Jessica Jaye for her premier show on Quagmire America Radio discusses Kobane with Kurdish Affairs Analyst Mutlu Civiroglu
Please click play button to listen to the show
Jessica Jaye for her premier show on Quagmire America Radio discusses Kobane with Kurdish Affairs Analyst Mutlu Civiroglu
Please click play button to listen to the show
Mutlu Civiroglu https://twitter.com/mutludc
Fighting in Kobane which has left four months behind has become harder with the onset of the winter. What has been witnessed on the battlefield in the past three, four days?
Within the last four months left behind, we have mounted unprecedented resistance against the dark terrorist powers of the Middle East. Gaining strength from this resistance, we have in recent days repelled the ISIS attacks in Mekteba Reş (Black School) area and Mishtenur Neighborhood also. We have reseized many streets and avenues under ISIS control as part of the operation to liberate Kobane which we are continuing for nearly one month now. The ISIS couldn’t tolerate losing these areas of course. They launched quite severe attacks to take back what they have lost. We however proved with our resistance that even a single inch of the areas taken by YPG will not fall into the hands of the ISIS anymore. They carried out suicide car attacks that resulted in the demolition of dozens of houses around the scenes, while dozens of theirs committed suicide attacks too. Yet they haven’t been able to advance. This is how the ISIS is being forced out of Kobane and how we are continuing our victory operation to liberate Kobane . I can say that Kobane is taking one more step on the path to victory every day.
Are the areas you have mentioned, which include the Water Reservoir, Mekteba Reş and Mishtenur Neighborhood, currently under your control?
Right, these areas are under our control now and being protected against fresh attacks by the ISIS. Besides remaining in defensive position, we are also continuing our work to liberate the city. We are repelling all the heavy attacks and making further advances. We have established the criteria of this move, which is based on not retreating.
Public opinion widely convinced by now that Kobane will not fall and the YPG will not be defeated. Many believe, however, the process of liberating Kobane is progressing slowly. How do you comment on that?
As we stated several times previously, street fighting is a difficult one which has no rules. All the houses and streets currently under ISIS control are connected to each other, forming completeness. It is therefore not possible to draw the ISIS back from all these houses and streets within a short time. The ISIS is an organization that recognizes neither humanity nor rules. We are making a slow progress because we secure the areas we seize, making sure to give them no opportunity to infiltrate into these areas again.
For the last several days, it has been reported that the ISIS is bringing in reinforcements from Sarrin, Tal Abyad and surrounding cities. Is that true?
Yes, those reports are absolutely true. ISIS brings up reinforcements every day and owing to the winter conditions, exhaustion and other reasons they are rotating out different groups every 5-6 days. None of their fighters has the will to stay and fight in Kobane for more than a month. Therefore they are continuously changing groups of fighters. Those who get tired go back to the surrounding villages and cities and new ones come to take their place. We see how whenever we destroy a unit another comes to take its place. Up until now more than 10 Chechen units have been destroyed. 6-7 Turkish have been destroyed, and in addition many other groups from countries such as Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan and others have also been destroyed. We see every group we kill being replaced by a new one. The ISIS thugs fighting us in Kobane consist of fighters from 27 various countries. These remarks of ours are grounded on evidences and documents.
Apart from that, a large number of ISIS members that are coming to fight against the Kurds in Rojava are crossing through Turkish borders. Whether or not the [Turkish] state is aware of this we are saying this as a criticism. Turkey must stop and think about this matter seriously. Up until now hundreds of people from Turkey have been killed here, and if you want to proof then we are happy to share these documents with the press in a suitable manner.
You are making an interesting claim, and it would be possible for you to share these documents with the public. Because people seem to be talking about a small number but you are talking about hundreds.
Yes, we could share these documents with you and it would not be difficult. Turkey should look into its control of the border. If Turkey is not cooperating with ISIS they must prove to the world that they have no connections with the people that cross through their own territory. Moreover they should stop ISIS from organizing everywhere from Ankara to the Kurdish cities [of Turkey]. The large number of Turkish ISIS members who have been killed in Kobane has raised our suspicions. Everyone knows that all of these gang members – those from Chechnya, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, the Arab countries, but also the United States, France and Germany – are crossing from Turkey to Rojava.
I want to ask about the support for ISIS coming from Tal Abyad, Sirrin and some of the other from surrounding cities. Some question why the coalition does not target the roads on which they are bringing up their support. If they continue to be able to bring up support in this manner the battle will go on much longer. What can you tell us on this?
Up until now 95% of the airstrikes in Kobane have been successful. They have gotten the expected results, and under the rubble of the collapsed houses we have recovered many ISIS corpses. I cannot say with any certainty why the coalition is not targeting areas outside of Kobane. We have no authority over them.
However as a suggestion we can propose that they use more warplanes. This is to say that if there is a plane patrolling over Kobane another plane should be patrolling outside of Kobane. We think such a possibility exists, and that in the place of one plane the coalition could send seven. We know that the coalition is operating heavily around Shengal [Sinjar], Til Hamis, Rakka and even Baghdad but we believe that the coalition can send another plane. We are of the opinion that even if it is just one more plane that the logistics and weapons support could be cut. A short time ago the coalition targeted ISIS 7km to the east in the village of Şêran and destroyed a 10 person squad. This is something new that is an airstrike outside of Kobane is taking place! Right now there is a plane above Kobane ready to carry out airstrikes and searching for targets. Of course if there had been two planes then one could be over Kobane and the other patrolling outside and we would get better results.
Last week there were two attacks in France and 17 people were killed. As the YPG how do you assess these attacks?
ISIS is an inhumane organization. We consider it important that different people and democratic countries are coming together and working together against such groups. It might even have been a little overdue. We have been fighting against ISIS for a year and a half in Syria. Everyone saw this but remained silent about it. We criticized this silence. We look at the many different world leaders who took part in the march in France as a response to our criticism. We now know that the whole world will support us in the battle we are waging against the enemies of humanity.
We want to emphasize once more that as much as we are protecting ourselves, we are also protecting humanity from a brutal organization that is a threat for the entire world. For this reason, we believe more support needs to be given to the YPG, which has fought ISIS on the frontlines and has been paying the heaviest price. All countries including France and other coalition members and even countries not in the coalition should support us. With this support we can be rid of ISIS which is the enemy of humanity, even more quickly.
In some news reports recently it has been reported that France has provided the YPG with armed support. Are these claims true?
No, such aid has not yet been discussed. Other than the weapons provided by Southern Kurdistan [KRG] and airdropped by American planes and those brought by the peshmergas themselves, no other weapons have reached us. I want to underline this. However of course we need weapons and ammunition to win this battle. We are certainly expecting aid from France and other countries.
For French translation of the interview: https://civiroglu.net/2015/01/16/ypg-a-kobane/
For German translation of the interview: https://civiroglu.net/2015/01/16/ypg-kobane-2/
For 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
Thanks for https://twitter.com/bzgncl and https://twitter.com/TheRojavaReport for translating this interview into English
Mutlu Civiroglu https://twitter.com/mutludc
There have been some heavy fighting in Kobane these past three, four days. What is the latest update from the battlefront?
Ismet Hasan: the fighting has been ongoing these last four months, and the siege of Kobane is a historical fight. Everybody is counting the combats for only four months, but the truth is that the fight has been an ongoing struggle for one and half year to two years. ISIS brought its fighters from Iraq and Syria to Kobane center. Both the YPG and YPJ with the help of the united states and francs and its coalition has withhold ISIS back, and gain more so Kobane would not fall into ISIS hands. ISIS has the whole world has its enemy who is a terrorist organization, but the only one who are fighting them are the YPG & YPJ. I know believe that we are going to win, and the victory is going to be ours. Because it was only yesterday that with tanks and bombs from Rakka, Manbij and Bab was being brought here that YPG and YPJ fought them, and again they could not enter the city center. Our fighters will fight against ISIS till the last one, we have promised our people, our martyrs and we stand for human rights.
With that answered, do you believe that Kobane will be free of ISIS sooner?
Ismet Hasan: In the closest future Kobane will gain its freedom again. From the day the war started we said that Kobane will not fall into ISIS hands. Although Kobane center is freed, Kobane stretches for around 35-40 km.
The latest statements indicates that the fighting have been heavy. If Kobane is so close to its victory why is that the fighting is so heavy?
Ismet Hasan: We go from street to street, from house to house and getting the city. ISIS comes continual with reinforcement teams. Their defeat means that Kobane will not be deleted. In the entire Middle East, Mosul and Rakka within a short time of period major areas and cities are of ISIS control, but the combat in a small city like Kobane will send a signal to ISIS and its members. With all their power they attack.
If I am not wrong the fight is intensified around Asayish (Internal Security) and Mishtenur Hill. How is the situation over there?
Ismet Hasan: Yes, the fighting is at the moment on the eastern front around Asayish and the surrounding area as well as Mishtenur Hill and the water pool. Many ISIS members have been killed, yesterday at the ‘Black School’. They attacked with tanks, this is a war, we still had our wounded and martyrs. I cannot give an exact number yet, but the number does not matter. The important thing is the resistance shown here.
According to the press reports 80 % of Kobane is under Kurdish control. Is that true?
Ismet Hasan: It is a war, so hard to give a certain percentage as 80 % or 70 % but now many areas are under our control. Botan Neighborhood in the eastern and western sides, Culture and Art Center, Asayish side, Municipality Building which is next to the school and the water pool is under our control.
Now that most of the city is under our control, will it be easier to have the villages under your control as well?
Ismet Hasan: There is a fact, that ISIS is losing a lot of its members in these fights. So it would be easier to gain the villages. ISIS gave great loses; Kobane had bodies all over the streets. 350 villages will of course see fighting, because ISIS doesn’t leave that easily. We need heavy weapons for the siege of the villages as well as the fight inside Kobane. For two years we were surrounded on all sides, we were in a situation under crucial circumstances that compel people have gathered their personal weapons. ISIS massacring innocent people all over the world, but the world should be against these gangs, who are selling woman, they should join the resistance against ISIS.
YPG and YPJ’s resistance against ISIS in Kobane is a well-known around the world. As the cantonal government, are you satisfied with the support of the international community?
Ismet Hasan: Thanks to all the countries with the coalition, mainly the United States. But just the war against ISIS cannot be completed with air strikes; there is a need of more effectively combat on land. Our primary need for this is heavy weapons. But again we thank all the people who support us, from the individual to the world around us.
ISIS is not only attacking Kobane, but the whole world as you mention. Today a magazine in Paris was a place on an attack were 12 people lost their lives in this brutal massacre. What do you want to say about this attack?
Ismet Hasan: There is no worse group that ISIS that kills innocent civilians. As the cantonal government and people of Kobane, we condemn this brutal attack and extend our condolences to the people pf France. They may be a threat for us today but they will be a bigger threat for the whole world tomorrow. France, America, Saudi Arabia, Libya that are being targeting from each side. These ISIS thugs did not receive their share of humanity, and they do not accept anything. We are the only ones who are fighting ISIS on the ground; we promise that we will carry out our struggle against them!
You as the local government set up a committee to rebuild Kobane, can you talk about the committee?
Ismet Hasan: People who are experienced in engineering, doctors, this is a committee that was established by teachers and other professional experts. This committee will determine the damage and to carry out the various damages of Kobane. They want to return to their homeland to our place tomorrow as civilians on all sides, but Kobane is left in ruins. Not a single house is left intact. Kobe needs support for the rebuild. It needs its help from all the international organizations, governments should support Kobane.
Finally, I want to ask you a personal question. You shared a photo on the internet. You are standing with your two sons; you are fighting at the front. You never lose your morale and your hope. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Ismet Hasan: I’m quite excited now that you are asking me that question. Frankly I find it difficult to talk with excitement. Less whatever he did for the country. We are human; we are fighting for our land and for our honor. Two of my sons fight in the war, and I do not regret it. My older son’s name is Kajin and the other one is named Dilgesh. Karin joined the Kurdish forces three years ago in the cantonal government in Afrin and fought against the Assad regime with the Free Syrian army. After returning home, he joined YPG. Following the recent conflict Dilgesh also signed up for YPG. My daughter joined the YPJ. We have lost everything we had, but so much to gain. This is fight is a fight for our land, our daughters, our freedom and for our honor!
Mutlu Civiroglu https://twitter.com/mutludc
Mr. Berxwedan, I would firstly like to wish a happy New Year to you and all Kobane. Exciting news are coming through from Kobane for the last several days. What is the result of the recent clashes?
We wish especially to the Christian world and the whole world a happy new year. As you know, we started the operation to liberate Kobane about 15 days ago. Operations at the eastern and southern fronts were carried out as part of this offensive during which YPG and YPJ fighters have achieved a great success.
Most recently, the Mekteba Resh [Black School] where the ISIS thugs were deployed and carried out attacks from, and several other strategic points were liberated by us three days ago. A number of thugs were killed and their ammunition were seized by us. That’s why our fighters are in high morale and do firmly believe they will triumph.
What is the strategic importance of the liberated Black School and the other strategic points on the path to victory?
The area of the Black School and other points we took control over, divides Kobane into two sides. From Mishtenur Hill extends a line to the border and under the hill and above at the 48th Street there is a pool, from where dominance can be gained over the western and eastern sides. The strategic importance of this area is very great. When ISIS thugs were there, they could see each side of the city both with naked eye and with binoculars. We can say that we have been able to liberate this point from the ISIS thugs completely and now it is in our control. That’s why the operation of the night before was of great importance and successful.
The ISIS entered the city from the eastern front and attacked mainly from this side. What kind of an impact would the liberation of the mentioned points have on the eastern front?
ISIS made advances through these mentioned points which are the areas that enable to gain domination over the city. Now that we have captured these areas, ISIS will no longer be able to move as easily as it has done so far, because we have also taken the control of a reinforcement route they used. Therefore, ISIS is in panic now. They are startled and have withdrawn from Kobane many tanks and armored vehicles of theirs.
What is the course of the fighting in Kobane, are you hopeful that a greater progress can be achieved or the Kobane city can be entirely cleansed of the ISIS within a short period?
We know that ISIS will not give up on Kobane that easily. During recent clashes we saw once again that they are firmly resisting to not to leave Kobane. They are using all their possibilities to the fullest extent, carrying out suicide attacks with vehicles or individuals. In order not to leave Kobane, they have brought their most skilled teams here. It is not true to say that the ISIS thugs are withdrawing from Kobane but they all are being killed by the YPG and YPJ fighters who are fighting at every point with courage and commitment to victory and liberating these areas step by step. Journalists can come here and document it; their corpses are to be found in every single house liberated by us now. Therefore, we cannot speak of a simple and quick triumph but we believe that the thugs will no longer be able to resist in the face of the operation we are waging.
Do you attribute their recently increased suicide attacks to this offensive?
ISIS is making every effort to make a progress in Kobane. Everyone knows that the main method of ISIS is the suicide attacks. A few more explosions took place in the Black School and some other houses the in past few days. They are carrying out both suicide attacks and other explosion tactics. In this way, they want to spread fear but this tactics of theirs has not really worked in Kobane since our fighters are on the alert and moving in a professional manner.
Many experts on Kurds and Syria thought that Kobane would fall in a two weeks time. What is the secret of this resistance? How could YPG withstand a power like ISIS and is heading on the way to victory as you put it?
If examined well, it will be seen that the secret of the resistance lies hidden in the soul of every single fighter of the YPG not accepting to surrender. Putting up a heroic fight, these fighters wrote epics such as the Serzori Epic, they fought to the last drop of blood despite being encircled from all sides, and fell a martyr saying “Bijî Berxwedana Kobane” [Long live Kobane resistance].
Fighters like Martyr Zozan and Martyr Erish were martyred whilst fighting by saying that the ISIS tanks could enter Kobane only by walking over their bodies. This is where lies the secret of this resistance which is the struggle of tens of others like Arin and Kendal.
This secret is the devotion to the land and to an honorable life. ISIS thugs have so far been able to capture in a short time all the areas they headed for, but they haven’t been able to take Kobane where they have been suffering heavy losses for over three months now. They will never be able to take it either. The spirit of resistance born by YPG and YPJ fighters is present nowhere else all around the world. This spirit is also the guarantee of the success to be achieved in 2015.
Is ISIS still bringing in reinforcements from other cities as Raqqa which are under its control, to launch new attacks?
At every opportunity they are bringing in reinforcements from the cities of Manbij, Jarablus, Al-Bab, Raqqa and Tal Abyad under their control. Having suffered a setback here, they now want to turn the situation to their advantage by means of these forces. We are making a progress and have now taken some more significant points under control but they continue to resist. Despite all the reinforcements being deployed by them, we believe we are going to liberate Kobane in not a very long time.
Recently a number of air strikes were carried out by the coalition. Is there a new strategy of the coalition forces regarding the roads used by the ISIS to dispatch reinforcements?
There is no major change in question regarding the coalition’s strategy. However, considerable airstrikes were conducted earlier against the roads in Tal Abyad and Jarablus areas. The strikes are mainly targeting the forepart of the battlefield and partially the backside.
What is the impact of the enhanced and effective air attacks on you?
Air attacks have increased in the last few days. This support of coalition forces also causes a psychological destruction for the ISIS.
What do you think about the return of more civilians to Kobane?
Many of our people are waiting at the border and want to return to Kobane as soon as possible. There are also those who have not left Kobane and continue living here despite the war. The inhabitants of Kobane have never lived anywhere else before, they have no such an incident in their history. Many families are turning back to Kobane of their own accord. On the one hand this is good in terms of support but on the other bad, because due to the harsh winter conditions we have some problems, especially with the heating. Besides, a humanitarian corridor into Kobane has yet to be opened. There is also a lack of experienced doctors. But the people who have returned say that they will not leave Kobane even if they have to eat soil out of necessity.
Finally, what is your message to the Kurds and the world for the year 2015?
2014 was the year of the Kurdish resistance as the Kurds showed the whole world that they will never accept defeat. This people, who stick to liberty, has fought against ISIS not only for themselves but also for the peoples of the Middle East and the whole world. We hope the fight which began in 2014 brings freedom to the Kurdish people in 2015. We wish a happy new year to the resisting Kurdish people and all the peoples of the world.
For 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
Translated into English by Berna Özgencil https://twitter.com/bzgncl
Mutlu Civiroglu https://twitter.com/mutludc
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.
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.
Mr. Anwar Moslem, clashes in Kobane continue for over three months now. What is the latest situation in Kobane now, especially with regard to military developments?
ISIS has been attacking Kobane with heavy weapons for more than three months. YPG and YPJ forces have mounted a great resistance to these attacks. Recently, YPG and YPJ have advanced several streets further on the eastern front, and also made further advances on the southern front. However, the main problem on these fronts is the presence of a street fighting. The ISIS is already outside the city on the western front. Airstrikes of the coalition led by the U.S. are targeting the positions and munitions of the ISIS. We can say that defeating ISIS in Kobane will be a huge gain for the entire humanity. We want everyone to see this point very clearly.
Kobane will attain victory soon, and we truly believe this. However, there still remain some dangers, as there are thousands of civilians in Kobane, including children, who are facing great difficulties due to harsh winter conditions. We are once again calling on the international community to enable the opening of a humanitarian corridor into Kobane. This Tuesday’s mortar attacks by the ISIS have left three civilians martyred and dozens of others injured.
What do the civilians stranded in Kobane and on the border primarily need in the face of harsh winter conditions?
Three quarters of the Kobane city have turned into ruin as result of the attacks by the ISIS. The civilians in Kobane and on the border are mainly in need of clothing, food and beverage. They are also facing a great shortage of medicine. In addition, camps are needed to be built in order to provide shelter and a warm place for these people. This is also needed for thousands of people who will remain outside when they turn back once the resistance in Kobane ends up in victory.
Human rights defenders and international aid organizations need to extend a hand to these people whose houses have all been demolished. Since the day clashes broke out in Kobane, it has been only the municipalities, civilian aid organizations and the people of North Kurdistan [of Turkey] to look after the people of Kobane. Regardless of all the calls we have issued so far, I regret to tell that international organizations are yet to provide any help. The situation of the Kobane people in the city, on the border and in tent cities in Suruc is really heartbreaking.
Turkish government says it has provided great help to the Kobane people and opened its doors to them. You are, however, saying that it has been only the ‘municipalities in the north [of Kurdistan/Turkey’ to provide help?
The statements by Turkey do really sadden us. We weren’t expecting Turkey to act like this. ISIS has recently attacked Kobane from the Mursitpinar Border Crossing on the Turkish side, but Turkey denied this. In relation with that attack, we asked politicians and civilians, from either inside or outside Turkey, to establish a commission of investigation, but Turkey remained silent.
Our people in refugee camps in Suruc are in a dire situation and children aren’t even allowed to receive education in their mother tongue. Turkey is always repeating the same thing, saying that ‘we have opened our doors’. After all, it is a humanitarian duty to open doors to these people who fled the massacres committed by the ISIS in Mosul, Tikrit and everywhere else. Apart from “opening its doors”, Turkey has provided no noticeable help, this is the truth. All human rights defenders, independent organizations and media workers can examine the situation in camps in Suruc in order to see and witness this truth themselves.
What would you like to say about the ISIS attack which left two civilians dead in Australia?
Terrorist actions do really hurt all humanity. Several years ago, thousands of innocent civilians were killed in September 11 terror attacks America. This was followed by similar incidents in France, Spain, Canada and most recently in Australia. The terror in Kobane is the same of the terror in these countries. We offer our condolences to the families of these people and the Australian government. The entire world needs to act together against this terror which is targeting the peoples and religions.
Ms. Hillary Clinton said in a most recent statement that the U.S. should provide assistance to the Kurdish female fighters of the YPJ, and spoke highly of them. What would you say in this regard?
From Kobane, we are sending our greetings to all the American people who have supported us. The statement of Ms. Hillary Clinton has honored us. We are once again extending our thanks to all the American authorities that have lent a helping hand to us. They also have a share in this resistance. The resistance of the YPJ in Kobane is the resistance of all the world’s women. Ms. Hillary Clinton does also have a share in this resistance for she has supported it. We hope that the whole world will in the same way support the YPG, the YPJ and Kobane. The victory in Kobane will be the victory of all the peoples standing against terror.
Kobane now is a place known by the whole world and people from across the world who want to provide help inquire about how to reach you. Is there a certain mechanism in place for people to assist you?
All three sides of Kobane have been surrounded by the ISIS and Turkey is on the other side. Turkey is just permitting the crossing of some wounded people and aid. We are facing some problems in this regard as we cannot move freely. A bank account belong to our administration will be opened soon to enable the people intending to help to reach us. It is not only the Kurdish people but everyone who believes in democracy, peace and humanity that should provide support to the civilians in Kobane.
The Christmas Day and the New Year is approaching. What is your message for the people whose hearts are with Kobane?
I celebrate the Christmas Day of the whole world. There were people who wanted to celebrate it here too but there is a war still going on, the ISIS has not allowed this. I hope 2015 will be a year of peace and fraternity. I wish a Happy New Year where there is no cruelty and all peoples and religions can live together and in peace. All those hearing our voice should support the resistance in Kobane in the New Year also, and provide any help they can for a new Kobane to be built in the wake of victory.
* Translated into English by Berna Özgencil https://twitter.com/bzgncl
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?
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
Mutlu Civiroglu https://twitter.com/mutludc
In a phone interview Cochair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Asya Abdullah spoke about the Saturday ISIS attacks against Kobane.
Ms. Abdullah who has been inside Kobane since the begging of ISIS offensive, says the only road reaching to the point where VBIED suicide attacks took place in Kobane is via Turkey.
“All three directions are under YPG control. We are 100 % certain that the ISIS suicide vehicle entered Kobane through Turkey.”
Abdullah warns Turkish officials that ISIS can cause serious problems for Turkey as well.
“The fact that ISIS thugs can easily move inside Turkey can cause grave political and security problems for Turkey. We are expecting a statement from Turkish officials on these attacks launched from Turkey.
Kurdish politician says despite large amount of reinforcements ISIS received from Raqqah recently, all their attempts to penetrate the city were thwarted by YPG.
“After all failed attempts to attacks from within Kobane, ISIS thugs tried to carry out attacks from outside from the border gate with Turkey. We always wanted good relations with Turkey but they need to clarify their position. If they are against ISIS why are they allowing them to use their soil to carry out attacks against us?
Abdullah criticized some circles to falsely spread reports that Kobane is no longer under threat.
“Those who cannot accept the fact that the world stood up for Kobane spreading false news that” the situation in Kobane is safe”, and putting the lives of civilians at great danger.”
The Observer published a story on British YPG fighters James Hughes and Jamie Read, describing them as “mercenaries”.
I answered BBC’s questions on this issue and objected the idea to show British and other Westerner YPG fighters as “mercenaries”
This is the link of the story “UK ‘mercenaries’ fighting Islamic State terrorist forces in Syria”