The civil war in Syria rocked Turkey – a Nato member state – when riots broke out in a number of cities, opening age-old wounds between Turks and Kurds.
As officials in Ankara continued to debate whether to take an active role in the fight against Isis, rival factions stirred old enmities. The country was rocked by explosive clashes in more than 20 cities as Kurds protested against the government’s perceived inaction over the plight of those living in the Kurdish city of Kobani, just a few miles inside Syrian territory.
Turkish tanks have lined up opposite Kobani, to guard against any incursion across the border by Isis fighters, but there seems to be little appetite to enter the besieged city to help the Kurdish population inside.
Turkey has taken in more than 180,000 refugees who fled Kobani, but has stopped short of joining a US-led coalition against the Sunni militants. Instead, it has called for the creation of a buffer zone and a no-fly zone, which it hopes would secure its border and limit the flow of refugees. The proposal has been rebuffed by the Americans.
Speaking tonight, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, suggested that preventing the fall of Kobani was not a strategic US objective. “As horrific as it is to watch in real time what is happening in Kobani, you have to step back and understand the strategic objective,” he said.
Isis fighters in Kobani (2014): Civilians flee as militants enter Syria-Turkey border
Isis fighters in Kobani (2014): Civilians flee as militants enter Syria-Turkey border
1/22 Syria-Turkey border
Mourners gathered to bury three Kurdish fighters from Kobani
2/22 Syria-Turkey border
An explosion rocks the Syrian city of Kobani during a reported suicide car bomb attack by Isis
3/22 Syria-Turkey border
The US and Turkey have stepped up support for Kurdish fighters defending Kobani against Isis but it is still feared the town may fall; above, observers watch the fighting from a nearby village
4/22 Syria-Turkey border
People are silhouetted on the top of a hill close to the border line between Turkey and Syria near Mursitpinar bordergate as they watch the U.S led airstrikes over ther Syrian town of Kobani
5/22 Syria-Turkey border
Syrian Kurd Kiymet Ergun (56) gestures, in Mursitpinar on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, as thick smoke rises following an airstrike by the US-led coalition in Kobani, as fighting continued between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Isis group
6/22 Syria-Turkey border
Kurdish Rabia Ali (R) accompanied by her son Ali Mehmud (L) mourn at the grave of her son Seydo Mehmud 'Curo', a Kurdish fighter, who was killed in the fighting with the militants of the Islamic State group in Kobani, and was buried at a cemetery in Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border
7/22 Syria-Turkey border
Mourners gather for the funeral of two Syrian Kurdish fighters killed in fighting with militants of the Isis group in Kobani at a cemetery in Suruc
8/22 Syria-Turkey border
Kurdish refugees fleeing Kobani enter Turkey at Suruc
9/22 Syria-Turkey border
Smoke from air strikes against Isis in Kobani can be seen from across the border in Mursitpinar, Turkey
10/22 Syria-Turkey border
Newly arrived Kurdish refugees after crossing into Turkey from the Syrian border town of Kobani
11/22 Syria-Turkey border
Kurdish refugees cross the border near Kobani
12/22 Syria-Turkey border
Smoke rises from the city centre of Kobani
13/22 Syria-Turkey border
Isis militants stand next to an Isis flag atop a hill in the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobani by the Kurds, as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border, with Turkish troops in foreground, in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province
14/22 Syria-Turkey border
A flag of Isis group is seen atop of a building at the eastern side of the town of Kobani, Syria, where fighting had been intensified between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Isis group
15/22 Syria-Turkey border
Militants with the Isis group are seen after placing their group's flag on a hilltop at the eastern side of the town of Kobani
16/22 Syria-Turkey border
Smoke rises after an apparent airstrike by allied forces against Isis targets in the west of Kobani where Kurdish fighters try to defend the town, near Suruc district, Sanliurfa, Turkey
17/22 Syria-Turkey border
Newly arrived Syrian Kurdish refugees stand at the back of a truck after crossing into Turkey from the Syrian border town Kobani, near the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province
18/22 Syria-Turkey border
Turkish forces fire tear gas to disperse Kurds on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, as fighting intensified between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Isis in Kobani
19/22 Syria-Turkey border
Kurdish men shout towards Turkish army soldiers, who try to evacuate people from the village of Mursitpinar, on the other side of the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobani by the Kurds, by the Turkish-Syrian border in Sanliurfa province
20/22 Syria-Turkey border
Turkish Kurds walk as tanks in the background hold their positions on a hilltop in the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, overlooking Kobani in Syria where fighting had ben intensified between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Isis
21/22 Syria-Turkey border
Turkish Gendarmerie use tear gas to disperse Kurdish protesters during a demonstration against the Isis, at the Syria-Turkey border near Sanliurfa
22/22 Syria-Turkey border
Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province
“Notwithstanding the crisis in Kobani, the original targets of our efforts have been the command and control centres, the infrastructure.”
Mr Kerry said he expected Turkey to decide “over the next hours, days” what role it would play against Isis.
The lack of assistance for Kurds in Kobani sparked more violent demonstrations across Turkey. At least 19 people died as Kurdish protesters threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at police. They were met with tear gas, sticks and water cannons.
The south-eastern city of Diyarbakir, the de facto Kurdish capital in Turkey, suffered the worst violence and highest death toll.
A curfew was extended until Thursday after at least eight people died during the protests.
Diyarbakir is one of six cities that remained on lockdown. “The city is under curfew until 6am and nobody can come in or out. There were no police on our streets last night – just us and them,” said Bayram Baran, a 25-year-old lawyer from Diyarbakir.
To further complicate Turkey’s political patchwork, much of the violence occurred between rival Kurdish factions, who attacked each other as well as local branches of several parties, including the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
While the political actors debated the future of the city, the battle for Kobani continued to rage as a flurry of US air strikes appeared to temporarily halt the advance of Isis.
Several thunderous booms were followed by mushroom clouds clearly visible from the Turkish side of the border.
Only a mile away, the Turkish town of Caykara rocked as explosion after explosion – each one louder than the last – hit Kobani.
Men watching the battle from the roof of the local mosque shouted: “Long live America. Long live America”, believing they were hearing US air strikes.
The low whirr of aircraft could be heard before the crashes. The strikes appeared to be helping Kurdish fighters, reportedly hitting a hospital used by Isis as a base in the east of the city, in which they already have a foothold. The People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Syrian franchise of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), have been defending the city.
The battle concentrated on the eastern side as dusk fell, with YPG fighters and Isis militants clashing in street-by-street fighting.
“Isis tried to enter the city today with tanks, and a big truck full of weapons to bomb the YPG in the centre, but YPG were ready and they blew up the truck at about 4pm local time,” Zara Misto, editor of Welati.com, who has been reporting from inside Kobani since the beginning of the battle, told The Independent.
Kurds in the nearby town of Suruc took to the streets again, this time to support those living in Kobani.
Ekrem Ahmad, 40, a mechanic from Kobani said: “I’m happy to see Kurds as well as British, American, French and German people protesting in support of Kobani. It really raises our morale.
“The governments may not give us weapons, but their people give us hope.”Reuse content