In an exclusive interview, top commander of the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) Meryem Kobane assesses the situation in Kobane and provides important updates about the ongoing victory operation of Kurdish forces.
Mutlu Civiroglu https://twitter.com/mutludc
Ms. Kobane, fighting in Kobane has left four months behind. According to reports, YPG and YPJ forces are drawing the ISIS further out of Kobane day by day. What is the recent situation, how far have you advanced?
The operation to liberate Kobane which we started some time ago is continuing ceaselessly. We are currently making major advances in consequence of fierce clashes in Mishtenur Hill area in the first place, in the east, city center and a large area extending from Sheria Mosque to Kaniya Kurdan. Advances are also being made on the Aleppo road and Termik, Memit and Golmit villages have been cleansed of ISIS groups. Fighters of the YPG and YPJ are progressing by putting up an unprecedented struggle with a dedicated spirit.
Support of the recently increasing airstrikes by the coalition also needs to be mentioned in this regard. We heard that there are women among those piloting the coalition aircraft; we as YPJ fighters extend our special thanks to them. As we stated several other times before, we are fighting here for all the women in the world. We are fighting against ISIS which doesn’t accept the together-living of different religions, minorities and identities. Every single democrat and individual of the 21st century who defends freedom must fight against this terror, no matter where they live. This is an honorable fight against an organization that claims to be fighting in the name of Islam but has nothing to do with Islam or humanity.
When do you anticipate you will be able to end the ongoing operation up in victory?
The operation we keep going is not of the kind we can end at a certain phase. We will continue our operation until ISIS is driven out of every single inch of Kobane, including its villages.
You’ve just mentioned female pilots. It seems the struggle of YPJ has inspired many women across the world. Songs are being written, news being written and paintings being done about you. A well-known person like Hillary Clinton speaks highly of you…
The eye color of the world’s women may be different but the color of their tears is same. There is no difference between the women in the Middle East and those in Europe and America, doesn’t matter where they are, we all have one purpose. Kobane has witnessed a true kind of resistance which neither books nor feelings will suffice to tell. So many female fighters sacrificed their lives and blew their bodies up in front of our eyes to not to let ISIS take these lands. They did not surrender to ISIS. Our female friends such as Ari Mirkan and Rehana, comrades such as Comrade Baran and Martyr Diyar and dozens of others like them had promised to fight till the end. It is no doubt them who inspire our struggle.
I believe the fight given and the sacrifice made in Kobane will be the Renaissance of the Middle East. Nothing ever scares the women fighting here, who wage a struggle for times that will enable all peoples to live together and equally. Every woman who desires and demands freedom should support this fight which is not only an armed battle but also a public struggle to attain our rights. You are left unprotected, both as an individual and a nation, unless you attain your rights. We didn’t feel lonely even under the worst circumstances, and we believe every single woman will be feeling us every moment we fight. The only thing we ask from everyone who hears and sees to closely follow the heroic deeds, sacrifices and difficulties experienced here, and to provide support.
I would like to ask you to talk about your inner world a bit. You always spoke with hope in your voice in the interviews we made in the days of most intensified clashes. What made you not to give up hope under those challenging circumstances?
I should first and foremost indicate that the thoughts of Leader Apo [Ocalan] had a great influence on our emotional side. Our heart believes in the philosophy of ultimate success for one giving a fight. Hope is something is more honorable than victory. We didn’t lose our confidence in the worst days even because we trusted in our will. There was no coalition support when the attacks first began. Still, the whole world witnessed great heroic deeds in Kobane. All our male and female comrades fought with not very effective Kalashnikov rifles but with a spirit of struggle.
I should also remark that a fight is being given in Kobane against the ISIS for two years now, and this has given us a battle experience. Before these recent clashes, yet another epic was written in the Serzori village. 12 comrades of ours were in the garden of the village school and 3 tanks had entered the school area. Our comrades said they weren’t going to surrender and that their martyrdom would be the biggest punishment to ISIS. It is owing to this spirit of struggle that we’ve believed Kobane wouldn’t fall until no single Kurd is left. Our determination grew stronger as we saw people coming from four parts of Kurdistan to support Kobane despite all the restrictions of the Turkish state. We promised to fight street by street, house by house and inch by inch, which we have done indeed and continue doing. ISIS will not accomplish in Kobane which is not like anywhere else. Kobane is not Jarablus, not Manbij not Mosul nor any other country. Kobane is Kurdistan and the spirit of the Kurds who doesn’t accept surrendering.
You mentioned that coalition airstrikes have increased recently. The coalition has carried out 80 percent of the airstrikes in Syria in Kobane. It is reported that the coalition is now striking ISIS outside the Kobane town center as well?
The honorable struggle of YPG-YPJ fighters and the Kurdish people has proved that Kobane will triumph whatever the consequences. Within this process, the whole world has learned that the ISIS wasn’t targeting the Kurds alone. ISIS is an organization that doesn’t agree to different cultures, religions, identities and women. International powers saw that this organization was a great danger to not only Kobane, YPG-YPJ, to our Yezidi people and Syria but also to the whole humanity. The acts perpetrated by ISIS are not accepted by Islam and Koran. International powers started to strike ISIS outside Kobane too after seeing that ISIS threatened humanity.
ISIS is not an organization that fights for a land, nation or country. They want to incite conflicts among peoples and to plunder everywhere. They battle against the memory of history, destroying churches and mosques. I cannot reject a church or a mosque both of which are sacred for the people visiting those places. We cannot disrespect their places of worship. What ISIS is doing today is the same of what was done by Cenghis Khan who wanted to demolish and destroy all the values, history and memory of the peoples in an invasion in the Middle East. The world has faced this truth and taken action. In this regard, the support of the coalition is quite meaningful.
I would also like to ask you about the attacks in Europe, France and Belgium. The danger you talk about is also upon them now and many people lay stress on the importance of Kurds for fighting the ISIS. What is your opinion regarding the attacks in France?
We condemn those attacks because ISIS actually targets the entire humanity. I am closely following the ISIS for three years and know very well by now how this group thinks and acts. Before attacking a place, they predicate it on a so-called fatwa from the Koran and spread fear. However everyone has seen that this fear they spread has been defeated in Kobane. They bestow themselves the right to attack the places housing non-Muslims. ISIS targets not only the Kurdish people but the whole world, which is why a major unity must be formed against this organization. They are acting in the Middle East in the name of Islam. This issue must be dealt with very comprehensively. All Muslims are not members of the ISIS. Everyone should act considering this truth.
There was the meeting of the international coalition against ISIS in London two days ago, and Kurds were not invited there. Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani criticized the conference. How do you evaluate that Kurds who are fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq weren’t invited to the conference?
Western countries still approach Kurds in terms of the states that are occupying Kurdistan. Under the impact of these occupying states, they insist existing of borders between four parts of Kurdistan, just like what happened with the Treaty of Lausanne. Still, the hearts of the Kurds have united today despite the presence of borders. No one can deceive nor divide the new Kurdish generation. The policy ‘to leave the lamb open and get the wolf attack it’ has been smashed in Kurdistan now. I want to reiterate that no politics or agreement that excludes the Kurds will accomplish in the Middle East. The diplomats may think today that they succeed but tomorrow or the day after, they will understand that they are wrong. The fact that Kurds were not invited to this conference is really unfair because it is the Kurds who are fighting against ISIS on the ground.
Through this interview, we convey our thanks to everyone and coalition forces that have supported us. We made a promise of victory in the most difficult days and we will give the good news of victory in the most beautiful day.
Mutlu Civiroglu is a Kurdish affairs analyst focusing on Syria and Turkey. He has closely been monitoring YPG’s fight against ISIS and other jihadist groups.
* Translated into English by Berna Özgencil https://twitter.com/bzgncl