A Turkish soldier sits on top of a tank, with the Syrian town of Kobani in the background..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In mid-September, the Islamic State terrorists launched a coordinated assault on the Kurdish enclave of Kobani in Syria, near the Turkish border. As Islamic State rolled through 21 Kurdish villages, more than 45,000 people escaped across the frontier. By October, more than 180,000 Kurdish refugees were estimated to be in Turkey. Since that initial assault, Islamic State has been strangling the Kurdish forces defending the city.
By Thursday, Islamic State fighters had reportedly seized more than a third of Kobani, although the US military said Kurdish forces appeared to be holding out.
The world stands by as Islamic State continues the ethnic-cleansing and mass murder that it has conducted across Syria and Iraq. But most shameful is the fact that the Turkish army has sat just across the border and watched the carnage in Kobani.
When Kurdish protests broke out in Istanbul and across five provinces in Turkey on Tuesday, the police were swift to try to put them down, killing 21 protesters.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has engineered a dangerous game of blackmail, using the massacre of Kurds as collateral while warning that Kobani is about to fall.
“We asked for three things: one, for a no-fly zone to be created; two, for a secure zone parallel to the region to be declared; and for the moderate opposition in Syria and Iraq to be trained and equipped,” Erdogan said on Tuesday.
Ankara feels that Islamic State is dealing a death blow to Turkey’s traditional Kurdish enemies, and that it can use the humanitarian disaster to its benefit to pressure Washington to help get rid of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The idea is to use Kurdish suffering to get back at Assad. At the same time, Turkey is trying to get the US to do the job of defending its border.
“Our government and our related institutions have emphasized to US officials the necessity of immediately ramping up air bombardment in a more active and efficient way,” Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said last week.
The UN has also called on the international community to do more. “They [Kurds] have been defending themselves with great courage. But they are now very close to not being able to do so. They are fighting with normal weapons, whereas the ISIS has got tanks and mortars,” Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, said.
The international community has greeted the ethnic- cleansing and mass murder by Islamic State over the last months with indifference. Mass murder of Shi’ite civilians became evident in July, as Islamic State terrorists proudly and routinely taped civilians they had rounded up digging mass graves and then filmed their gunmen slaughtering people. In Iraq in mid-August, the world watched as Yezidis were ethnically cleansed and slaughtered, and Islamic State fighters sold women. Although the US initiated a limited operation to evacuate survivors, little was done to stop Islamic State’s advance.
In September, attention turned to Syria’s Kurds. Although the US, France and UK did begin limited air strikes on Islamic State, the illusion that they would be effective has been burst with the siege of Kobani. Pentagon spokesman R.-Adm. John Kirby told Fox News on September 8 that Kobani was not a priority for air strikes. “ISIS wants this town, they want territory, you need willing partners on the ground,” he said. “We are in discussions the Turks about what they can or may do, we can’t make the decision for them.”
Kirby added: “There is a limit to air power.... IS wants to hold ground.... Everyone is focused on Kobani and we understand, but we are taking away revenue [from Islamic State] and removing command and control nodes.”
This statement illustrates that protecting civilian life is not a real goal of the US administration or its allies. The technical references to preventing revenue from reaching Islamic State shows that stopping ethnic-cleansing and mass murder is not on the international community’s agenda.
The tragedy unfolding in Kobani is unacceptable.
Nations intone “Never again,” but we are watching a human catastrophe happen as Western powers fail to employ their massive resources.
It is time for the world to wake up and do something to aid the Kurds in their battle with Islamic State before it is too late.