Horrifying destruction of Kobane (Photo Mahmoud Bali)
Mutlu Civiroglu https://twitter.com/mutludc
We discussed the topic of reconstruction of the city of Kobane with the Deputy PM of the Kobane Canton Administration Xalid Berkel, HDP Member of Parliament for Urfa Ibrahim Ayhan, Hisen Mihemed Eli, who is responsible for education in the area and Dr. Nahsan Amed, who is responsible for health.
Journalists who have visited the area recently, Hatice Kamer and Omer Faruk Baran also talk about their observations. We conversed about the current situation and problems in the area, the needs and the reconstruction process.
Mr. Xalid Berkel, after the city of Kobane was fully liberated; a commission was formed to rebuild the city. How much progress has been made by this commission so far?
Xalid Berkel: within the commission we have formed, there are engineers, doctors and specialists from many other fields. Regarding the works, we are still exchanging ideas. We are working for the return of our people and for those who return we will do our utmost to provide the best service, so that they do not experience any transitional difficulties. However, there are problems with this. Because Kobane is in complete ruins, the roads and streets are completely unrecognizable.
We are appealing to every organisation, to the whole world for help. For our people to return comfortably, to build a habitable Kobane worthy of humanity we need their help. We also want help from all parts of Kurdistan, especially from our Southern brothers and sisters, because their possibilities of helping are greater. Our Northern brothers and sisters have unreservedly worked and helped us from day one. While thanking them once again, I want to say that we are expecting their help in rebuilding Kobane to continue.
Have you had any communication with international organisations? Also, what kind of strategy have you developed regarding reaching people in different regions of the World?
Xalid Berkel: For donations we have created institutions in many countries around the world, and we are working on creating more of these kinds of facilities. Our work with regard to opening a bank account is still ongoing. As you have mentioned, Kobane has become synonymous with being a war city. On account of this alone, the whole world and all international organisations should support the rebuilding of Kobane.
Mr. İbrahim Ayhan, now; for a sustained period you have actively been working on the border of Kobane. As the HDP-DBP party, what kind of work will you carry out for the rebuilding process of Kobane?
Ibrahim Ayhan: The victory of Kobane is now known as a symbolic victory around the world for all who support humanity. We have tried to provide the best possible help by setting up crisis centers for people coming from Kobane. Since Kobane has been liberated, we have wanted to play an active role in the rebuilding process of a free Kobane. We have gone twice to Kobane and had meetings with the Canton officials. There was a commission set up there, and we also set up a commission over on this side too. Within this commission the HDP-DBP and other organisations are present. People are prepared to help, but over here at the Mursitpinar Border Gate there are problems. We are still unable to send over construction equipment via the border. For this reason there is urgent need for an open corridor.
So you are saying that Turkey is creating a problem regarding the crossing of the border?
Ibrahim Ayhan: Yes, correct. There is only permission for basic nutritional supplies to cross the border. There is no permission for construction vehicles and equipment to cross, because the border isn’t an official crossing. We have spoken to the government about getting other materials over via this border.
Mursitpinar is the only direct contact Kobane has with the outside world. In the likelihood of Turkey changing its stance and opening this border for the crossing of other charitable material and equipment, what would you plan to do?
Ibrahim Ayhan: At the meetings we have had with the government, they have told us that help will be provided; however for 10 days now nothing has yet happened. From America, Europe and southern Kurdistan, people and governments want to help as soon as possible. Until the border is fully free no help will be properly delivered. But we believe we will rebuild Kobane with the same spirit that we used to liberate the city.
International organisations say they want to help. People have started campaigns on social media. How can they deliver?
Ibrahim Ayhan: We are carrying out our work through the Rojava Help Association; we have called and are calling for people to provide help via this association. The association is within the municipalities of Suruc, Amed and Mardin. Again our party is carrying out various meetings. We are speaking with international organisations. We will carry out our work in a technical manner. But as I have mentioned, a Kobane which is surrounded on three fronts by ISIS needs an open border to Suruc.
Mr. Berkel, as part of the Canton management, how do you find Turkey’s stance and what demands do you have of Turkey?
Xalid Berkel: Turkey has a duty as a neighbor, and for humanitarian reasons, not to create any problems at the border. We have called for Turkey to create a security corridor; they should take the necessary steps to provide this. Turkey has already provided help via the border; we hope that the help provided will be broadened. After the liberation of Kobane there will be a new Kobane built here, which will embody peace and tranquility, and this will be in Turkey’s favor. The peace and tranquility will benefit them too.
Mr. Ayhan, do agree with Mr Berkel’s views? Would a tranquil and peaceful Kobane be of benefit to Turkey?
Ibrahim Ayhan: In reality, first of all Turkey actually followed a different policy against the Kurds. In the beginning during the war in Kobane they helped ISIS more. We criticized this stance because these policies had no benefit to Turkey or the Middle East. Turkey should change their policies and be more in alliance with the Kurds. Turkey should approach Rojava, the South and the North in a strategic manner and cut all ties with ISIS. Turkey didn’t even recognize the Kurdish status in Iraq for a long time, and now they say the same thing about Rojava and will not recognition a government formed in the region. This is a very wrong stance; they should recognize Rojava as soon as possible. The Turkish government should start official dialogue with the Rojava government, like they have done with Southern Kurdistan [KRG] officials, because for thousands of years we have lived with Turks as siblings. After this happens, whenever it may be, Kurds should be able to exist freely. Turkey should take this into account and start an alliance with the Kurds.
Mr. Eli, as the person responsible for education in Kobane, I would like to hear some examples regarding the hardships of education there. Many schools are in ruins, at the moment students are getting their education at refugee camps. How is your work going and what do you require regarding education?
Hisen Mihemed Eli: Before ISIS attacked there were 13 schools in Kobane, now only 3 are standing. During the reconstruction of Kobane we want to build new schools in the place of the old ones. We are in need of every kind of educational materials. All International organisations should mobilize concerning education. Turkey should also ease the border control because people in Europe want to help in Kurdistan regarding education.
Dr. Nahsan Ahmed, you are responsible for health. Hospitals are ruined; there is a real problem with doctors and medication. What is the latest situation in the health field?
Dr. Nahsan Ahmed: After the attacks, the health services in Kobane have been completely disarranged. Serious problems are ongoing. First of all we need medications, because people are starting to return and day by day the numbers are rising. We need operation materials and oxygen tanks. Children have been seriously affected by the war; to deal with the psychological state of the children we need psychologists. There are still many ISIS corpses around the city in the debris, in the coming days this will cause health problems. There are also still many mortars which haven’t yet exploded, which is a great danger for children. International organisations need to help with this problem as soon as possible.
International organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Doctors without Borders would like to carry out projects in Kobane. Are you in dialogue wıth these organisations?
Dr. Nahsan Ahmed: We met with Doctors without Borders today, but because Turkish officials are creating difficulties they are unable to cross the border. Not just this organisation, but many international organisations want to see Kobane to be able to carry out their work. But like I mentioned there is a problem with crossing the border. Because of this no international organisation has been able to step into Kobane. There is no problem on our side; we are waiting for international organisations to come to Kobane as soon as possible.
Mr Ayhan, officials from Kobane have also mentioned the problems Turkey is creating at the border. Can America play a role in pressuring Turkey to change its position?
Ibrahim Ayhan: America can put pressure on Turkey. Turkey didn’t allow the Peshmerga to cross the border for a long time, but when America got involved the matter was resolved. We met with the governor and the deputy governor of Urfa to get permission for Doctors without Borders to cross into Kobane but the permission wasn’t granted. They have not been the only ones, there have been many organisations from European countries. These groups want to help Kobane in a huge way. To be able get permission for these committees to cross over to Kobane, America has to put pressure on Turkey.
The spokesperson for the American Ministry of Foreign affairs, Jen Psaki, has mentioned in the last few weeks that help will be continued for Syria, including for Kobane. Not just military, America also wants to provide humanitarian aid. As the HDP do you have interactions wıth the Americans with regards to a more active role?
Ibrahim Ayhan: We have plans to meet with the American consulate in Adana in Suruc, we have spoken to them before. We plan to make these meetings more regular. America played a vital role with air strikes. We are going to require their help with other needs.
Experts claim that the American public played an effective role in the stance of US on Kobane?
Ibrahim Ayhan: Yes, this is true. Both the American and European public have been very influential. Work should be carried out and the problems Turkey has created should be nullified, because this is not just a Kurdish problem but global one.
Mr. Berkel, what kind of role can US play to change Turkey’s position on border control?
Xalil Berkel: With regards to the Peshmergas crossing and American air strikes, the American public had a big say on the matter. In the same way, we hope that they will play a major role in the reconstruction of Kobane, because a new Kobane will not just serve the Kurds but all humanity.