Why ISIS Focus Its Attacks on Kobane?


First published on July 10, 2014

ISIS attacks against Kobane are significant for several reasons. First, with the recent confidence gained by taking over Mosul and other cities in Iraq, ISIS wants to expand its control over a larger territory of Syria as well. After seizing two oil fields from a rival extremist group, ISIS wants to seize Kobane which remains in the middle of territories under its control. ISIS currently controls Girsespi (Tall Abyad), Jarablus and Raqqah. It desperately wants Kobane to connect the regions under its control and make it a part of the “Islamic State”.

Taking control of such an important city will enable ISIS to seize new territories from the direction of east and west, in addition to connecting Tall Abyad and Jarablus.

Furthermore, being a border city with Suruc of Sanliurfa province of Turkey, seizing Kobane will also allow ISIS to control the Mursitpinar Border Gate with Turkey as well. It is well known that ISIS gives specific importance to border gates especially for trade, easy crossing for fighters and logistics, the treatment of injured fighters etc. In this regard, it is increasingly likely that ISIS will plan attacks on other border crossings controlled by the Kurds like Serekaniye and Til Kochar (Yarubia), and crossings controlled by rival Islamist groups in Azaz.

In addition, ISIS also wants to cut Kobane from the Kurdish Mountain Region (Kurd Dagh) or Canton of Afrin and Canton of Jazira (Hasakah). As of now, moving between three Kurdish Cantons is difficult. According to local officials, currently hundreds of civilians are also held hostage in Jarablus and Tall Abyad. Also some 130 Kurdish students who were kidnapped by the group remain in captivity for over a month after they were kidnapped as they were returning from school exams in Aleppo.

Despite all calls from international human rights groups those children and other civilians are still not released and are being used as a bargaining chip to pressurize YPG, according to local human rights defenders.

If Kobane falls to ISIS, such a possibility will bring some additional advantages for ISIS to further pursue its goals. It is apparent that ISIS does not hesitate to use any means to seize the city including kidnapping civilians and crucifying them, destroying houses and taking properties and even cutting off the water of the city.

Due to the fact that the taking of Kobane will be very advantageous for ISIS, it is not holding back from committing all sorts of cruelty against the people. ISIS is kidnapping civilians, publicly crucifying them and killing them by torture. Local sources are frequently reporting that ISIS is ransacking civilian homes and confiscating civilian property. As a matter of fact, it is well known that ISIS has on several occasions cut off the drinking water supply to Kobane.

One other factor to remember is that Kobane is the first city in Rojava to have been freed from the Assad regime on July 19, 2012. Hence, the city has a special meaning for Kurds in Rojava. If the Kurds lose this city it will also have a demoralizing impact on them and their struggle for self-rule. Therefore, attacking Kobane is also attacking the gains of the Kurds in Syria, and a message for Kurds that ISIS [and its regional supporters] will not allow Kurdish autonomy in Syria.


Read my detailed VICE article on Kobane published in July


For feedback, quote or interview requests, please contact me at mciviroglu@gmail.com

You can follow me on Twitter for latest updates from Kobani  https://twitter.com/mutludc

Polcat Can of YPG: Extremist Groups Attack Us with Support from Assad


In this Interview with Rudaw, Polat Can, Head of the Information Center of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), says that Islamist groups are attacking from many fronts in order to include the Kurdish areas in their proposed Islamic state.

However, says Can, the YPG has withstood the attacks and killed hundreds of fighters from these groups. According to Can, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is waging its war on Rojava with the support of the Syrian regime.

First of all, can you tell us of the latest situation of the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), especially around Kobane (Ain al-Arab) and other towns? 

Polat Can: As you know there have been fierce clashes between the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) and ISIS gangs. Their purpose is to occupy the Kobane Canton and putting an end to the freedom Kurdish people are enjoying in Rojava. They wanted to include Kobane into their Islamic state. That is why they launched broad attacks against Kobane from the east, west and south. They attack us with the support of the Assad regime, and also Turkey is turning a blind eye. However, thanks to the heroic resistance of the YPG and people of Kobane, the intensive attacks of the ISIS were repelled and they were defeated.

During those attacks the ISIS suffered more than 400 causalities some of whom were senior leaders. In clashes around Girkendal, Ashme and Dilkino villages as well as the town of Sirrin, ISIS gangs suffered big losses, and could not reach their strategic goal which was separating the Kobane Canton from Jazira and Efrin Cantons. In order to isolate Kobane and prevent the YPG from receiving reinforcements from other regions, those gangs wanted to open another front in Jazira in Tirbespi (Qahtaniya), Derik (Malikiyah), Jaz’a and Sarekaniye (Ras al-Ain). In Jaz’a our forces killed number of senior ISIS commanders of the Hasakah region including Abu Maria, Abu Yousef, Abu Ma’az al-Ansari, Abu Faruq Omar al-Turki.

 They attack us with the support of the Assad regime, and also Turkey is turning a blind eye. 


Also, on the Sarekaniye front, they suffered severe casualties. They wanted to attack some villages—that the YPG had previously liberated—to open a new front there, and prevent the YPG from advancing towards Kobane. As a result, they launched a huge attack on Manajir and Tal Khanzir Xinzir regions. Not only did the YPG successfully repel their attacks, we also liberated some more villages. The ISIS’s intense attacks against Rojava were defeated by the YPG and I can clearly say that Kurdish people’s resistance has gained a strategic victory.

You said that over 400 ISIS members were killed by the YPG. Some say that this number is exaggerated. Did you really kill that many ISIS members?

Polat Can: It is our principle to avoiding exaggeration or misinformation. When a comrade gets martyred, we declare it publicly. We will openly announce the true number of our losses and publish their photos. We hold official public funerals for our martyrs. As for the mercenary groups we kill, we decided not to publish any pictures of their dead bodies. But, if any media wants to see those photos, we are willing to share the photos we have with press. Besides, the ISIS and others also announce the death of their members on their websites and via Facebook and Twitter. They also publish pictures of their own casualties through the Internet. There is certainly no exaggeration in our figures.

I want to remind you that these mercenary groups came to Kobane from other regions such as from Latakia, Idlib, Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor, and Raqqah. They come from a wide range of countries including Chechnya, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Libya, Tunisia, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. So, the figure of 440 is not an exaggeration. It is precise and certain.

What about YPG losses?

Polat Can: In these clashes 35 of our comrades got martyred. We declared them all with their names and pictures. Our martyrs are the children of the people of this region. Their deaths are publicly known and cannot in any way be hidden.

You mentioned that ISIS members come from other regions to fight the YPG with the help of the Assad regime. Some experts are not convinced that Assad is supporting the ISIS. Also, there is a common notion that Turkey is no longer actively supporting extremist groups as it used to. How do you comment on these two points?

  They come from a wide range of countries including Chechnya, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Libya, Tunisia, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.  


Polat Can: We should, first, look at who is benefiting from those attacks against Rojava? The answer is the ISIS and the Syrian regime. The Assad regime does not want the Kurds to make any advances. As you know, numerous units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) were defeated by the ISIS. These days, many FSA fighters have taken refuge in the Kurdish regions. In many fronts the YPG and FSA forces are fighting side by side against extremists. It is not in the regime’s interests that Kurds are powerful and that Rojava remains safe. Furthermore, the regime wants to play Kurds and the FSA-related groups off against each other. We have some certain intelligence in this regard.

It has been several months since the ISIS forces have not fired a shot against the regime forces. Plus, regime warplanes have bombed so many civilians in Aleppo, Idlib, Homs and other places, yet not raided any of the ISIS military bases. The public should know that most of the ISIS fighters attacking us came from Deir ez-Zor, Shaddadeh, and Markadeh, passing through Kawkar Mountain in Hasakah. If the regime forces wanted, they could have easily shelled and exterminated them all. But, they did not.

As for Turkey, the leaked tapes of [Ahmet] Davutoglu and other Turkish officials revealed their plan to invade and occupy Rojava. What the ISIS is doing serves Turkey. Ankara thinks it is not in its interests that its neighboring Kurds establish their own government, make progresses, and run their own affairs. They continuously use a negative rhetoric against us. Besides, Turkish soldiers, sometimes, evacuate their border outposts to let ISIS pass through and attack Kurdish villages. We have proof in our hands about this.

Now, on the border between Rojava and Iraqi Kurdistan, some trenches are being dug and some demonstrations are being held against it. However, the Kurdistan Democrat Party (KDP) officials say that the trenches are to prevent terrorists from crossing into the Kurdistan Region. How do you comment on this statement? What do you think these are trenches for?  

Polat Can: Those trenches are disgrace! After the Sykes–Picot Agreement was signed and Kurdistan was partitioned into four parts, no trenches were dug. Between the state of Syria and Turkey there were no trenches dug. They planted mines and fenced the borders. Similarly, even when the Baath regimes in Iraq and Syria were on worst terms, they did not dig any trenches; they had just raised the soil on the border.

Today in the Jazira Canton, there is a Kurdish administration. On the other side, there is another Kurdish administration. It is a pity that the KDP is building such a thing. KDP’s statements about these trenches are not convincing at all. On the Rojava side of the border, there are YPG forces, so the border is protected. Until now, no one has ever witnessed any terrorists crossing into Zakho from Derik! Such statements are baseless allegations. Terrorists they are talking about use Sunni Arab regions while crossing the border!

In the region where trenches are dug, poor Kurdish villagers cross the border in order to buy some basic needs such as food, medicine, gasoline and necessary stuff. Digging these trenches is a political decision which aims at deepening the existing embargo and further isolating Rojava.

My last question is about YPG’s call for support against the ISIS attacks, and reactions to this call. It was widely reported in the media that people have actively responded to your call, but what about the political parties, especially those who are in the Syrian Kurdish National Council (SKNC)? 

Polat Can: First of all, I would like to mention that Murat Karayilan made an appeal in Newroz and asked the Kurdish youth from Northern Kurdistan (Bakur) to support Rojava. We want to thank him for that stance. Many Kurdish parties from Northern Kurdistan and other parts made statements in support of Rojava, but not much in terms of direct help. But, many youth from northern, southern, and eastern parts of Kurdistan arrived Rojava, and they are now active within the YPG ranks.

  On the Rojava side of the border, there are YPG forces, so the border is protected. 


From the North, especially from Urfa some youth joined YPG. People in Kobane and Urfa belong to same tribes and they are relatives. Also, the proximity makes it easier for the youth of Urfa to cross to Rojava. Some grab their guns and cross from their villages into Kobane villages and fight with us. Some others support us by bringing medicine and other things. The Kurdish people have shown their support for Rojava and responded positively to our call and stood with us.

What about political parties?

Polat Can: The stance of political parties in Kobane or their regional organizations in Kobane was brave and deserves appreciation. Many party members joined the resistance although their parties did not have central decisions on this. The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Unity Party (PYDKS) which is a KNC member positively responded to our call for support. Party leader Mohieddine Sheik Ali’s call was very meaningful when he asked his party members to actively support the YPG and defend Kobane. Jamal Sheikh Baqi’s Kurdish Democratic Party also actively responded to our call. Their members are currently fighting with us. Some members of the KNC parties were disappointed that their party headquarters were insensitive to the attacks against Kobane. This was the case with the Al-Party whose members left the party and KNC and joined the resistance. Such decisions clearly showed that, not only we were disappointed about the stance of the KNC to the recent events, but that their own members were disappointed too.

We want everyone to know that the YPG is the protector of Rojava, and the success of Rojava is the success of all four parts of Kurdistan. With the help of our people we are sure that we will succeed.


‘Kürtler ile Araplar Arasına Fitne Sokmaya Çalışıldı’

YPG’nin stratejik öneme sahip Til Birak şehrini kontrolü altına alması hem Kürt kamuoyunda hem de uluslararası medyada oldukça yankı buldu. Bazı kuruluşlar YPG’nin şehirde sivillere yönelik katliam yaptıklarını öne sürdü. Bunun üzerine Kürt ve Arap siyasetçiler bir grup gazeteci ile birlikte Til Birak’a gidip incelemede bulundu. Heyette yer alan Batı Kürdistan Halk Meclisi (MRGK) Eşbaşkanı Abdulselam Ahmed sorularımızı yanıtladı.

Haber: Mutlu Çiviroğlu / Arşivi

MRGK Eşbaşkanı Abdulselam Ahmed (sol baştaki) ve beraberindeki heyet Arap ileri gelenleriyle bir araya geldi

Sayın Ahmed, YPG tarafından kontrolü sağlanan Til Birak’a bir ziyarette bulundunuz. Gidiş nedeniniz neydi? 

Bazı kesimler Kürtler ile Araplar arasına fitne sokmaya çalışıyordu. Bu savaşı Kürt ve Arap savaşı olarak göstermek istiyorlardı. Karalama politikası izleniyordu. Orada katliam ve tecavüzler olduğuna dair yalan yanlış şeyler söyleniyordu. Bizler de Arap aşiretlerinin ileri gelenleriyle birlikte bölgeye geçtik. Yanımıza gazetecilerden oluşan bir heyeti de aldık. Böyle bir şey olmadığına dair durumu yerinde tespit etmeye gittik. Çeşitli medya organlarında, internet sitelerinde dolaşan haberlerin doğru olmadığını göstermek istedik. Bunun için bir mektup ulaştırıldı. Bölgeye giden heyet ‘Cizire Kent Komitesi’ adına orada temaslarda bulundu.

O medya organlarından biri de Suriye Ulusal Konseyi’ne (SUK) yakınlığı ile bilinen Orient TV’ydi. Kanal, birçok kişinin öldürüldüğü, katliam yapıldığına dair haberler yayınlamıştı sanırım. Sizin heyetinizin ziyaretinden sonra bu tür haberlerini tekzip etti mi?

Hayır, şu ana kadar herhangi bir düzeltme veya tekzipte bulunmadılar. Onların Kürtçe servisi muhabirleri de bizimle birlikte Til Birak’a geldiler ve oradaki durumu kendi gözleriyle gördüler. Zaten Orient TV de, Irak Şam İslam Devleti (IŞİD) gibi, Nusra Cephesi gibi radikal ve de şovenist anlayışların siyasetine hizmet ediyor. Radikal, şovenist, karışıklık yaratmak isteyen, Kürtlere düşman gruplara hizmet ediyor. Diyebiliriz ki yaklaşımları şovenistçedir, Kürtlere karşı bir duruş sergiliyorlar. Onların bize karşı tavırları, bizim bölgelerimizdeki istikrar ve huzuru çekememezliktir. Bizim kontrolümüzdeki bölgelerde Kürtler, Araplar ve Süryaniler birlikte barış içinde yaşıyorlar. Bu tür yayınlarla bölgeyi karıştırmak, Kürtler ve Araplar arasında savaş çıkarmak istiyorlar. Ne yazık ki bu anlayış rejime ve bölgelerimize girmek isteyen radikal gruplara hizmet ediyor.

Bölgedeki Arap ileri gelenleri ile de görüştüğünüzü söylüyorsunuz. Onların yaklaşımı nedir? Sizden ne tür istekleri oldu, sizi nasıl karşıladılar?

Dün yeni kurulan komitemizin girişimleriyle tutuklanan 36 kişiyi serbest bıraktırdık. Bugün de 50 kişinin serbest bırakılmasını sağladık. Huzurun sağlanması için, IŞİD gibi, Nusra Cephesi gibi radikal gruplara yardım eden bu kişileri serbest bıraktık. Biz bölgedeki Arap ileri gelenlerinin çoğunun IŞİD ve Nusra gibi radikal örgütlere karşı olduklarını biliyoruz. Onlar da bölgelerinin huzurlu olmasını istiyor, o nedenle de ellerini Kürtlere uzatıyorlar. Onların yaklaşımlarının genelde olumlu olduğunu söyleyebiliriz. Duruma makul bir şekilde yaklaşıyorlar ve Kürtlerle birlikte hareket etmenin kendi çıkarlarına olduğunu görüyorlar. Çünkü YPG şu anda Rojava’yı, ayırım gözetmeksizin, tüm bileşenleriyle birlikte savunuyor.

Peki, Til Birak’ın Kürtler için önemi nedir?

Bilindiği üzere Til Birak Kürt ve Arapların birlikte yaşadığı bir şehirdir. Kamışlı şehrinin 40 km güneyinde yer almaktadır. Ayrıca Kamışlı ile Haseke karayolu üzerinde stratejik bir noktadadır. Birçok yolun bağlandığı bir yerdir. Til Birak üzerinden, Kuzey tarafından birçok Kürt şehrine geçişler sağlanabiliyor. Radikal gruplar bu şehri ele geçirmişlerdi. Bu şehirden de çevredeki Kürt köylerine saldırıyorlardı. Zaten Til Birak’taki insanları da göçe zorlamışlardı. Bu güçlerin orada bulunması tüm bölge için sorun oluşturuyordu. Til Birak’ı kullanarak Kamışlı ve Kürt bölgelerine saldırmak istiyorlardı. Yol kesiyorlardı, insanları kaçırıyorlardı. Oradaki halkın talebi üzerine YPG müdahalede bulundu ve IŞİD ile Nusra’yı oradan çıkardı.

Bazı Kürt liderler Arap şehirlerine girdiği için YPG’yi eleştiriyorlar. Dün de Pêşverû lideri Hamid Derwiş’in açıklamaları vardı. Bu konuda ne düşünüyorsunuz?

Cenevre’de Kürtler adına konuşan Hamid Derwiş ve onun gibi siyasetçilerinin açıklamalarına uysaydık tüm bölgemiz IŞİD ve Nusra’nın elinde olurdu. Derwiş ve onun gibilerinin mantığına göre, Kürtlerin ve Arapların birlikte yaşadığı Til Temir, Serêkaniyê, Tirbespi ve Çilaxa gibi şehirleri de kurtarmamamız gerekiyordu! Yine Haseke şehrinin de bir kısmı Rojava sınırları dahilindedir. Onlara göre, Haseke’ye de girmememiz gerekiyor, orayı da IŞİD ile Nusra’yı gibi gruplara bırakmalıyız! Bu mantıkla baktığımızda bugün Til Koçer’in de IŞİD kontrolünde olması gerekiyordu. Bu kesimler ellerinde Kürdistan haritalarıyla dolaşıyorlar ve büyük taleplerde bulunuyorlar. Bu bahsedilen yerler de o haritanın sınırları içindedir! O yüzden söylediklerinin hiçbir değeri yok çünkü yanlış bir mantık ile hareket ediyorlar. Bu söylediklerinde Kürtlerin hiçbir çıkarı yoktur. Kendi partilerinin küçük hesaplarıyla olaylara yaklaşıyorlar ama durum hiç de öyle değil. Kıskançlık gözüyle bakıyorlar ki bu kabul edilebilir bir durum değil. Devrimin başlaması ile birlikte Rojava’yı da bırakmışlar. Bölgede hiçbir etkinlikleri kalmamış. Bölgedeki duruma vakıf değiller, bilmiyorlar ne olup bittiğini. Til Birak, IŞİD ve Nusra’nın merkezi haline gelmişti. Buradan Kürtlerin şehir ve köylerine saldırıyorlardı. Til Birak Arap şehri olduğu kadar aynı zamanda Kürt şehridir de.

Geçenlerde Kamışlı’da asayiş ve rejim güçleri arasında bir gerginlik yaşanmıştı. Şehirdeki son durum nedir?

Kamışlı’da durum sakin ve huzurlu. Birkaç gün önce bir gerginlik yaşandı. Devlet güçleri iki Süryani vatandaşı tutuklamıştı. Bizim asayiş birimlerimiz duruma müdahale etti. Devlet güçleri ve asayişimiz arasında bir çatışma yaşandı. Asayiş güçlerimiz de rejimin kurumlarına el koymak zorunda kaldı ve onlardan 15 kişiyi tutukladı. Sonunda rejim iki Süryani vatandaşı serbest bıraktı. Bunun üzerine asayiş de elindeki 15 kişiyi serbest bıraktı.


Rojava Panel at the Kurdish Conference in Washington, DC

Rojava (Kurdistan of Syria) Panel at the Kurdish Conference in Washington, DC