Islamist Groups Besiege Revolutionary City of Kobani

by Wladimir van Wilgenburg  – RUDAW – 6.8.2013 – The revolutionary city of Kobani in Syrian Kurdistan, symbolically important as the first important Kurdish area captured by Kurds from regime forces in July last year, has been besieged by fighting in which a dozen Islamist fighters have been killed.

On Sunday, fighting between Kurdish and Islamist forces spread to the villages of Ilacax, Qena and Digirmen, 30 kilometers south of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab in Arabic).On July 28, the fighting also spread to Kurdish districts inside Aleppo, and the Kurdish towns of Tel Hassel and Tel Aran in Aleppo’s countryside, in which 20 civilians were allegedly killed and at least 350 kidnapped.Analysts suggest that the armed groups want to thwart a publicized plan by Kurdish parties to establish a regional government in the Kurdish areas.

“Syria will not give up one inch of soil, Syria will remain one, we will allow no one to divide Syria,” vowed Tevfik Sahabetti, a commander of the main opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA).

The fighting initially took place between the Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG), affiliated to the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), and groups affiliated to Al-Qaida, such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and As-Sham (ISIS).Other groups such as the Salafist Ahrar al-Sham and the Kurdish Jabhat al-Islamiya al-Kurdiya also fought against the YPG, while the Kurdish FSA group Jabhat al-Akrad fought against the Islamist groups in mixed areas such as Tel Ebyad, with the support of the YPG. Initially, the FSA was not involved in the fighting, but after clashes in Aleppo it also joined in.

On Friday, the Islamist armed groups allegedly detained 200 Kurds coming from Turkey to Jarabulus, and the armed groups announced a siege on Kobani on the same day. The FSA warned that Kurds should remove all checkpoints set up by the YPG and cancel the group’s call to arms against Jihadist groups, failing which they would resume a blockade of the city. Kurds in Kobani organized a silent protest on Sunday to condemn the FSA blockade, with slogans such as “no to sectarianism, no to an Arab-Kurdish war”

Talks have begun in Turkey between the Kurdish National Council and the Syrian National Coalition to mediate and stop the fighting, but most Kurds believe it is difficult to control groups affiliated to Al-Qaida. “They don’t listen to anyone, they are living in their own world,” said Kawa Rashid, a veteran Syrian Kurdish politician in Istanbul told Rudaw.