Isis in Kobani: Kurdish fighters, desperate for help claim ‘if we started cutting people’s heads off the world would give us guns’

It seems Turkey has given up on the small town on its border, which is set to become its third occupied by the militants

Isabel Hunter
Wednesday 08 October 2014 09:43
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Kurdish refugees cross the border near Kobani
Kurdish refugees cross the border near Kobani

The plumes of thick smoke seem to rise in slow motion as hundreds of Kurds train their binoculars on their city of Kobani. A black Isis flag waves on the far left of a mound to the east of the city, marking the militants’ position.

Overhead, the droning of unseen aircraft teases the onlookers, who will them to strike and help the Kurds in their battle for Kobani.

Shellfire from Isis tanks is intermingled with Kurdish victories as the fighting moves closer towards the centre of the city. Clashes between protesters and police means that the smoke from the explosions in Kobani are seen through a haze of tear gas in Turkey.

Near the border post, a group of men wait in a dusty orange field – as close as the Turkish forces will allow them to get to their homes.

The desperate men say their families are in Kobani, but the Turkish guards won’t let them pass into Syria. “I had to leave my children in Kobani,” said 60-year-old Daboye Evdo, a bag of groceries in each hand. “There’s no food there, so I had to come to get something to feed my family.”

Daboye said he crossed into Turkey illegally on Sunday night. “We ran across as fast as we could. One of the guys was shot in his foot and they took him to the Turkish hospital,” he said.

His 80-year-old uncle Hamki was not so lucky, and died of a heart attack while trying to cross three days ago. The shots of the border patrol scared him death, Daboye said.

On the other side of the barbed wire, men, women and children wait with the cows in a makeshift car park. Clouds of dust whirl at the border fence as several cars make a break for Turkey, swiftly followed by the Jandarma armoured vehicle. Most get away, but one gets stuck – its owner running away on foot.

The Turkish authorities haven’t allowed cars to cross, despite protests from their Kurdish owners. “We just don’t know what’s in them,” a Turkish soldier told The Independent. “That’s a big problem for us.”

The border opened for two hours on Monday allowing about 400 refugees through. Most estimates put the remaining amount of civilians in Kobani at 3,000 – a number of whom are women, children, and the elderly.

Turkish soldiers guard what was last week a bustling humanitarian hub and the main refugee crossing – kitted out by Turkish relief organisations, and the UN – is now barren. The processing and registration pen is empty.

It seems Turkey has given up on the small town on its border, which is set to become its third occupied by Isis – alongside Jarabulus to the west and Tell Abyad to the east.


“The problem of Isis... cannot be solved via air bombardment,” the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said during a visit to a camp for Syrian refugees. “Right now... Kobani is about to fall.”

In the Turkish town of Aligor, on the outskirts of Suruc, Sinan Kandil, 40, is surrounded by family and friends. He left Kobani and the Kurdish front line on Saturday, leaving his sons, 18 and 19, to continue the fight. His left eye is clouded, damaged by bullet that ricocheted off a door while he was fighting Isis three months ago.

As the city nears devastation, its former citizens and fighters alike bemoan the lack of effectiveness of the coalition air strikes. “We hit the tanks and then they hit the same place,” complains Sinan. “It’s evil not to help us – Isis and the whole world are evil. Maybe if we started cutting people’s heads off the world would give us weapons.”

Sinan is convinced Kurdish fighters will continue to the end however, citing the force’s female suicide bomber, Arin Mirkan, as the first of many. “So many people are prepared to sacrifice themselves as a last resort,” he said.

However, while leaders defiantly insist their fighters will stay until the finish, others have fled – less than impressed with what they found. “It was nothing like what they said on TV,” one 26-year-old fighter, a Kurdish student from Diyarbakir, told The Independent, just two hours after he crossed back into Turkey.


He said he was unable to leave his house during the day for fear of arrest by Turkish authorities for fighting with the PKK-affiliated YPG, and shamed by the Kurdish community for abandoning Kobani. “I watched the videos on Facebook, but it’s just a statistic – 10 people wounded, 10 people died. It’s like TV but you can’t change the channel,” he said.

Like many Turkish Kurdish fighters, he felt urged to join the battle to defend Kobani for his “national pride”, and managed to run across the border two weeks ago.

Once he arrived he said, he registered with the YPG central office and underwent three days of military training, which resulted mostly in stacking sandbags and preparing for urban warfare. “I was told there is a big resistance force in the centre of Kobani, but there’s not. Nobody is there.”

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