Commenting on the “Biji Obama [Long Live Obama]” chants by Kurds after the U.S. bombarded ISIS targets in Syria’s Kobane, U.S. Consul John L. Espinoza said it was important for them to see the support people gave to their fight.
“I cannot speak directly for the White House, but the fight against ISIS is very important for the U.S. We see defeating ISIS as being linked to us. Of course, it is very important for us that people who see our fight support us,” said Espinoza, who is the U.S. consul in Turkey’s Adana province.
Espinoza said their fight against ISIS would continue and they were discussing ways in which they could better continue the fight against the ISIS threat together with the coalition forces.
“As this threat constantly changes, we don’t know how to fight against it tomorrow. Therefore, we need to assess the threat very well and struggle with it accordingly,” said Espinoza, adding that in meetings they conducted, they learned the reconstruction of Kobane was very important and they were working on the topic together with the coalition forces and Turkey.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Co-Chairs of the Kurdish American Caucus, released a letter on January 14 to Secretary of State Kerry urging him to grant the travel visa request of Salih Muslim Mohammed, Co-Chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) of Syria.
“As the U.S. continues its campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), we believe that the PYD is one of the most effective partners the U.S. has on the ground in Syria,” they wrote.
“We urge you to permit Salih Muslim to come to Washington in January to meet with non-governmental members of the American foreign policy community and others to discuss directly what we can do together to defeat ISIL and advance the cause of a secular, democratic Syria.”
Full text of the letter:
The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Kerry:
As Co-Chairs of the Kurdish American Congressional Caucus we are writing to request that you grant the visa request of Salih Muslim Mohammed, Co-Chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) of Syria, to travel to the United States to attend a conference in Washington DC in January 2015.
As the U.S. continues its campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), we believe that the PYD is one of the most effective partners the U.S. has on the ground in Syria.
Earlier this year PYD fighters helped to end the ISIL siege around Mount Sinjar thus allowing thousands of Iraqi Yazidis to escape death at the hands of ISIL. Since then they have also been fighting valiantly to prevent the expansion of ISIL in northern Syria, most prominently in the border town of Kobani.
While we welcome the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIL targets and the dropping of arms supplies which have helped the PYD forces defending Kobani, we think it is important to expand our contacts with this critical Syrian partner in the war against the IS and other salafist jihadists active in the country.
As we understand it, the reluctance to issue a visa to Salih Muslim is partly due to Turkey’s concerns about the PYD and its links with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). However, the Turkish government has itself been negotiating directly with the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan. It has also engaged on a number of occasions in conversations with Salih Muslim in Ankara, including at the level of the Under Secretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry. The PYD has made it clear that they seek good relations with the Government of Turkey.
Last but not least, the PYD unlike the PKK, is not on the United States Foreign Terrorist Organizations List. In fact, the PYD is a distinct organization with distinct goals and objectives to protect the Kurdish minority in Syria from the on-going violence in that war-torn country and to participate in an eventual national reconciliation agreement that will provide guarantees and protection for Syria’s many minority groups, including the Kurds.
We urge you to permit Salih Muslim to come to Washington in January to meet with non-governmental members of the American foreign policy community and others to discuss directly what we can do together to defeat ISIL and advance the cause of a secular, democratic Syria.
We appreciate your urgent consideration of this matter.
Chris Van Hollen
Kurdistan American Caucus
Kurdistan American Caucus
According to military, political and civilian sources in Kobane, in the day 50 of the resistance, YPG has been gaining a momentum after successfully repelling strong ISIS attacks in eastern front which aimed at seizing the border crossing. Despite excessive man power and close combat in eastern front, YPG forces did not allow ISIS to advance.
With recent offensive in eastern front, ISIS hoped to seize the border gate to Turkey to totally suffocate the city and force YPG to surrender. Senior YPG sources report ISIS resorted to more than 20 car bombs in recent days, and all of these attacks were thwarted successfully with only some light YPG injuries.
One other reason for the recent ISIS attack on east was to prevent arrival of the Iraqi Kurdish peshmergas and heavy weaponry they brought along. As of November 3, the situation in eastern front is stable and ISIS members were further driven out from the border area. Kobane sources report that the failure of recent ISIS push caused demoralization of ISIS, and killing of 3 princes in last 48 further even worsened the situation on the ground.
On Sunday night clashes continued in East and South with some YPG advance reported. In Western front Kurdish peshermergas first time actively involved in a major assault. In this front YPG, “Euphrates Volcano” and Peshmerga forces carry out attack against ISIS positions in Abrus, Albalur and Minaz villages.
One other note is that US led coalition airstrikes have been playing a major role in destroying heavy ISIS weaponry which caused serious damages and destroyed many houses in the city. Sources in Kobane add that ISIS shelling decreased thanks to successful airstrikes.
However, it is still too early to conclude that the danger is over and ISIS is defeated. It is not secret that ISIS has made Kobane a matter of honor and will not give up easily. Therefore, despite recent major setbacks, ISIS forces in Kobane still receive reinforcements from Raqqa and surrounding cities, and some field commanders were replaced with new ones.
It is also reported that the arrival of peshmergas has brought a positive atmosphere for the Kurds and considerably lifted the spirit of YPG fighters on the frontline as well as the civilians in the city.
If you want my participation to a show, interview me or get a quote on Kobane and other Kurdish related issues, please contact me at email@example.com
In an exclusive interview with the daily Radikal, Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) Spokesperson Polat Can says they are officially working with the International Coalition against ISIS, and their representative is in the Joint Operation Command Center.
Mr. Polat Can, you have been leading a fierce struggle against ISIS in Kobane for almost month. The world is watching Kobane. What is the situation there?
In the morning, the Kobane resistance will be on its 30th day and a new, long-winded process will start. Everyone knows that the resistance that YPG put up against ISIS is unprecedented by the forces in the region, especially in comparison to the Iraqi army. Cities ten times the size of Kobane surrendered to ISIS in a few days and those cities were not even besieged with considerable force. However, when they started attacking Kobane, they gathered their forces from around the region, from places including Minbij, Raqqah, Jarabulus, and Tal Hamis. What I mean by considerable force is tanks, cannons, heavy artillery and thugs whose numbers were in the tens of thousands. They wanted to capture Kobane within a week, but they did not succeed. Then, they wanted to say their Eid prayers in Kobane, and they could not do that either.
Since last week, they seized some streets in East Kobane, and now they want to capture the whole city, but they can’t advance. As they try to make their way, they sustain considerable losses. Especially within the last few days, both YPG attacks and the air strikes against ISIS terror led by international coalition forces have increased. They sustained major losses, many of their bodies and weapons passed into the hands of the YPG.
So, can we say that Kobane is relatively safe from danger?
No, saying this would be major heedlessness. Because ISIS still controls a large portion of Kobane. In addition, all of the villages in Kobane are occupied by ISIS. The resistance we started both within and around Kobane is ongoing. ISIS continues to receive renewed assistance. This war is a matter of life and death for us in every way. Thus, it is not yet possible to say that there is no danger.
You are saying that ISIS consists of tens of thousands of people and constantly renewed support. Your numbers are very small in comparison. Do you receive any kind of support?
Kobane has been under an embargo for the last year and a half. None of the major forces from other cantons have been able to reach Kobane. Kobane is resisting with its own efforts. Some Kurdish youth have been able to reach Kobane from the north of Kurdistan, especially through Suruç. Some arrived Kobane in small groups from the cantons of Afrin and Jazira. In addition, some of the youth from Kobane who were living abroad came to Kobane to protect their city. Some of the small groups from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are here under the name of “The Volcano of Euphrates.” This is all of our power and support. Unfortunately, we did not receive any additional military support, neither from the South, nor from other places.
What can you tell us about the air strikes by the coalition led by the United States?
For the last few days, the air strikes have been numerous and effective. We can clearly state that, had these attacks started a couple weeks ago, ISIS would not have been able to enter Kobane at all. ISIS would have been defeated 10-15 kilometers away from the city, and the city would not have turned into a war zone.
Alright, why did effective air strikes start one week before, and not two? Or, to ask in another way; What happened over the course of the last week that the strikes intensified?
The YPG’s relationship with the coalition, then, had just started recently. I will be blunt; some regional powers, especially Turkey was a serious obstacle. They made every effort to prevent any help from reaching us and to prevent the air strikes. At first, coalition jets could get no closer than 10 kilometers to the Turkish border, because Turkey would not allow it. Of course, there were other problems as well such as logistics and distance. The coalition had not yet made a serious decision to help the YPG.
Moreover, everyone thought that Kobane would fall in a week or two and be forgotten easily, but that did not happen. Kurds all around the world and their friends have risen up, supported by calls by world-famous intellectuals, and the resultant public opinion. This situation has affected shift on some countries’ policies towards us and created pressure for more effective and intensified air strikes and assistance for the YPG.
What sort of help? There are calls to provide arms to the YPG, has any such assistance been provided?
Up until now, we really can’t speak of the provision of arms to Kobane. The YPG is trying to bring certain arms which we require to Kobane through certain means. Because we are in serious need of arms. Not only for Kobane, but also for Jazira and Afrin. It’s important that we have fighters that come and fight, but it’s equally important that there be arms for them to use. It’s very difficult to fight using light weaponry against ISIS, who possess heavy weaponry. In the current situation, under such circumstances, we are throwing ourselves heroically in a fight against a force utilizing the latest weapons technology.
You mentioned the coalition’s being late. What sort of relationship does the YPG have with the US and other countries in the coalition? Can you elaborate on this?
Long before the Kobane resistance, we had relations with many countries including the USA. When Kobane was attacked, our relationship became more substantial and our exchange of ideas was realized in practice. In a way, urgent situation on the ground expedited some things. True partnership comes to realization when the situation is difficult and parties support each other.
Can we say there is an official relation between the YPG and the coalition?
Yes, we are acting in concert with international coalition forces. We are in direct contact with them, in terms of intelligence, on a military level, and in terms of air strikes.
I guess the coordinates for the airstrikes are coming from you then?
Yes. One of our special units in Kobane gives us coordinates, and the YPG transmits these coordinates to coalition forces, and then air strikes are directly realized. I would also like to mention that we also benefitted from the assistance of certain Kurdish factions, and this assistance is ongoing.
Some media outlets reported that these airstrikes are carried out through peshmergas?
No. We have a direct relation with the coalition without any intermediaries. YPG representative is physically ready in the joint operation command center and transmits the coordinates. Indeed, no airstrikes would be possible militarily without YPG taking part in the process because the clashes are ongoing and the situation on the ground changes rapidly.
But, I would like to acknowledge efforts of some Kurdish parties and individuals in regard, and their assistance for the YPG is still onging.
For a while, news agencies from around the world have been discussing the fall of Kobane. In fact, last week, some of them announced that the city fell. However, now the American press has started to applaud the resistance by the YPG, comparing it to the famous Alamo resistance. What is your take on American and other peoples’ support for Kobane?
We have 5-6 American fighters in YPG. One of them was wounded during combat. The fact that they are fighting for us is making us proud. There are fighters from other peoples as well. We are thankful for all the people who have been appealing to their politicians on our behalf to get their attention, to help us.
Especially some European armies and their commanders are working vigorously towards providing help to the YPG. Yes, right now YPG is fighting against ISIS, but in reality this fight belongs to the whole world; the world should fight ISIS. The fighters of ISIS are from 81 different countries which will be responsible for the terror that ISIS will unleash on us. Therefore, everyone should take responsibility. If Kobane falls, a possibility we never consider, ISIS will attack many other territories motivated with the fervent of so-called conquest. Hence, the victory of Kobane resistance means a victory for Kurdistan, coalition forces, USA and for every human being with a conscience.
The global public was first introduced to the YPG during the Sinjar Massacres against Yezidi Kurds. Now, the whole world is talking about the outstanding resistance of the YPG in Kobane. Can we consider the YPG as one of the main actors in the war against ISIS?
Kurds are the strongest people fighting on earth today, be it YPG or the Peshmergas, it is the Kurds! There is of course a surprising element to this: a relatively small number of young people, equipped with light arms, stage an unprecedented resistance against heavy weaponry. I state this cut and dried; if there was any army of even 500 thousand soldiers in our place, they wouldn’t be able to resist, even for one week. We don’t possess one thousandth of the resources and arms that those who lost to ISIS in Mosul, Tikrit and Anbar had. But we have a will and we have faith, and we protect our lands. This is why the coalition forces must consider YPG as one of the main actors in this war. Many high ranking officials of the coalition forces have congratulated us and expressed their admiration for our struggle.
Finally, is there anything else you would like to say to the whole world which has been watching you with admiration?
We respectfully salute all the peoples of the world who support the YPG, Kobane and the Kurds. We promise to millions of Kurds and the friends of the Kurds who can’t sleep, whose hearts beat for us this: We will fight until the last person falls, until our last bullet, our last drop of blood, and we will win this fight. We will embellish this resistance worthy of the Kurdish people with victory and dedicate it to first to the proud Kurdish people and to all the peoples of the world. The resistance against Nazis in Stalingrd and in Alamo is what is repeating in Kobane. We invite everyone to support Kobane, the YPG and Kurdistan until the day of victory.
If you want my participation to a show, interview me or get a quote on Kobane and other Kurdish related issues, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The New Kurdish Reality in the Middle East: Perils, Prospects and Possibilities
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Representative Office in Washington, DC
Friday, September 26, 2014, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The National Press Club, Holeman Lounge
529 14th St NW Washington, DC 20045
The optimism of the Arab Spring has too rapidly been replaced by a dramatic wave of violence throughout the Middle East. The whole geography stretching from Iraq to Libya has become a battlefield. The war in Syria alone has caused hundreds of thousands of casualties with no promise of peace in sight. Iraq is now fully a part of the Syrian war. While a process of Lebanonization has never been so imminent for Syria and Iraq, Lebanon, too, may be pulled into active warfare if no settlement is secured in these two countries. The latest violence in Israel-Palestine exacerbated the region’s tense political climate. The changing regional order presents opportunities as well as dangers: They carry a potential for instituting democratic citizenship while simultaneously planting the seeds of even more violent and dictatorial regimes.
Within this regional setting, Kurdistan is home to multiple perils, prospects and possibilities. The peace process in Turkey is underway, even if with complications and slow pace. The attacks of the so-called Islamic State on the Kurds in Syria and Iraq have motivated major Kurdish parties to act in relative unity. The “Kurdish problems” in the four Middle Eastern states have become further interconnected and more globalized, rendering the provision of justice for the Kurds essential for securing and sustaining regional peace and stability. Although regional powers and the West have typically viewed the Kurds as a “problem” people, there is now increasing awareness that Kurdish struggles for justice, democracy and sovereignty may, in fact, have much to offer for regional peace in the twenty-first century.
With such a vision, we invite you to our second Washington Conference, which brings together academics, experts and politicians from Turkey, Syria, Iraq and the US to discuss the situation of the Kurds in a rapidly transforming Middle East and to foster dialogue among conference participants as well as with policy makers and the general public in the United States.
Opening Remarks by Mehmet Yuksel, HDP Representative in Washington, DC
Session I: Developments in the Iraqi Kurdistan and the Plight of Ezidis
8:30 – 10:00am
Moderator: Kirmanj Gundi, Prof. at Dept. of Educational Administration and Leadership, Tennessee State University
Vian Dakheel, Ezidi Member of the Iraqi Parliament
Karwan Zebari, Director of Congressional Affairs, KRG Washington Office
Ruken Isik, PhD Student Concentrating on Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Maryland (UMBC)
Question & Answer Session
Session II: The Kurdish Situation in Syria: A Democratic Model for the Future
10:10 am – 12:00pm
Moderator: Gonul Tol, Founding Director of the Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies
Alan Shemo, Member of Democratic Union Party (PYD) Foreign Affairs Committee
Rusen Cakir, Political Analyst on Turkey and the Middle East
Salih Muslim, Co-Chairman of Democratic Union Party (via Skype)
Mutlu Civiroglu, Kurdish Affairs Analyst
Question & Answer Session
Session III:ThePeace Process in Turkey
1:00 – 2:50pm
Moderator: Hisyar Ozsoy, Assistant Prof. of Sociocultural Anthropology, University of Michigan-Flint
Nazan Ustundag, Assistant Prof. of Sociology, Bogazici University; Researcher at SAMER
Kadir Ustun, Research Director at SETA Foundation, Washington
Nazmi Gur, Deputy Chairman of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)
Question & Answer Session
Session IV: The United States, the Kurds, and the Future of the Middle East
3:00 – 5:00pm
Moderator: Luqman Barwari, President of Kurdish National Congress of North America
Michael Werz, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
Sezgin Tanrikulu, Deputy Chairman of Republican People’s Party (CHP)
Najmaldin Karim, Governor of Kirkuk, Iraq
Selahattin Demirtas, Co-Chair of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)
Address: DHARA Community House, 6000 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22205
In solidarity with the displaced Ezidi victims of Shengal (Sinjar) and its surroundings, the American Ezidi Center in Washington DC and Virginia accordingly invites you to gather in a charitable event supporting these helpless victims.
As a non-profit organization working towards the Ezidi cause, The American Ezidi Center predominantly stresses the right to religious freedoms. Aiming to build bridges of understanding between the Ezidi communities and others, we promote awareness to increase tolerance, particularly, in times of great tragedy and crisis.
In view of the recent incidents taken place in the Kurdish region of Shingal towards the Ezidis, the American Ezidi Center aims to raise awareness in pursuit of constructing support to aid and assist not only the persecuted Ezidis but other persecuted religious minorities as well.
Given the magnitude of this catastrophic tragedy, we hope to shed light on this tragedy through knowledge.
Please join us in unity to spread awareness and support.
American Ezidi Center
Yezidi community in Washington, DC and their non-Yezidi Kurdish brethren held a demonstration in front of the White House on August 9, 2014 to demand more help from President Obama.
Who Are Yezidis? Yezidis, who refer to themselves as Ezidis, are a Kurdish non-Muslim population living predominantly in the Sinjar (Şengal) region near Mosul. A sizable Yezidi population also lives in the Iraqi Kurdish town of Sheikhan, where the most important Yezidi holy site Lalesh is located.
In Turkey, small numbers of Yezidis live in Batman, Sanliurfa, Mardin, and Diyarbakir. Others live in Syria, Armenia, Georgia, as well as Europe, Canada and the United States. Yezidi religious traditions, including prayers and holy books, are administered in the Kurmanji dialect of Kurdish. In recent years especially, the Yezidis have been accepted as an important element of the broader Kurdish identity.