Kurdish leader: ‘We are resisting, despite Turkey, West’

Two fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG), which is defending Kobanê from ISIS assaults.

A desperate battle by progressive Kurdish-led resistance fighters is seeking to defend Kobanê from ISIS fundamentalist forces. Kobanê is in Rojava, or Western Kurdistan, is a predominantly Kurdish area in northern Syria that is a semi-autonomous “liberated zone” experiencing a social revolution.

Large numbers of Kurds and other progressive people have sought to cross the border from Turkey to join the resistance. There is huge anger at what many see as Turkey’s support for ISIS. ABC News said on October 9: “At least 21 people have been killed in riots across Turkey, the deadliest street unrest in years, after the Kurdish minority rose up in fury at the government's refusal to protect [Kobanê] from Islamic State (IS) militants.”

The Democratic Union Party (PYD) is the main political party in Rojava. In an October 8 interview in Brussels with the Firat news agency, PYD co-chair Saleh Muslim said he had a meeting with the Turkish authorities last week in Istanbul: “The Turkish authorities promised us that they would help to [save] Kobanê. But they don’t keep their promise despite all our insistence.”

Below are some key excerpts from the interview.


Are there any civilians in Kobanê except for the fighters?

There are now around 10,000 people in Kobanê, including women, children and elderly. These people don’t want to leave the town. Our forces are defending these people at the cost of their lives.

Why do [the various powers] find your system so threatening?

In our system, all the Arabs, Armenians, Syriacs, Syrians and Kurds live under equal conditions. There is a social contract. The women and the children are also enjoying equal rights. Women are represented in all the cantons with 40% quota, and also there is the co-chair system. This is what they do not accept.

Imagine, the Syriac [Christians] enjoy the right to officially use their own language only in Rojava in the world. All the balances in the Middle East are changing with this system. This is why it has quite many enemies; primarily the states having divided the Kurds up: Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Many commanders of the [former Saddam Hussein] Baathist regime from Iraq are now taking [their] place in the ranks of the ISIS. These are the ones who have not accepted the Kurds throughout the history. Their aim is to destroy this system.

Are you satisfied that the strikes of the coalition forces have helped? Which demands do you have for them?

We have been saying from the very start that we do not demand that they “come here and fight for us”. We just ask them to open the border gates, and sell us the anti-tank and missiles we need and we will pay for. They aren't even doing that.

This is what we resent. It would not be true to say that “ISIS occupied there and seized the weapons”. No. Some forces provided these heavy weapons to ISIS. They are using it against us. This is clear and apparent.

How would you comment on the statement of the French foreign affairs minister, who said ‘We will help Kobanê’

We are fighting ISIS on our own lands for one-and-a-half years now. This is not the war of the Kurds alone. It is the war of the whole humanity and for democracy. Everyone finds us right, but they remain silent.

We fight with Kalashnikovs against tanks and missiles. We have a great human will. If we had anti-tank and heavy weapons, no one would be needed. There would also be no need to have all those warplanes take off in order to hit ISIS targets.

[Turkish president] Erdogan made a statement yesterday saying that the PKK [Kurdish Workers’ Party] and YPG [People’s Protection Units] are also terrorists to them, just like ISIS is. After this, people who took to the streets in North Kurdistan were targeted in armed attacks. Many people have died so far. What would you say on this attitude of Turkey?

This is blackmail. There is hypocrisy here. We are protecting the values of humanity against the ISIS gangs.

Erdogan is not honest. This shows us that his mentality is not different than that of ISIS. Kurds feel under threat and take to the streets. Firing bullets on these people proves that he has the same mentality with ISIS.

Because, today it might be Kobanê, but tomorrow it might very well be Erbil, Amed and Mahabad facing the same threat. One is killing civilians in Rojava, the other those in North Kurdistan [the Kurdish region in Turkey].
You visited Turkey last week. With whom and what kind of meetings did you have?

Yes, three days ago I met the Turkish authorities in Istanbul. They promised us to “help Kobanê”.

They told us that they don’t want Kobanê to fall. “We will open a corridor to help you. We have to be in unity against the ISIS” they said. We found it positive. Now they are taking time.

We insist that they keep their promises. They told us “not to explain the content of the meeting to the press” but they themselves are attacking us.
Do you have any message to the Kurdish people demonstrating everywhere for Kobanê now?

What is targeted in Kobanê is the will of the Kurds. Everyone should know it as it is and act accordingly. We find it important that our people take to the streets and stage protests. It is sacred to us. I am greeting all of them. By protecting Kobanê, we are protecting the will of Kurdish people.
Kurds must be resisting. They must step up their actions to the highest level. They have to show it to the whole world so that no one would ever dare to attack Kurds again.

I also criticise the silence of South Kurdistan [the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq]. Some TV channels in the south say that “this war is between the PYD and the ISIS”. This is not true. People from parties other than us were also beheaded and massacred. They were not members or supporters of the PYD, they were killed because they were Kurds. They shouldn’t feel comforted today as South Kurdistan is also among the targets of the ISIS.

[See the full interview at here.]

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