurdish youth to go to Kobanê and join the YPG in the defence of the city.

Kobanê appears to be facing a decisive moment. But so too are the Western governments who are claiming to be the world's hope against the demonic forces of the 'Islamic State'.

While socialists are opposed to any Western military intervention in the Middle East, the US and its allies could certainly provide heavy weapons to the YPG to enable it to effectively counter the IS gangs. The US (and Australia) should demand that NATO member Turkey stop its dirty support of the IS killers.

Progressive forces everywhere need to give real solidarity to the people of Rojava who are fighting so bravely against great odds to defend their attempt to build a better life for all.