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Thank you very much Mr. Berxwedan for making time to talk us under these extra-ordinary conditions of war. We wish to hear your thoughts, as the General Commander of YPG in Kobane on the ongoing war.
Mahmud Berxwedan: Everyone is talking about a three-months old resistance in Kobane, in reality people of Kobane has been resisting aggression since July 19, 2013. We as the YPG organized our forces to protect our people, their values and way of life from aggressors. First we expelled Assad regime forces) with very limited means but full support of the people of Kobane. As first region to expel regime forces Kobane became a source of hope for people of Rojava and for all freedom seeking people of greater Middle East. Unfortunately in no time we become target for ISIS other Jihadist and various forces of Arab chauvinism. These Jihadist and chauvinist thugs, who have benefited from not even the most basics human values, have been attacking ever since. Our forces have been resisting these terrorist gangs in the east, west and south for more than one and a half year.
Top YPG General Mahmud Berxwedan, after so many sleepless nights
What about the current situation?
On September 15th, ISIS thugs have started the fiercest attacks ever. The attacks came from all fronts; they were better organized and better armed comparing to their advance in Shengal [Sinjar], Mosul and other Syrian territories. Many assumed that Kobane could only resist for about a week, but now nearly 100 days passed and we are confident of victory. The most important question is: Why did Kobane manage to resist for such a long time, while Mosul and Shengal fell only days after ISIS attacked?
How did a small place like Kobane resisted to ISIS while much bigger cities like Mosul and Raqqa fell to these terrorists even though they were protected by large and well-armed garrisons?
Mahmud Berxwedan: People of Kobane have always had the spirit of resistance; have been loyal to their lands since they came into existence. They have never surrendered; it has no place in their culture. Every warrior of YPG/YPJ said the terrorists can capture Kobane only by walking on the warriors dead bodies. The martyrs Erish, Zozan, Emin, Kendal and symbol of our resistance Arin Mikran are manifestations of this spirit of resistance. Let be frank, had it been anyone force other than warriors of YPG/YPJ, this battle would have been lost long time again given the imbalance of forces. Old the world, the Europe and the USA should know that we are fighting Jihadi terrorists with AK-47 light infantry weapons and or will power.
Some media claim the danger is over – as if Kobane was liberated from ISIS. Others say that ISIS reinforced their attacks on the eastern front. What about that?
It is not true that the danger is over. Clearly, IS won’t take over Kobane – but that doesn’t prevent them from trying to do so with all they have. We are in an urban warfare and there is a house-to-house fight. ISIS is using every trick on the books and all the means available to it to launch attacks. Kobane is being liberated one house and street at a time with our martyrs’ blood. Until this very day, ISIS thugs have sent 33 VBIEDs into the city. Every day, -there is suicide attacks carried out by ISIS mercenaries.
Common notion was that coalition jets and YPG have destroyed most of the ISIS’ tanks and heavy weaponry. How heavily armed are ISIS right now?
Mahmud Berxwedan: ISIS is still in possessions of heavy weapons and tanks even though many of these have been destroyed by coalition airstrikes and YPG. They hide their weapons and wait for the most opportunities to attack, i.e. when there are no air raids, as it happened today.
ISIS claims they are in control of half the city. What portion of Kobane do you control?
Mahmud Berxwedan: As a person originally from Kobane, I can say that all strategic points in the city are under YPG/YPJ control. These include most of old city, city center, and border crossing. Helinch district that is downhill from Mishtenur Hill, only 40% of the eastern sector is controlled by ISIS,
Why are they particularly attacking on the eastern sector and what is keeping you from expelling them from eastern sector?
Mahmud Berxwedan: ISIS rotates its forces after very attack. They receive reinforcements from Raqqa, Tal Abyad, Manbij, and Sarrin without any hindrance. They are doing all they can to maintain a presence in the city Kobane. They do not have the intensions to leave the city and end the invasion. It is important that coalition airstrikes support our troops but we are surrounded from all sides and we are fighting only with light weapons. We need weapons to fight but with exception of one-time airdrop no country has provided us with any weapons. What are all these countries that profess to be against ISIS are waiting for? Let it be known that we determined to fight ISIS everywhere and all the time.
YPG is being criticized for not communicating with world public opinion. For example it is being criticized for press releases mostly in Arabic rather than English. What do you have to say about it?
Mahmud Berxwedan: But is there someone that doesn’t know about Kobane right now? The whole world knows where we are and what our situation is. The whole world knows where YPG is fighting. Dozens of times, we have asked the international community to establish a humanitarian, safe corridor. As of now, civilians remaining in the outskirts of the city are not looked after. In 100 days only one single load of weapons has been delivered.
Well US led coalition air force has attacked ISIS positions daily. US also airdropped weapons to you although the guns may have come from Iraqi Kurdish depots.
Mahmud Berxwedan: We are grateful for assistance rendered by the coalition and for all the support from people all over the world. We are honored to have sympathy and support of American people. We want all concerned to know that the weapons we possess are not nearly enough for dislodging ISIS and defeating. If we can get enough fire power we promise to finish off ISIS in Kobane within 2 days.
What does YPG need urgently, in military terms?
Mahmud Berxwedan: We need all kind of heavy weapons such as tanks, Hummers and bullet-proof vehicles and anti-tank missiles. If we had such heavy weapons we could liberate many villages in west and south Kobane in a short period of time.
Also, we desperately need sniper rifles, night vision goggles and thermal cameras. Even 50 night vision goggles will allow us to inflict heavy casualties on ISIS tugs as they mostly move at nights. Otherwise, our morale is high. Our warriors are not afraid of ISIS and ready to confront it at every opportunity.
Turkey has been criticized in regards to Kobane. It is said that they did not allow passage of Hummers and similar vehicles. How do you, as YPG, see Turkey’s attitude?
Mahmud Berxwedan: Turkey could play an important role in our fight against ISIS. We are neighbor with Turkey from Jazira to all the way to Afrin. We do not have any issue with Turkey and wish to have them as neighbor and good friend. We know Turkey has been criticized for her conduct; Turkey should revise her policies. We think she should play a positive role in the war against ISIS. ISIS will surely target Turkey and cause her harm in the future. We always knew Turkey was turning a blind eye to ISIS and hoping that she would abandon those policies. We certainly hope and believe that Turkey will change her policies.
How are your relations with free Syrian Army (FSA) groupings and peshmerga forces of Kurdish Regional Government?
Mahmud Berxwedan: We have relationships with and fighting alongside with select FSA groupings. Nearly 70 members of Shamsi Shimal, Siwar Raqqa ve Jabhat al Akrad groups died while fighting alongside with us in Kobane. We wish to collaborate with these groups for a free Syria that encompasses all peoples. All these groups are complaining from lack of armaments. Aside from these, we have been collaborating with peshmerga forces, mostly on indirect-fire positions for more than two months. Our relations are cordial and professional.
Is it true that ISIS is tunneling under Kobane?
Mahmud Berxwedan: We have learned of this a while back. We don’t think such effort will get them any results. We know they are digging to minimize their losses from airstrikes. We have every precaution taken for such a thing.
YPG has become the most important force fighting ISIS on the ground. There are reportedly people from USA, Canada, Germany, Holland, Israel, Austria etc. who have joined YPG?
Mahmud Berxwedan: ISIS is attacking and offending all good people of this planet. All progressive, democracy and freedom loving people are welcome to join us in this fight against ISIS. We will be honored to have them. We consider ISIS to be our enemies regardless of time and space. For us this is a matter of being a force for good. We don’t discriminate between people based on their creed or beliefs. We have in our ranks people from America, Europe, different Middle East countries, Iran and even from Argentina are fighting with us in and for Kobane. Our warriors will enthusiastically embrace any new fighters from around the world.
Activists around the world are asking via Twitter that what they could do for YPG?
Mahmud Berxwedan: Kobane is resisting for all humanity, YPG is fighting for all of the world. Everyone should do whatever they can to support us and Kobane. With this occasion, on behalf of YPG, YPJ and all others defending Kobane I wish Christian world a happy Christmas. We see Christmas as our own holiday also and celebrate it in that spirit. Jesus was a symbol of resistance. We wish all the people of the world a happy New Year.
Also, I want to emphasize that the war in Kobane is the war of honor for all Kurdish people. The Kurds from all parts of Kurdistan and beyond helped us in this war. We are grateful to all. Our special thanks goes to people of Suruç who have been with us from day one.
Thanks for , and for translating this interview into English