By John Hunt:
Hundreds of Kurds gathered in the ravaged centre of Kobani last Thursday to honour US citizen Keith Broomfield who died on 3rd June while fighting in the ongoing war between the YPG forces of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) and Daesh (ISIS). Women, men and children stood around his coffin or above it on the surounding shells of devastated buildings to listen to speeches by YPG spokesman Redur Xalil and Kobani foreign minister Ibrahim Kurdu and honour a 36 year old American who had lost his life supporting their cause. Following the ceremony, Broomfields’s body was carried for a few yards to the Turkish border gate, from where it was taken and flown to Boston. He will be buried in his home town on Wednesday.
Keith Broomfield was one of perhaps hundreds of people who have travelled to Rojava from the USA, Europe and beyond to fight Daesh. He was the first American to be killed – or martyred, as people say here – while fighting with the YPG.
Among the dozens of YPG and YPJ fighters at the ceremony was another international volunteer, a German from Stuttgart. He gave his nom de guerre as Rostem and said he had known the American.
“Keith died like a hero”, said Rostem. “He took a Daesh bullet but before that he killed two of them. He was a really good man. I understand he’d had a hard life and been a biker but he changed and came to Kobani to help fight for liberty. The last time I saw him, he said to me, ‘When I die, I want to die in a fight’. His dream has come true. Perhaps some Americans will question whether he died for a good thing, but I can say that he did”.
“I have come here for the same reason” added Rostem. “I am fighting for liberty, equality, freedom. I believe the system here is the best in the world. Here there is more society and less government”.
Broomfield was killed taking part in the YPG offensive to seize the strategically vital town of Girê Spî (Tel Abyad), about 80 km east of Kobani city. Since he died, the YPG have surrounded the town. Yesterday they captured the town of Suluc, 14 km west of Tel Abyad. Additional fighters have been sent from Kobani city to reinforce forces advancing from the east. Yesterday Kobani city officals visited YPG fighters at Absar Hill, near the border of the Kobani canton, as US-led coalition jets flew overhead, without making air strikes. Kobani defence minister Ismet Sheikh Hassan pointed to a line of trees on the horizon, explaining that this was one of the front lines, and told journalists: “Girê Spî is surrounded. We are advancing on all sides”.
The latest report today (Monday morning) is that YPG forces have begun to enter Girê Spî.
When Daesh are driven from Girê Spî , they will will lose a direct road link from the Turkish border to their unofficial capital of Raqaa, while the Kobani canton – suffering from a de facto embargo by Turkey – will adjoin its sister canton of Jazeera and gain access to the KRG (south Kurdistan) border.
Will the YPG then combine with FSA (Free Syrian Army) forces to march on Daesh in Raqaa? “It depends on whether the local people ask us”, said Hassan.
Kobani prime minister Anwar Muslim spoke to journalists about Keith Broomfield. Muslim works from the Kobani Building of Self Administration which is pocked-marked from gunfire and shelling. His office on the first floor is now comfortably furnished although, just a few months ago, its walls had sniper holes and were lined with sandbags as the YPG fought off a ferocious assault by Daesh gunmen, some of whom got inside the building on the ground floor before the YPG killed them.
What was Muslim’s message to Broomfield’s bereaved family? “He was fighting for humanity and doing the right thing”, said Muslim. “We mourn for him and promise to stay here to finish what he was fighting for”.