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Meysa Abdo: Turkey’s Obstruction of Kobani’s Battle Against ISIS

Meysa Abdo, who is also known by the nom de guerre Narin Afrin, is a commander of the resistance in Kobani and she penned an op-ed about the siege and the role played by Turkey’s AKP leadership. This article was translated from the Kurdish for the New York Times by BBC’s Güney Yildiz.

Abdo start her piece as follows: “[s]ince Sept. 15, we, the people of the Syrian town of Kobani [aka Ayn al-Arab], have been fighting, outnumbered and outgunned, against an all-out assault by the army of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Yet despite a campaign that has intensified in the past month, including the deployment of United States-made tanks and armored vehicles, the Islamic State has not been able to break the resistance of Kobani’s fighters. We are defending a democratic, secular society of Kurds, Arabs, Muslims and Christians who all face an imminent massacre. Kobani’s resistance has mobilized our entire society, and many of its leaders, including myself, are women. Those of us on the front lines are well aware of the Islamic State’s treatment of women. We expect women around the world to help us, because we are fighting for the rights of women everywhere. We do not expect them to come to join our fight here (though we would be proud if any did). But we do ask women to promote our case and to raise awareness of our situation in their own countries, and to pressure their governments to help us”.[1]

Meysa Abdo continues by praising the allied bombing campaign and pointing out that the Kurdish resistance in Kobani “will never give up. But we need more than merely rifles and grenades to carry out our own responsibilities and aid the coalition in its war against the jihadist forces”.[2]  This then brings here to talk about “Turkey, a NATO member, [which] should have been an ally in this conflict. [Turkey] could easily have helped us by allowing access between different Syrian Kurdish areas, so as to let fighters and supplies move back and forth through Turkish territory. Instead, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has several times publicly equated our fighters, who are defending a diverse and democratic society, with the murderous Islamic State, evidently because of the controversy surrounding Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Last week, following domestic and international criticism, Turkish leaders at last said they would open a corridor for a small group of Iraqi pesh merga fighters, and some Free Syrian Army brigades, to cross into Kobani. But they still will not allow other Syrian Kurds to cross Turkish territory to reach us. This has been decided without consulting us”.[3]  But on the same day her op-ed was published Iraqi Peshmerga crossed into Turkey on their way to the besieged town, as related by the BBC: “Iraqi Kurdish forces are travelling to Turkey, from where they plan to cross into Syria to battle Islamic State (IS) militants besieging the town of Kobane. Officials said a plane carrying 150 Peshmerga had left Irbil. Their heavy weapons will be transported by land. Turkey agreed to the deployment last week after refusing to allow Turkish Kurds to cross the border to fight. Earlier, the Turkish prime minister rejected claims that he was not doing enough to end the jihadists’ assault”.[4]

Nevertheless, Abdo declares that “[t]here is evidence that Turkish forces have allowed the Islamic State’s men and equipment to move back and forth across the border. But Syrian Kurdish fighters cannot do the same. The Turkish government is pursuing an anti-Kurdish policy against the Syrian Kurds, and their priority is to suppress the Kurdish freedom movement in Northern Syria. They want Kobani to fall. We have never been hostile to Turkey. We want to see it as a partner, not an enemy, and we believe that it is in the Turkish government’s interest to have a border with the democratic administration of a western Kurdistan rather than one with the Islamic State”.[5]  She ends her piece with the plea that the “people of Kobani need the attention and help of the world”.[6]

[1] Meysa Abdo, “A Town Shouldn’t Fight the Islamic State Alone” The New York Times (28 Oct 2014). http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/opinion/turkeys-obstruction-of-kobanis-battle-against-isis.html?_r=0.

[2] Meysa Abdo, “A Town Shouldn’t Fight the Islamic State Alone”.

[3] Meysa Abdo, “A Town Shouldn’t Fight the Islamic State Alone”.

[4] “Islamic State crisis: Peshmerga fighters head to Turkey” BBC News (28 Oct 2014). http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29804437.

[5] Meysa Abdo, “A Town Shouldn’t Fight the Islamic State Alone”.

[6] Meysa Abdo, “A Town Shouldn’t Fight the Islamic State Alone”.