Rojava fights off new Islamic State attack

Members of Kurdish People Defence Units (YPG) returning from Raqqa.

The Kurdish town of Kobane in northern Syria was attacked on June 25 by forces from the self-styled Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, which crossed from Turkey. This was the first significant IS attack on the town since a five-month siege was repulsed in January.

The attack appears to be a Turkish-backed response to recent military gains made by the Kurdish-led forces of the Women's Defence Units (YPJ) and People's Defence Units (YPG).

The YPJ and YPG are the military forces of the Administration of Democratic Autonomy of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan). Since 2012, this body has run three small cantons. Its rule has been characterised by grassroots democracy, religious tolerance, gender equality and ethnic inclusivity.

On June 16, the YPG, YPJ and allied groups, Burkan al-Firat and Liwa al-Tahrir, liberated the town of Gire Spi (Til Abyad) from the IS. This was strategically important because, for the first time, it linked up the Administration of Democratic Autonomy-ruled cantons of Kobane and Cizire.

It also cut off IS forces from the Turkish border. After the liberation of Gire Spi, the YPG, YPJ and their allies began advancing on Raqqa, the main stronghold of the IS.

The Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the Kurdish-led forces as “terrorists”. Pro-government Turkish media has spread false allegations accusing the YPG of ethnic cleansing, which have been repeated by pro-Turkish Syrian opposition groups and some Western media.

Erdogan opposes the Administration of Democratic Autonomy-aligned forces because of their ideological ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a liberation struggle in Turkish Kurdistan, and to the left-wing Peoples Democratic Party (HDP).

The PKK is now in stalled peace talks with the government. The HDP made significant gains in recent elections. At a June 25 press conference HDP co-chair Figen Yuksekdag described the attack as “an act of revenge” for the HDP's electoral success and the liberation of Girê Spî.

A June 25 YPG media release said about 30 IS terrorists had been killed by YPG and YPJ forces. Kurdishquestion.com reported on June 26 that at least 146 civilians, including a high proportion of children, had been massacred by the terrorists.

Meanwhile, in Raqqa, the IS has been carrying out massacres of Kurdish civilians, ANHA said on June 25.

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