Kobane Journalist Bali: Thousands of Civilians Try to Survive Facing Death Every Day

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Mr. Bali, as a journalist currently living in Kobane you are following the events on the ground closely. According to some media reports, Kobane is almost completely freed from ISIS.  Is such news telling the truth?

Kobane as the symbol of resistance is continuing to fight. News that declare Kobane is totally freed, are true at all. I suspect that such deceitful and false news are part of a hideous plan pursued against Kobane. It was especially the Turkish media that spread such news. Mr. Erdogan and Davutoglu had statements to the effect that “Kobane’s situation was good.” A few times they stated that ISIS left Kobane and retreated to Aleppo. In this way, they were hoping to leave Kobane out of news agenda and draw public attention to Aleppo. As someone living in Kobane right now, I would like to ask this to journalists who spread this type of news: if the situation in Kobane is good, if ISIS has withdrawn from here totally and there is no longer any danger, why are you not coming into Kobane? Why are hundreds of thousands of Kurds who took refuge to the north of our country, are still living in refugee camps there?

Tens of shells everyday target homes and civilians living in Kobane get wounded. It is true that a great resistance is put up in Kobane; likewise, the YPG and YPJ have taken the initiative into their hands. But ISIS is still sustaining a street fight against Kurdish people in Kobane. Just a couple of hours ago, ISIS conducted attacks against Mursitpinar Border Gate [between Kobane and Turkey]. ISIS has been trying daily to capture this border gate ever since the first clashes in Kobane started. This border gate is located in the middle of Kobane. If ISIS is totally withdrawn from Kobane [as reported by some media], how could it attack to this gate?

Mustafa Bali
Mustafa Bali

You say Turkish media is spreading such false news, but such news also finds a place in Kurdish media?

Language is not a sufficient criterion to tell whether the media is that of Kurdish or Turkish [origin]. When the clashes started in Kobane, some media, despite the fact that they were Kurdish media, were spreading the “news of defeat.” The Kurdish media that I referred to were reporting “Kobane is going to fall after 1-2 km”, as if measuring the distance inch by inch and the language in which they reported this was Kurdish. What I am saying is that the mere use of Kurdish language by such media is not a good measure of their Kurdish-ness. Media that identifies with the suffering and resistance in Kobane, media that boosts the spirit when needed –in place of spreading demoralizing news- may be called Kurdish media, not the ones that say “situation in Kobane is calm and very good.”

As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Erdogan and Davutoglu said things like “ISIS withdrew from Kobane and was heading toward Aleppo” because they wanted to drop Kobane from the news agenda. And in an unconscious way, some media organizations also strive to spread the news of a premature victory. A surface reading of such news give a misleading impression of complete liberation of Kobane which does not reflect the reality at all, the danger and the clashes are continuing…

I heard an explosion now, is there an attack again [sound of an explosion was heard during the interview]?

Kobani as you also heard, almost every five minutes we are hit with mortar shells. We are the civilians living in Kobane and such attacks target us. Right now tens of civilians are ducking into corners, trying to protect themselves from these mortar shells that are fired from east of Kobane targeting its west.

Aside from mortar shells, with what other weapons does ISIS attack Kobane?

ISIS uses all kinds of military vehicles to attack Kobane. In addition it uses Dushka, Kalashnikovs, BKS [PKMS], hand grenades and suicide car bombings. Everyone is wondering about one thing: why is ISIS still not finished in Kobane after all these aerial bombings?

ISIS needs to be repelled from Kobane via room to room fighting, not street by street. Every nook and corner that ISIS has reached is pillaged, destroyed, booby-trapped and mined. Clearing Kobane from ISIS is not an easy thing to do. Even a mighty force like NATO stated recently that it might take two years to clear ISIS from Mosul. The resistance in Kobane was put forth with a few Kalashnikovs. Resisting YPG fighters keep fighting because they believe in their will power. ISIS has a great military and technical might in its hands and with this might and technical capabilities, it is attacking Kobane.

One of the noticeable news of the previous weeks was that the YPG established control over the roads that brought reinforcements to the ISIS. Is ISIS still receiving reinforcements from cities like Talabyad, Rakka and Jarablus bordering Kobane?

It has been more than two weeks that the YPG is fighting in villages of Kobane using guerrilla tactics. Such tactics have certainly increased the pressures on ISIS. It is true that they cannot reach Kobane as easily as before. However, this should not be interpreted as these roads are under complete control and that ISIS will no longer get reinforcements via these roads. ISIS is receiving reinforcements (using vehicles) every day, using different roads and methods. They use big vehicles to transport their mortar cannons here, the sounds of which you heard twice during this interview. They fire between 30-40 mortars each day. This means they receive ammunition supplies every day.

In a similar way, tens of ISIS gangs are killed every day, if they had not received new reinforcements, Kobane would have been liberated by now. According to the information we receive from our sources in Manbij, Talabyad and Rakka, every day reinforcements are sent to ISIS. Specifically they move from Rakka to Talabyad and from there into Kobane.

OK, what is the situation of thousands of civilians in Kobane and those that wait along the border? How will they survive through the harsh winter conditions?

I truly don’t know how to describe the situation of the civilians who remain in Kobane and along the border area. Thousands of civilians most of whom are children and elderly try to survive facing death every day. Before the harsh winter conditions set in, there was the danger of dying from mortar shells, fire from military vehicles, sometimes from the Turkish tanks or at the hands of ISIS suicide bombings. But, now to these added the new danger of freezing to death. These civilians are in need of everything ranging from water, food, winter necessities and fuel. Especially, the fuel is critical. There is no fuel in Kobane and Turkey does not allow the passage of fuel. We appeal to everyone to do whatever they can to attend to the needs of these civilians. I saw tens of people with bare feet walking through mud and puddles on the streets of Kobane.

As the officials of the Kobane Canton have expressed previously, a security corridor should be set up under the protection of the United Nations. Again, we have to state that Turkey creates dire hardships if and when allowing help to come through the Mursitpinar Gate. Our people wait for days to pass a truck load of relief supplies from the Turkish side to our side. Turkey creates the same problems for the transfer of our wounded. They die while waiting for hours for an ambulance to arrive. We appeal to all international relief organizations to help the civilians here, through this interview with you…

*Translated into English by Burhan Elturan

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