In July 2012, the residents Kobanê rose up against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, making it the centre of the liberated cantons of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan).
In the rest of Syria, various forces — including the regime, the so-called "Islamic State" and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front have turned the country into a battleground, fuelled ethnic and religious divisions and competed with each other in cruelty to civilians. By contrast, in Rojava's liberated cantons a new society based on participatory democracy, ethnic equality, religious tolerance and feminism is emerging.
Between September 2014 and January, Kobanê was under siege from the IS, and has since come under regular attack from IS, other terrorist groups and Turkish forces. The town was totally devastated and its reconstruction is hampered by a continued Turkish blockade.
John Tully, from Australians for Kurdistan, have made the following appeal.
Children are always the worst hit in any war and the suffering of the children of Rojava has been immense. The victory at Kobanê was a victory for all humanity and with that in mind progressive people of the world have a duty to help provide for the future of those children. Australians for Kurdistan is proud to work with our Kurdish brothers and sisters in the School for the Children of Martyrs project in Kobanê.
Kobanê did not fall
Late last year, the merciless fanatics of the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) laid siege to the city, which lies just south of the Turkish border in Rojava, northern Syria. Armed with heavy weapons captured from the Iraqi and Syrian armies, IS bragged that the city would share the bloody fate of Mosul, Raqqa, Sinjar, Tikrit and many other places overrun in their lightning advance. Had they captured the city, its citizens — the children included — could expect nothing but death, rape and enslavement.
Many international observers agreed that the city was doomed. US Defence Secretary John Kerry believed that the city was indefensible and declared it — illogically — to be of no strategic value, although it would have given IS almost unrestricted access via Turkey to the outside world. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan even hoped the city would fall, and blocked reinforcements from crossing the border to ensure it would happen.
Yet Kobanê did not fall! The lightly-armed fighters of the YPG and YPJ held out and put IS to flight — and have kept them on the run. The victory, however, came at great cost. Much of the city lies in ruins and many of its children are orphans, some of them the children of dead fighters. They urgently need our help.
Before the outbreak of war, the population of Kobanê and its immediate hinterland was roughly 400,000, of whom 175,000 were children. While many fled with their parents to Turkish refugee camps, or have joined the tragic mass exodus to Europe, others remain and live without homes or parents in the city's ruins.
Unite behind school project
On July 20, a brigade of Turkish and Kurdish young socialists arrived in the Turkish border town of Suruç, on their way to build a children's playground in Kobanê. Thirty-three of them died in an IS suicide attack, which is widely believed to have been carried out with the connivance of Turkish security. Let us ensure that they did not die in vain. We can do that by supporting the Children of Martyrs school project.
A number of Kurdish NGOs and community organisations of the Kurdish diaspora — including the Kurdish Association of Victoria — have united in support of the project, which aims to build a residential school for orphans in Kobanê. Australians for Kurdistan is proud to pledge its support for the project.
School to be run on democratic and cooperative lines
The aim is to create a permanent, non-profit, community-based organisation and school for children without parents in Kobanê. The school will cater for up to 100 children, with on-site accommodation and gardens to supply the kitchens.
Because of the special needs of war-traumatised children, class sizes will be kept small. The school will be run by a staff of ten according to democratic, cooperative, multicultural and feminist philosophy; rejecting chauvinist, patriarchal and authoritarian models.
The cost of building, staffing, and maintaining the school will be large. With this in mind, the organisers have asked Australian supporters to raise $400,000 towards the cost. This is not an unrealistic target and Australians for Kurdistan will be working with the Kurdish community to raise it.
In the next period, we will be contacting trade unions, community organisations, churches, and progressive political organisations to ask for their help. Donations, however small, are welcome.