The Premier of the Kobane Canton Anwar Moslem told us about the final situation in the region as well as the recent visit he paid to Iraqi Kurdistan Region.
Mr. Anwar, you have been on a visit to Iraqi Kurdistan Region. Before talking about this visit, I want to ask you about the final situation in Kobane. Reports that YPG are making an advance and taking more areas under their control are coming through over the past couple of days. What is the current situation in Kobane?
The resistance in Kobane has left two months behind. Within this period, Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have managed to put up an effective fight against the heavy terror attacks of ISIS, also with the support of the coalition forces. The aerial operations by coalition forces against ISIS positions and their heavy weaponry have both weakened the power of ISIS and bolstered the YPG’s morale.
It is true that YPG forces are making progress in recent days. YPG fighters have retaken 5 neighborhoods in east Kobane under control. YPG forces are in the same way advancing in south Kobane. The danger before civilians and the town however remains. The ISIS which has suffered a heavy defeat wants to devastate this city of resistance and to murder civilians vengefully. They are being responded by the YPG, peshmerga forces, Free Syrian Army (FSA) attacks on the ground and effective aerial attacks of the coalition. Thus we can say that the situation in general is good. We believe the Kobane resistance will soon end up in victory.
During our recent talks with Kobane we have observed that the morale is high. There has always been hope in your voice but this time you are seen to be more hopeful. Is this true?
All our American and European brothers and sisters, regardless of their color and race, and the whole world have supported the YPG against the ISIS terror. It is surely beyond doubt that this made us happy and gave hope to us. This is why we say that everyone supporting us has a share in the Kobane resistance. The advance the YPG are making with this support does really make one feel happy and honored.
Well, what about your visit to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region? You were invited to a conference. How were you welcomed by the media, politicians and people?
We as the presidency of the Kobane Canton were invited to the MERI Forum 2014 Conference in Erbil. We went there to attend the conference which discussed the subject of peace and equality in the Middle East. Participants from states such as Iraq, Syria and Turkey mainly focused on this subject, as well as on the peace process in North Kurdistan. The instance of Kobane in the fight against ISIS was also discussed. It was pointed out that ISIS would be able to advance nowhere if faced a resistance like the one in Kobane everywhere. We met authorities from the political arena and the government, as well as independent ones and representatives of institutes for strategic studies from America, England and Turkey. The whole world wants to do something against terror. They also want to do something for the rights of the Kurdish people in Syria and Iraq, and the rights of the minorities living in the north of Kurdistan. These were the main issues discussed at the conference.
You said you held talks with some authorities. Whom did you meet there?
We met the Iraqi President, Mr. Fuad Masum who voiced support with Kobane and stated that Iraq was suffering from the same ISIS problem Kobane is facing.
We also met the former Iraqi President Mr. Mam Jalal [Talabani] who in the same way voiced support with Kobane. The other meetings we had were with Mrs. Hero Talabani, Dr. Bahram Salih, all executives of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), as well as Noshirvan Mustafa, the leader of the Goran Movement and Cemil Bayik [of the PKK]. They all expressed that they supported us.
Besides, we had some other meetings at the Kurdistan Parliament to which we expressed our thanks for the peshmerga support sent to Kobane. We met the executives of all parties in the parliament. What we have seen once again is that all Kurdish powers are supporting Kobane, opposing terror and defending peace for humanity all around the world. Some authorities from America and European states we talked with also voiced support for Kobane.
How do these mentioned American and European authorities assess the developments in Kobane? Did you highlight any demand for help and do they intend to do something in practice?
The developments taking place in Kobane and the ISIS terror are being followed closely by everyone. The whole world wants to unite against terror which Kobane is withstanding in practice for eight months now. We expressed to the American and European officials that Kobane is fighting a terrorist organization that targets not only our region but the entire world. We told that everyone must support Kobane and reiterated our demand for a security corridor. We also called attention to the situation of the displaced people in the face of challenging winter conditions approaching. They stated that they were ready to provide any help, and that they could provide further assistance, in economic, medical and other terms, in the wake of victory in Kobane.
Is there any reason why you didn’t meet Kurdistan Regional Government leader Massoud Barzani?
As is known by everyone, there is a war going on in the Kurdistan Region under attack by the ISIS. Mr. Barzani was on the battlefield while we were on the other hand short on time and therefore couldn’t have a chance for a meeting. Just like with the officials of all other parties, we held talks with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) as well.
Let me continue with questions coming from readers via Twitter. It is being said that 200 fighters affiliated to the Syrian Kurdish National Council (SKNC) will cross into Kobane, while it is on the other hand being asserted that they are not being allowed to do so by the canton administrators or the YPG. What do you have to say in this regard?
We want everyone to join the defense force in Kobane. We called all forces from across Kurdistan to support the YPG. As a force of Rojava, the SKNC must help us already. That unit of 200 fighters should have been not outside but inside Kobane by now. The Duhok Agreement has put forward a solution regarding such military issues which are under the initiative of the YPG in the canton, which means that the truth is not being reflected by the reports that administrators of political parties in the canton are not allowing the crossing of SKNC fighters. We invite everyone able to take up arms to Kobane in order to protect their lands and honor. However, it is unfortunately only the YPG left in Kobane. We however express once again that anyone can come to defend Kobane but no special force from outside can be allowed inside where the presence of two armies cannot be accepted. They can rank among the YPG which is not a political but a military force defending the Kobane canton and Rojava, and is also one of the main future forces of Syria.
So, this means the SKNC members do not want to fight under the name of the YPG, is that right?
It is, unfortunately. At this point I want to express something; the peshmerga forces here are supporting the YPG and Kobane and there is taking place no conflict or disagreement about that. Fighters of the Tuwar al-Raqqa, Shams al-Shamal and Jabhat al-Akrad groups are also present here, coming from outside to support Kobane. The youths of Kobane do not need to say that ‘we are defending here as an outsider force’ as they should be ranking among the YPG ranks anyway. Should they insist on being a separate force, this would make no good for the future and result in unfavorable consequences. We state once again that the YPG is the army of the canton and the entire Rojava territory; it is not the army of any party, as has also been approved by the Duhok Agreement. The unfair treatment against the YPG hurts us because of the fact that it is the fighters of the YPG that are fighting, getting wounded and falling a martyr here. The whole world knows the YPG reality now. While a youth coming from Sweden joins the YPG ranks to fight for humanity, why wouldn’t the youths of Kobane do the same?
One other question directed by readers is whether there has been a change in Turkey’s approach towards Kobane.
We and Turkey are neighbors. Turks, Kurds, Arabs and others are all the peoples of the Middle East. We hoped Turkey would support us but they didn’t provide the assistance we expected. We want to re-voice that ISIS is an enemy to not only Kobane and the Kurds but also to all the states and peoples of the world. For the attainment of peace in the Middle East, Turkey must support Kobane and the YPG, just like us supporting the peace process in the north of Kurdistan and Turkey.
As I have repeatedly stated so far, it is humanity, democracy and all peoples being defended in Kobane. The solidarity demonstrated by the whole world for Kobane on November 1st and the support provided by the international coalition has been important to us. We hope this support will continue for the YPG and Kobane, as well as for the protection of all peoples including Kurds, Armenians, Syriacs, Arabs and Turks.
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Thanks for Berna Özgencil for translating this interview into English