Kurds’ advance in Kobane heats up Turkish border with Syria
KOBANE / ANKARATurkey’s border with Syria has again witnessed tension in the wake of Kurdish forces’ success in driving jihadists from Kobane, with Ankara contrastingly attracting international applause and domestic opprobrium over the affair.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, meanwhile, slammed the Kurdish parties fighting there for ruining the town, once home to around 200,000.
Turkish security forces intervened against a group of people Jan. 27 who attempted to cross into Kobane, the site of four months of clashes, from the Turkish border town of Suruç, after reports said Kurdish forces had gained dominance in the town.
Hundreds of people gathered to cross the border before security forces fired tear gas and water cannon at the crowd.
The tension decreased after the group moved back from the border following a call from Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) officials. Ten HDP lawmakers have gone to Kobane since the announcement of liberation.
A group of six deputies was seen smiling in front of heavily damaged buildings in a photo on Twitter, which is captioned with “the first images from free Kobane” in Turkish.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Jan. 26 that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) had expelled all ISIL fighters from Kobane and that the YPG/YPJ have full control of the town. The group said Jan. 27 that battles continued outside Kobane. Kurdish forces control 90 percent of the Kobane, U.S. Central Command also confirmed.
Television footage aired yesterday showed entire blocks leveled by bombardment and tangled steel and chunks of cement sprawled along muddy streets. Roads were littered with unexploded ordnance and mortar casings.
Turkey has already welcomed 200,000 people from Kobane, Erdoğan said yesterday while criticizing the Kurdish forces for bombing and ruining the town.
“There is no one there but they are bombing. Today, we see that they are dancing,” he said in reference to celebrations in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated cities and in western metropoles. “What happened? DEAŞ [the Arabic acronym for ISIL] is out. That is OK but who will repair the places you have bombed?” he asked.
The world overreacted on the Kobane issue, he said, saying it had received more attention than Somalia, where he visited days ago.
Kurdish groups have long accused Erdoğan and the Turkish government of tacitly or openly supporting ISIL due to its distaste for the more leftist and secular forces fighting to defend the town.
Also commenting on the domestic efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, Erdoğan said:
“The resolution process is not a bargaining process or a process of give-and-take. The resolution process is never meant to be about making concessions. Above all, we never let any step that would harm the memory of our [fallen soldiers] and would wound the conscience of our veterans.”
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said late Jan. 26 after a cabinet meeting that Kurdish groups should remember Turkey’s stance in removing ISIL militants from Kobane instead of chanting “Bijî Serok Obama” (“Long live the leader Obama” in Kurdish). Arınç did not specify when any Kurdish groups suggested U.S. President Barack Obama was responsible for Kobane’s liberation.
Turkey’s stance in the fight against ISIL received fresh praise from the U.S., the leader of an anti-ISIL coalition which has repeatedly called on Turkey to intervention.
“I think we have been very closely engaged with Turkey, as you know,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Jan. 26 while responding to a question on whether the U.S. was satisfied with Turkey in terms of cooperating on Kobane. “They have contributed in every line of effort, so we certainly feel good about our ongoing cooperation, which is not just about one area but is about this entire effort to defeat ISIL.”
Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which joined efforts with the YPG/YPJ forces in Kobane, also thanked Turkey for its role in “saving Kobane.” Turkey opened a passage to KRG forces to reach Kobane after weeks of debates and protests that resulted in the deaths of around 50 people in Turkey.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, meanwhile, strongly criticized Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu for his wording on Kobane.
While in Diyarbakır on Jan. 26, Davutoğlu sent greetings to Kobane, Bahçeli said.
“Since he greeted Kobane, the addressee of this greeting is obvious. In current conjuncture, Davutoğlu will not be able to greet ISIL although he wants to do so so much because he is sane enough to know that he will spark reaction from the international community. In that case, his greeting of Kobane is a greeting and a warm ‘hello’ to the PKK-PYD [the Democratic Union Party],” he said.
“Either greeting Kandil, or greeting Kobane? There is no difference between them,” he said. “Besides, there are only terrorists in Kobane.”
Kandil is a byword for the other leaders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), whose headquarters are in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq.
Figen Yüksekdağ, the co-chair of the HDP, also criticized Davutoğlu’s greetings to Kobane, but from a totally different angle, praising the Kurdish advance.
“You should not look at who is greeting [the victory], but who is having you greet it,” she said in parliament. “This people made you send your greetings.”