MESOP : The Course & Development Of The Fighting In Kobanê

ROJAVA REPORT 11-7-2014 – A new report from ANF and carried in Özgür Gündem describes the course of fighting over the past week and half in Kobanê. The attacks directed against by gangs of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) against the Rojava Canton of Kobanê beginning on July 2nd have entered their 9th day, as clashes continue to the West, East and South. According to the most recent casualty figures 338 members of ISIS and 36 YPG/YPJ fighters have lost their lives in the clashes.

The fighting marks a second-wave of attacks following an earlier ISIS offensive in March. It draws attention for occurring immediately after the capture of Mosul by ISIS forces and is thought to have the secret backing of international and regional powers, who are reported to have gathered in Amman on June 1st, just days before the most recent ISIS advance in Iraq. The field of operations around Kobanê extends from Rakka to the Turkish border.

The Kobanê Canton is the smallest of the three cantons of Rojava. Before the French occupation of Syria Kobanê had been small village which was located on the train line along which the border between North and West Kurdistan (Turkey and Syria) would be draw. When the German company which built the railroad established its headquarters here it came to take the name Kobanê (a Kurdish rendering of Kompany). To the East of the city ISIS forces occupy the town of Til Ebyad, a part of Rakka Province. To the South lies Rakka itself, the center of ISIS in Syria. To the West of the city lies the districts of Cerablus and Minbic, and to the north lies the district of Suruç across the Turkish-Syrian border.

Together with its outlying villages Kobanê had a population of 200 thousand before the war, but it has grown substantially with the influx of a large amount of refugees fleeing the fighting in the rest of Syria. There are around 100 villages attached to the city, with 90% of the population being of Kurdish origin. It’s principal economic sector remains agriculture, with wheat production and livestock predominating.

Despite being a small city its position on the border made it an important site politically, as well as a principal conduit for passage between Turkey and Syria as well as smuggling. The city also carries another importance for Kurds. It was through Kobanê that many leaders of revolutionary movements within North Kurdistan passed when they came to Rojava. Kurdish Popular Leader Abdullah Öcalan also passed through Kobanê when he first came to Syria in 1979.

Following the partition of Kurdistan, the Syrian regime attempted to separate the Kurdish cities of Rojava from another through its politics of denial and annihilation. With this goal in mind it settled Arabs from other regions of Syria in villages between the Kurdish cities. Kobanê was thus separated from the Afrin and Cizîre regions in this way. However the residents never lost their Kurdish identity or belief in the Kurdish cause. Kobanê is known as a city with a strong national consciousness.

It was this political identity which made Kobanê the region where the Rojava Revolution began.     On July 19th, 2012, the people compelled the regime forces to abandon its positions in the region and lit the torch of revolution. The revolution then spread from here to Efrin and Cizirê. It is necessary to recall that following these events Kurds, who had been divided for years, were first able to proclaim a system of democratic autonomy and that these regions became among the safest in Syria.

The developments occurring in Rojava upset the plans of many powers for the region. The powers in question were not long in organizing attacks on this region. They began in 2012 in Aleppo and Efrîn using many different groups, and the fighting grew worse in Cizîre. Yet their plans were frustrated by the local resistance. Owing to this the plan and kind of attacks changed. Closed meetings were held with the participation of international and regional powers. Following each of these meetings Rojava faced another wave of attacks.The most violent of these attacks was launched on March 8th, 2014. Before the attack there was a meeting in the city of Gaziantep (Kurdish: Dilok) held by the representatives of various gangs in Syria. Following the meeting ISIS fighters in Latakia and İdlib were pulled back and in a very interesting turn of events these fighters passed through territory under the control of the Syrian regime and established themselves in the South and West of the Kobanê region. The Turkish border also serves as a point of passage for these gangs.

These gangs, once established to the West and South of Kobanê, increased their attacks around the town of Sirrin and the village of Qereqozak. The gangs targeted this area in particular as it is located along the Euphrates River dividing the region around Kobanê with that of Afrin and Aleppo. It is also located alongside the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, the site of the grave of the founder of the Ottoman Empire Osman Gazi and officially recognized as Turkish territory.ISIS gangs entering the village of Qereqozak on March 13th captured the village’s bride across the Euphrates. After entering the Tomb of Suleyman Shah they coordinated their movements with Turkish soldiers.

Turkey’s Posture  

Following these events the Turkish army sped up its work directed against Rojava. According to reports carried in the Turkish press, the Turkish General Staff has mobilized its own land and air forces in the region. The same day the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu released a statement following a meeting with the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Iran in Van in which he said “if there is any attack on the Tomb of Suleyman Shah by the regime or other radical groups a response will be made in kind. Every kind of precaution will be taken to project Turkish territory.”Following these developments ISIS gang attacks on the West, South and East of Kobanê grew in intensity. However following a prolonged struggle these attacks were broken.

The Amman Meeting, Mosul, And The New Attack On Kobanê   

The ISIS gangs suffered a serious defeat in March but continued to hold the same designs for the region. According to an article carried by Özgür Gündem, a meeting was held by representatives of the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the KDP in the Jordanian capital Amman in which the ISIS attack on Mosul was agreed upon. In fact ISIS entered Mosul only 7 days after this meeting. In addition ISIS gangs have taken over a number of villages on the Syrian border with Iraq through which they transported arms, tanks and other military equipment captured in Mosul to Rakka. Following these events the ISIS gangs movements around Kobanê grew in intensity.

Attack On Three Sides  

On July 2nd ISIS fighters attacked the village of Zormaxar to the West of Kobanê. They followed this with attacks on the villages of Beyadi and Cideydi. YPG/YPJ forces moved in to defend the area and clashes continued for four days.

On the fourth day of the fighting the YPG launched a major operation around the villages of Beyadiyê, Cideydi, Xirab Etto, Cîb El Ferece and the district of Şiyoxa. According to YPG sources 49 ISIS fighters died on this day alone. A total of around 100 ISIS fighters were killed in this fighting.On July 6th ISIS gangs attacked the village of Kon Eftar to the south of Kobanê. The following day, July 7th, ISIS attacked YPG outposts in the village of Ebu Sira with a series of car bombs. 39 ISIS fighters are reported to have been killed in these clashes.

The same day ISIS attacked the village of Evdiko to the East of Kobanê. They were supported by reenforcements from Til Ebyad and Rakka. These clashes spread to the villages of Qiz Elî, Bîkêtik, Girê Sor, Kendal in the district of Til Ebyad. In these clashes also around 100 ISIS fighters died and one ISIS tank was destroyed.

On July 9th clashes grew in intensity around Zormixar, Ebû Sirra, Xirab Etto and Çarqelê. Around 50 ISIS fighters were killed as result of this fighting.

Until now 36 YPG-YPJ fighters and one Kurdish civilian has been killed in the fighting. One of the most noted aspects of the fighting has been how the attacks to the West of Kobanê began at the Turkish border and then spread South to the border with Rakka and then East to Til Ebyad, also on the border of Turkey. On top of this it is reported that ISIS members may easily pass across the Turkish border and that the injured are frequently transported back to Turkey for treatment. PYD co-President Salih Müslüm said regarding the subject that “some organizations in Turkey are support ISIS.” Despite statements from all international powers condemning ISIS, all have remained silent about their attacks on Kobanê.Protests have been held in all four parts of Kurdistan against these attacks and many Kurds are heeding the calls to mobilize for Kobanê.