The refugee crisis from Kobane in Syria has revived tensions between the Turkish government and Turkish Kurds.
The Turkish government is preventing Turkish Kurds from leaving the country to fight against Islamic State in Syria.
The BBC’s Mark Lowen sent this report from Mursitpinar on the Turkish-Syria border across from Kobane. Read more
It has been reported that Ciwan Behcet, one of 3 people from Rojava who were caught by Turkish soldiers attempting to cross the border in the ?enyurt neighbourhood of the K?z?ltepe district of Mardin province on Sunday, was beaten to death and his body thrown back over the border fence into Rojava.
According to D?HA, Ciwan Behçet, Meshut ?smail and X?dvan Emin, from the village of Qerman in the Cizirê Canton of Rojava, were stopped by Turkish soldiers as they tried to cross the border to visit relatives on Sunday evening. The three were severely beaten by the soldiers and while Ciwan Behçet died, Meshut Ismail and Xdvan Emin were seriously injured. Behcet’s dead body and the two injured men were thrown across the border fence into Rojava. Read more
Appeal: Support a Democratic Experiment
The events in Syria are an embarrassing human disaster. For four years, we have witnessed the attempts to brutally crush the liberation movement that had erupted so unexpectedly. Consequently, the social upheavals for rights and justice became an armed rebellion which culminated not only into a full-scale civil war in Syria but also into a proxy war between important regional and international powers. But although the promise of democracy has not been fulfilled yet the hegemony of the old Republic of Fear, omnipresent until recently, is broken. And thus, despite everything, unexpected spaces have opened for all those who dared to resist in the name of freedom for themselves and for everyone. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the Kurdish region in the north of Syria. Read more
Kurds will march from Angel Corner, Edmonton to Haringey on Sunday 28th Sept. 2014 from 1pm to condemn ISIS attacks on the city of Kobane, Northern Syria (Western Kurdistan) and ask for the support of the UK public and government
ISIS gangs have been attacking the city of Kobane since 15th September 2014. They have been beheading and kidnapping civilians in the villages they have laid siege to. Over 160,000 people have been displaced, most of them fleeing across the border to Turkey, where they are being attacked by Turkish soldiers, with one Kurdish civilian being killed by soldiers on the 26th and two being wounded. Read more
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: al-Hasakah province: the warplanes of the international coalition targeted :- 3 oil refineries in al-Houl area in the southern countryside of al-Hasakah, led to death of 5 civilians ( including a child and women ), reports of 2 others . SOHR was informed that the aerial bombardment by the international coalition warplanes on al-Shadadi area in the southern countryside of al-Hasakah, killed 3 families of Syrian fighters in ISIS ( including children and women ).
BEIRUT – Kurdish forces in northern Syria pushed back an advance by Islamic State fighters towards the border town of Kobani in overnight clashes, two Kurdish officials said on Thursday.
Islamic State launched a fresh offensive to try to capture Kobani more than a week ago after months of fighting. More than 100,000 Kurds have fled the town and surrounding villages, crossing over the nearby border into Turkey.
Officials said Islamic State had concentrated their fighters south of Kobani late on Wednesday and had pushed towards the town but Kurdish YPG forces repelled them.
“The YPG responded and pushed them back to about 10-15 km (6-9 miles) away,” Idris Nassan, deputy minister for foreign affairs in the Kobani canton, told Reuters by telephone.
Ocalan Iso, a Kurdish defence official, confirmed that YPG forces had stemmed Islamic State’s advances south of Kobani, known as Ayn al-Arab in Arabic.
“As our fighters secured the area, we found 12 Islamic State bodies,” he said by telephone. Islamic State fighters also remain to the east and west of the town and fighting continues in the south.
Both men said they had also heard warplanes flying over Kobani late on Wednesday for the first time, but it was not clear exactly which areas they were targeting.
A third night of U.S.-led air strikes late on Wednesday targeted Islamic State-controlled oil refineries in eastern Syria, U.S. officials said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war, said eight YPG fighters had been killed in overnight clashes.
(Reporting by Rasha Elass; Editing by John Stonestreet)
Kurds in Syria are asking for help so that they can defend themselves. They are disabled by the current situation – the strikes on ISIS is driving them towards Kobani and thereby is putting the area at risk, and the Kurdish fighters there do not have what they need to defend themselves. The international community needs to respect the Kurds and listen to what they need instead of deciding on their behalf.
Local people have confirmed reports of direct Turkish state support for the gangs attacking Kobanê. Residents of villages in Kobanê canton have explained how thousands of ISIS gang members were brought to the border in buses on the night of 14 September and allowed to cross into Rojava under Turkish military supervision.
Ahmed Hesen ve Feredun Qeremox, who came to Suruç following the ISIS attacks, said they had witnessed arms, logistics and personnel crossing the border a day before the attack on Kobanê began on 15 September. Read more
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed that there was bargaining with ISIS regarding the release of 49 consular staff. He said: “It was a question of political bargaining,” and did not refute claims of a ‘swap’.
Erdogan held a press conference yesterday prior to travelling to New York for a UN General Assembly meeting.
Answering questions at the press conference regarding the release of the 49 hostages, saying an operation had been carried out by the MIT (Turkish Intelligence Organisation)
Erdogan: It was political bargaining
Answering questions as to whether there had been bargaining with ISIS, Erdo?an said there had been ‘political bargaining’, adding: “a material negotiation is totally out of the question.” Erdo?an said: “It was a diplomatic success.”
President Erdo?an did not refute claims of a ‘swap’ with ISIS, saying: “whether or not there was a trade off, 49 of our citizens have returned. I would not change anything for this. Even if there was a swap, I am thankful that they have returned to their families.”
Trade off: allowing ISIS members transit and military assistance by train!
The Takva Haber news site, which disseminates propaganda for the Turkish state and ISIS, has claimed that the 49 hostages were released as the result of negotiations between ISIS and the Turkish state, adding there had been no “material bargaining”, just like Erdo?an, and that a “ransom” had not been paid. The site said: “agreement was reached as a result of the two states holding negotiations.”
It is reported that the hostages were released in return for Turkish assistance to the gangs in the encirclement of Kobane.
It was reported in the press that 1,500 ISIS terrorists went by train to Rojava via Akçakale and Tel Abyad 3 days before the hostages were released. It has also emerged that trains have transported weapons and munitions to the gangs on the Turkey-Rojava border.
PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) leader Abdullah Öcalan’s lawyer Mazlum Dinç has paid a visit to the Kurdish leader in ?mral? prison on Monday.
Speaking to the press after returning from the island prison, lawyer Mazlum Dinç said that the Kurdish leader has called on all Kurdish people to initiate mass mobilisation against the intensified war.
According to Dinç, the Kurdish people’s leader pointed out during today’s meeting that the Turkish government has taken no steps and continued to avoid initiating a negotiation process despite him being ready to make any democratic move in order for the advancement of the process of resolution.
Dinç quoted Öcalan as saying the followings regarding the negotiations between the Turkish government and ISIS for the release of Turkish captives; “In relation to the release of Mosul captives, the Turkish state has made it publicly known that it has openly negotiated with the ISIS, while it has however failed to initiate a process of negotiation for the resolution of the deep-rooted Kurdish question.”
According to Dinç, the Kurdish leader also put emphasis on the need to initiate a negotiation process without loss of time and repeated his call for the mobilisation of the Kurdish people against attacks of the ISIS.
Lawyer Dinç further conveyed the following message of Kurdish people’s leader; “In relation to ISIS attacks, all our people should shape their lives in line with the intensified war going on in Kurdistan at the moment. It is not only the people of Rojava but also all the people in the North and other parts of Kurdistan that should act accordingly.”
Dinç added that Öcalan called on the Kurdish people to initiate mass mobilisation and resistance against the ongoing war.
An article published in the British paper Independent called attention to the suspicions growing about Ankara’s murky relationship with the ISIS, with President Erdogan refusing to explain why Isis decided to release 49 Turkish diplomats and their families held captive for three months by Isis.
The article by the Middle-east correspondent Patrick Cockburn, with the title “Turkey accused of colluding with Isis to oppose Syrian Kurds and Assad following surprise release of 49 hostages” pointed to the fact that the Turkish government is denying any deal with the hostage-takers, making it unclear why Isis, notorious for its cruelty and ruthlessness, should hand over its Turkish prisoners on Saturday without a quid pro quo.
Cockburn noted that the Turkish security forces closed the border for a period on Sunday after clashes between them and the refugee, firing fired tear gas and water after stopping Kurds taking aid to Kobani according to one account, or because stones were thrown at them as they pushed back crowds of Kurdish onlookers, according to another. Most of those crossing are women, children and the elderly, with men of military age staying behind to fight, he added.
The article also recalled that the freeing of the hostages comes at the same moment as 70,000 Syrian Kurds have fled across the border into Turkey to escape an Isis offensive against the enclave of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, which has seen the capture of many villages.
Stating that the strange circumstances of both the capture of the 49 Turks and their release shows that Ankara has a different and more intimate relationship with Isis than other countries, the article said; “Pro-Isis Turkish websites say that the Turks were released on the direct orders of “the caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. They had been moved to Raqqa, the Syrian headquarters of Isis from Mosul, and both men and women were well-dressed and appeared to have suffered little harm from their imprisonment. This is in sharp contrast to the treatment of Alan Henning, the British taxi driver seized when taking aid to Syria, and of the journalists who have been ritually murdered by Isis.”
“They made little effort to distinguish jihadi rebels crossing the 560 mile long Syrian-Turkish border from the others. Some 12,000 foreign jihadis, many destined to become suicide bombers, entered Syria and Iraq from Turkey. Only at the end of 2013, under pressure from the US, did Turkey begin to increase border security making it more difficult for foreign or Turkish jihadis to pass through, though it is still possible. A Kurdish news agency reports that three Isis members, two from Belgium and one from France, were detained by the Syrian Kurdish militia at the weekend as they crossed into Syria from Turkey”, Cockburn wrote, suggesting that the Turkish government may not be collaborating with Isis at this moment, but Isis has benefited from Turkey’s tolerant attitude towards the jihadi movements.
While Turkey’s support for ISIS continues to be debated, it has emerged that a ‘Jihadi hospital’ has been opened for ISIS members in the city of Antep (Gaziantep). Officials at the hospital made no effort to conceal state support for the bringing of gang members, saying: “we come from the border entirely under state supervision”.
Birgün newspaper published pictures of the private hospital in Antep where ISIS members wounded in Syria and Rojava receive treatment.
According to Birgün, the 6-storey hospital 1 kilometre from the Antep Governor’s office was established for the treatment of Islamic Front militants. In the last 8 months at least 700 gang members have been treated here.
According to information provided by ?MKANDER Antep representative Sait Gökdere the funding for the hospital came from his organisation, while cleaning materials and food is provided by the AKP ?ahinbey municipality.
Gökdere felt no need to conceal the support of the AKP Government, saying: “Before our Islamic fighter friends were coming to Turkey and receiving disgraceful treatment on account of overcrowding in the hospitals. Now, thanks to the government we have a 75-bed rehabilitation centre in Gaziantep and we come across the border under state supervision.”
The network functions like this: gang members are brought from Syria in vehicles that start out from Antep, and taken to Kilis, where they receive initial treatment. If there are no beds available there they are taken to Antep. If there are no beds there, they are sent to Ankara or Istanbul.
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Clashes continue between YPG backed by rebel battalions against ISIS in the southern and eastern countrysides of Ein al-Arab, no less than 24 fighters from ISIS were killed during the clashes most of them were killed in Abo Serra area in the southern countryside.
SOHR was informed by sources from Ein al-Arab”Kobane” that the border guards are keeping the people who flee their villages for hours before allowing them to pass into the Turkish lands, sources also confirmed to SOHR that no less than 5,000 have returned back into Ein al-Arab”Kobane” in the past 24 hours, despite the checkpoints inside the Trurkish villages ( 2 km away from Syrian lands ), which preventing them from going back, this was accompanied by stopping ISIS advances in the area, by the YPG backed by rebels.
Ein al-Arab “Kobane” witnessed the largest migration status in Syria during the past 4 days, since the Syrian revolution started March/2011, no less than 200,000 Kurdish civilians flee their houses and moved into Ein al-Arab “Kobane” city or the Turkish lands, after ISIS took control on their villages in Ein al-Arab ” Kobane” countryside.
The UN refugee agency says Turkey urgently needs help to care for 130,000 Syrian refugees who have crossed the border in recent days.
The UNHCR said this was the largest influx in such a short period since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011.
The Syrian Kurds are fleeing an advance by Islamic State (IS) militants, who have seized swathes of Iraq and Syria in recent months.
IS fighters are reported to be closing in on the Syrian town of Kobane.
The capture of Kobane, also known as Ayn al-Arabon, would give the jihadists complete control of the area.
Even before the latest influx, Turkey was struggling to cope with more than a million Syrian refugees who have crossed into its territory since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began more than three years ago.
Carol Batchelor, the UNHCR’s envoy in Turkey, told the BBC that such high numbers of refugees would place a strain on any host community.
Mark Lowen, BBC News, southern Turkey
The sheer number of refugees would overwhelm any country.
Added to that, they are Kurds from Syria, many of them deeply hostile to Turkey. For 30 years, Turkish forces fought Kurdish rebels in a civil war that killed 40,000 people.
The fact that Turkey is accepting tens of thousands of Kurds is a sign of how allegiances are being forced to change with the onslaught of Islamic State. But deep-seated tension between Kurds and Turks have again come to the surface, leading to border clashes on Sunday.
Turkey fears that Kurds will cross into Syria to join the Kurdish militia. The worry is that, renewed by fresh recruits, it could ally with the outlawed PKK and launch attacks on Turkish soil.
All the regional complexities, added to the refugee influx, make for a precarious situation here.
She called for “increased solidarity and international assistance” for those flooding across the border.
“The situation is deepening. It’s becoming protracted. People are desperately in need,” she added.
Ms Batchelor said food, blankets and winter clothing – particularly for children – were needed.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said his country was preparing for “the worst case scenario” – an influx of hundreds of thousands more refugees.
“I hope that we are not faced with a more populous refugee wave but if we are, we have taken precautions. If necessary, we have planned how to send these people to safer and further places,” he said.
Hanan, a Kurdish refugee: People “have been sleeping in the streets, in parks and mosques”Turkish troops are trying to control the flood of refugees, and stop Kurdish fighters crossing into Syria
Anwar Muslim, president of the Kobane regional government, told the BBC that Kurdish fighters had inflicted heavy casualties on IS and pushed the militants back.
He accused the group of killing women, children and the elderly.
“All our ministers, like ordinary people, have picked up arms. Our people believe we can defeat IS. Our morale is high,” he said.
On Friday, Turkey opened a 30km (19 mile) section of its south-west border to Syrian Kurds fleeing Kobane.
Clashes then broke out on Sunday after protests by Kurds on the Turkish side of the border, some waving banners of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The BBC’s Mark Lowen, at the scene, said Turkish forces were trying to stop Kurdish fighters from entering Syria to take part in the defence of Kobane.
By Monday only two out of nine border posts in the area remained open, the UNHCR said.Turkish forces have used water cannon and tear gas against pro-Kurdish protesters near the border
Our correspondent says the Syrian conflict has reawakened old hostilities and shaken a fragile peace between Kurds and Turkish authorities.
The PKK, a banned militant group that fought a civil war for autonomy within Turkey for decades, has called on Kurds to join the fight against IS.
PKK-affiliated forces have been battling IS in northern Iraq for months.
In other developments:
- The White House said it had rejected an Iranian proposal to support the US-led fight against IS in return for flexibility on its controversial uranium enrichment programme
- Jihadists, including six suicide bombers, attacked an army base west of Baghdad on Sunday, killing 40 soldiers and capturing at least 70 others, military officials said
- A Syrian government air strike killed at least 42 civilians in rebel-held territory in the north-western province of Idlib on Sunday, activists said
- IS issued a statement urging its supporters to kill “disbelievers” from the countries that have joined a international coalition against the group
The US has said it will attack the group in Syria, though so far it has carried out air strikes against IS only in Iraq.
On Monday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France would not launch air strikes against IS in Syria despite having attacked the group in northern Iraq last week.
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair told the BBC on Sunday that air strikes alone might not be enough to contain the group.
“If necessary, we shouldn’t rule out the use of, particularly, special force capabilities,” he said.
US President Barack Obama previously ruled out the involvement of US ground troops, and has instead promised to provide arms and training to local forces fighting against IS.
22 Sep 2014: Isis’s latest attempt to take predominantly Kurdish town close to Turkey repelled with aid of Kurds crossing the border
Syrian Kurdish fighters have halted an advance by Islamic State (Isis) fighters to the east of a predominantly Kurdish town near the border with Turkey, a spokesman for the main armed Kurdish group said.
“Fierce clashes are still under way but the Isis advance to the east of Kobani has been halted since last night,” Redur Xelil, spokesman for the YPG said via Skype.
He said the eastern front was the scene of the fiercest fighting in the offensive launched by Isis last Tuesday on Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab. More than 100,000 Syrian Kurds have fled its advance, many crossing the border into Turkey.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks violence in the Syrian war, said Isis fighters had made no significant advance in the past 24 hours.
The offensive is Isis’s second attempt to take Kobani since June, when it staged a lightning advance across northern Iraq, seizing the city of Mosul and with it Iraqi weapons including US-made hardware that the Syrian Kurds say is being used against them.
The previous attack on Kobani, in July, was fought off with the help of Kurds who crossed the border from Turkey. Xelil said hundreds had crossed the border again to help repel the current offensive.
“There have been no reinforcements apart from some Kurdish youths from Turkey,” he said.
The US has launched air strikes against Isis in Iraq and has said it would not hesitate to attack the group in Syria, but wants allies to join its campaign.
The United Nations said on Sunday the number of Syrian Kurds who had fled into neighbouring Turkey might have topped 100,000 and was likely to go much higher.
“There are still clashes to the west and south of Kobani but not at the same intensity as the eastern front,” Xelil said.
Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory, said Isis had made “no progress worth mentioning” in the past 24 hours, but that clashes were “at their most intense”.
There were conflicting accounts of how far Isis fighters were from Kobani. Xelil said they were 12-19 miles (20-30 km) away, while Abdulrahman said they were about half that distance from the town.
In the small bus shuttling passengers between Gaziantep and the small predominantly Kurdish border town of Suruç, all conversation is focused on one topic only.
“Suruç is teeming,” says Izzettin Abdi Hacirashad, 51, a spare parts trader. “In the parks, the bus station, the streets. Everywhere. You will see.”
An estimated 130,000 refugees have crossed into Turkey over the past few days escaping the onslaught of Islamic State (Isis) militants who have pushed deep into Syrian Kurdish territory in their latest offensive, bringing the murderous conflict closer to the Turkish border.
The Turkish deputy prime minister, Numan Kurtulmu?, spoke on Monday of a “man-made disaster”. “This is not a natural disaster,” he said. “We don’t know how many more people may be forced to seek refuge … an uncontrollable force on the other side of the border is attacking civilians. The extent of the disaster is worse than a natural disaster.”
Hacirashad fears that more than 100 of the villages in the Kurdish enclave of Kobani have fallen to Isis. “They have many weapons. It worries me. They have so many more weapons than we do,” he says.
Mehmet Üstün, 54, holds on to several large bags filled with bread. “I am taking these back to Suruç for all the refugees. These poor people have nothing left. It’s our duty to help them.” He is housing five families from across the border, some of them his distant relatives. Another man from Kobani, 33, who wishes to remain anonymous fearing for the safety of relatives thought to have been captured by Isis, brought his family to Gaziantep only three days ago. He is now on his way back to the border.
For the past three months he has been fighting with the People’s Defence Corps (PYD), the armed wing of the Democratic Union party (PYD), the Syrian Kurdish affiliate of the better-known Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK). In the past he manned a checkpoint close to the Euphrates, an area now overrun by Isis. “We get an AK and 60 bullets each,” he explains. “That’s all we have to defend ourselves against the massive arsenal of Islamic State.”
Many of the Syrian Kurds who have been driven out of the enclave of Kobani over the past week report that Isis uses artillery and heavy weaponry thought to have been looted from Iraqi arsenals. “They have military vehicles, rockets, missiles. What do you think an AK-type gun can do against that?” the man from Kobani says.
“We are very tired,” Hacirashad admits. “It’s been three years. And it is getting worse every day.” He shows a gruesome image from his Facebook page on his phone showing a Kurdish fighter being beheaded by Isis jihadis.
“His name was Sinur, he was only 40 years old. What real Muslim would commit such crimes?” He adds that Isis is so terrifying that people flee their villages before the first shots are fired. “We saw what they did in Shengal. How can people not be afraid?”
The refugees who have managed to escape the latest Isis attacks all report atrocities committed by the Islamist militants against Kurds in Syria, including beheadings, stonings, and the blanket torching of homes and entire villages.
Newroza, 35, describes how Isis militants beat a 15-year-old girl to death, crushing her skull with a rock. “Only because she was Kurdish,” she says, angry tears in her eyes. “I want to go and fight them. If I had a weapon, I would go and kill them.” She now sleeps in a small park in the centre of Suruç, together with her four children. “We will not let them take Kobani from us.”
In the park in front of the municipal cultural centre, where many families from Kobani have found temporary refuge, dozens of men and women are glued to a flat-screen TV that has been suspended somewhat precariously from one of the windows overhead. It is tuned to Nuce TV, the successor of the pro-PKK Roj TV channel, banned in Turkey and broadcasting out of Brussels.
“That’s my village on TV now,” says Ahmed, 29, from Kobani, pointing at the screen. “See, that’s the PYD fighters throwing Isis out of there. But now they are somewhere to the west, bombing the next village.”
Three days ago Ahmed brought his family to safety in Turkey. Now he wants to go back to fight against Isis. “Turkish soldiers at the border don’t let me cross, they say it’s not allowed,” he says. “All I want is to defend my land and my village. I will find a way to get there.” One of his friends says that getting across the border has become difficult, and that Turkish soldiers control many of the illegal crossing points. “Since there are landmines in many areas here, you can’t just walk anywhere,” Ahmed says. “But if I live or die, I will go back to Kobani.”
Tension on the Turkish side of the border was soaringon Monday. Clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurds wanting to approach the border gates to reach their relatives or to cross into Syria continued throughout the day, with Turkish police using teargas and water cannon against protesters.
“We have come all the way from Mardin to support our people in Kobani,” says one elderly man whose group is stranded at a police checkpoint near the border. “All we want is to find our families. They are there somewhere, on the other side of the wire, they need help.”
At a small desk in the park, Turkish doctors from nearby Sanliurfa have started to administer polio and measles shots to all children. “So far we have immunised 32 children,” one of the doctors says. “But we have enough vaccine for everyone.”
According to one official working for the Turkish Red Crescent, Turkey was prepared for the “worst case scenario” and a further influx of refugees from Kobani. “We are preparing to erect a tent city close to the border.”
Silva Ali, 10, grimaces as she swallows the polio vaccine administered, then sticks out her tongue. “Not good,” she says and laughs. She has just arrived in Suruç with her family, her mother Asya, 27, her grandmother Fatma, 55, and her three siblings.
“Isis fired missiles at our village,” her mother says. “They have military vehicles and so many weapons. We heard the sounds of the bombs. We just left and ran, it was very bad.”
Now they sleep in the park, unsure of where to go next. “If things get better, we will go back. But if not, I don’t know either.”
Reuters: Related Video
(Reuters) – Syrian Kurds battled to defend a key border town from an Islamic State advance on Monday as Kurdish youths from neighboring Turkey rushed to their aid, heightening the pressure on Ankara to act against the Islamist insurgents.
In Turkey, struggling to manage an influx of more than 130,000 Syrian Kurdish refugees since last week, security forces fired tear gas and water cannon at Kurdish protesters who accuse Ankara of favoring Islamic State against the Kurds.
The main Kurdish armed group in northern Syria, the YPG, said its fighters had halted the Islamic State advance east of the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, which sits on the Turkish border.
From a hillside across the border in Turkey, plumes of smoke could be seen and the booms of artillery and rattle of machinegun fire heard from a cluster of three settlements called Siftek, where Kurdish fighters fought Islamic State militants.
Hundreds of Turkish Kurds watched the fighting, cheering when fire struck Islamic State fighters’ positions.
“Kurds have never lost a war and we will not lose this one either,” said Zilan, a 40-year old mother of seven from the main southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir who said she had relatives fighting in the YPG ranks.
Hundreds of Kurdish youths gathered at Mursitpinar, the border crossing opposite Kobani, responding to calls from Kurdish leaders to join the struggle against Islamic State fighters who have seized swathes of Iraq and Syria.
Residents fleeing Kobani said the militants were executing people of all ages in villages they seized. Kurds are mostly Sunni Muslims but Islamic State views them as apostates because of their secular ideology. It has persecuted and killed Shi’ite Muslims, Christians and members of the ancient Yazidi sect as well as moderate Sunnis who reject its stark version of Islam.
Turkish security forces are now trying to keep Kurds from crossing the frontier to aid their brethren. At Mursitpinar, a line of paramilitary police guarded a barbed-wire border fence.
“We all want to cross the border. We tried yesterday but they attacked us, and we will try again today,” said balaclava-clad Kurdish activist Shirwan, 28, holding a large flag of the PKK, Turkey’s own Kurdish party which waged a decades-long armed struggle for more rights.
Ismet, 19, a local man who makes a living collecting strawberries in the Mediterranean coastal province of Mersin, said the protesters had gathered from cities across Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast: “They are not from around here. They come from Sirnak, Van, Mardin, Nusaybin.”
He said several hundred Turkish Kurds had already crossed to join the fight. Other residents put the figure higher.
The advances by the Sunni insurgents just across Turkey’s southern border have alarmed Ankara. But so far Turkey has been slow to join calls for a coalition to fight Islamic State, worried in part about links between Syrian Kurds and the PKK.
Turkey strongly denies it has given any form of support to the Islamist militants, but Western countries say its open borders during Syria’s three-year civil war allowed Islamic State and other radical groups to grow in power.
The PKK called Turkey’s Kurds to arms on Sunday, saying “supporting this heroic resistance” in Kobani was a “debt of honor”. Radio stations played patriotic Kurdish songs about heroic fighters and martyrs and one played recordings of PKK commander Murat Karayilan in a bid to drum up support.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said more than 130,000 Syrian Kurds had fled to Turkey since Friday and that the authorities were preparing for many more to arrive.
At a border crossing just west of Mursitpinar, hundreds of people waited on the Syrian side of the barbed wire fence among abandoned trucks and farm equipment they had used to carry their families, and their livestock, to safety.
“There are clashes beyond that hill,” said Muslim Bekir, a farmer who had managed to cross the border, pointing to a plume of smoke rising from behind a hill on the Syrian side, and explaining he had slept in fields after fleeing four days ago.
Redur Xelil, spokesman for the YPG, said via Skype that the Islamic State advance had been halted to the east of Kobani, scene of the fiercest fighting since the insurgents launched their offensive last Tuesday.
He said hundreds of Turkish Kurds were already helping in the fight. A previous attack on Kobani, in July, was fought off with the help of Kurds who crossed the border from Turkey.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks violence in the Syrian war, said fierce clashes were continuing between the YPG, supported by other groups, and Islamic State fighters in the southern and eastern outskirts of Kobani.
The United States has carried out air strikes on Islamic State fighters in Iraq and says it is prepared to extend them into Syria, but has not said when or where strikes would begin.
Turkey, a NATO member with a big U.S. air base in the southern town of Incirlik, has so far made clear it does not want to take a frontline military role. Initially, officials said they were wary of fighting Islamic State because the group was holding 46 Turkish hostages and three of their local staff.
Those hostages – including diplomats, soldiers and children – were freed on Saturday, but Turkish officials said policy toward Islamic State was unlikely to change.
“The hostages weren’t the only concern for our Iraq and Syria policy,” said one senior Turkish official, declining to be identified so as to speak more freely.
“There are security problems especially in the Kurdish regions of Syria. We are always ready to help them but that doesn’t mean that we will carry out a military operation … Turkey will continue to be a part of the coalition but our policies on Iraq and Syria will not change,” he said.
The release of the hostages fueled suspicion among Kurdish activists that Turkey was taking actions that helped Islamic State. Erdogan said on Sunday no ransom was paid but did not rebuff suggestions of a prisoner swap.
“Say such a swap has taken place, as a president, I would just look at the fact that our 49 citizens are (back) in Turkey,” Erdogan said. “Nothing compares to this.”
Ankara launched a peace process in 2012 to end a 30-year-old conflict with the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. Mutual suspicion still runs high between Kurdish communities and the security forces in large parts of the southeast.
In Iraq, where there is an autonomous Kurdish region with its own official security forces, European countries including Germany, France and Italy have already agreed to send the Kurds arms. But in Syria, where Kurdish fighters have no official status and their leaders are more closely linked to the banned PKK, outside help is more complicated.
Opposition politicians in Germany have called for the PKK to be taken off the EU list of terrorist groups. Turkey remains strongly opposed to such a move and diplomats say it would not be considered without Turkish accord.
“The threat to the Yazidis and Christians in northern Iraq is no reason, in my view, to reconsider the ban,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told broadcaster ARD on Sunday.
“The ban stands. We are delivering weapons to (Iraqi) Kurdish security forces; that is what we decided.”
2 youths, Muhammed Mustafa and Muhammed Ali, who were seriously wounded in attacks by ISIS gangs in Kobanê, were kept waiting for hours at the Mürshitpinar border gate last night, even though they had suffered serious injuries.
While the Turkish authorities do everything they can to ensure the passage of ISIS gang members, when it comes to people from Rojava pressure of numbers is used as a pretext for delay.
Other citizens from Rojava, Orhan Shegmus (19), Büshra Alomar Alahmat, (20) ve Ahmet Müslim (47), who were wounded in ISIS gangs attacks are being kept waiting in the Mehmet Akif Inan research and training hospital in Urfa. Read more
Firat News: KCK: Borders must go, Urfa and Kobanê must unite
The KCK Executive Council Co-Presidency has issued an appeal calling on the people of Kurdistan, first and foremost the people of Urfa, to make joining the Kobanê resistance and the struggle against ISIS the struggle of the entire people of Kurdistan; “Let us remove the borders, unite Urfa with Kobanê, defeat the ISIS aggressors and turn the Rojava Revolution into the revolution of Syria and the whole Middle East.”
The KCK statement noted that the resistance of the people of Kobanê had encouraged democratic struggle everywhere, adding: “tens of thousands of youths must join the resistance and respond to ISIS fascism.”
‘Turkey is behind the ISIS gangs’ Read more