World is watching Turkey through Kobanê

Osamah Golpy

By Osamah Golpy:

We heard little about the role of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) and other radical Islamists until after IS overran Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul. Since then, the brutal IS advance on the Kurdish city of  Kobanê in northern Syria has whetted the world’s appetite to know more—although the Syrian Kurds have been under IS fire for almost two years, long before their counterparts in the Kurdistan Region.

Next to Turkish outposts overlooking the Kurdish areas across the Syrian border, there is a small hill favoured by journalists—at their disposal is live steaming technology and they appear several times almost every day on air, and even off air live tweets take no break.

The journalists not only zoom in into the city where the rise of plumes of smoke result from suicide explosions and air strikes, but they look back and show the heroic role of male and female fighters who helped save thousands of lives of the Yezidis stranded on Mount Sinjar in August.

No PR campaign could guarantee so much coverage for the Kurdish cause in Syria, and subsequently, in Turkey. Thanks for the long continuing siege on  Kobanê, if I may use such a term in such a horrible situation, popular demonstrations across Europe, where there are sizeable Kurdish diaspora communities, and the audience appetite for the struggle in real time have brought light yet again to the issue of Kurds’ national rights in both affected countries.

Turkey is caught between a rock and a hard place. It could send weaponry and let fighters cross the border, and as the result strengthen the self-declared Kurdish region it has long detested; or it could help finish the IS incomplete siege on  Kobanê from three sides, only to encircle the Kurdish fighters by unfriendly forces from all sides, but – to say the least – at the cost of losing credit for hosting millions of Syrians in Turkey and of being seen as a complicit force in IS crimes.

Contrary to the relatively positive image of the YPG and Kurds on both sides of the border,  Kobanê has damaged the public image of the Turkish authorities; in fact Turkey is second only to the IS militants to receive negative credits. “This isn’t how a NATO ally acts while hell is unfolding a stone’s throw from their border,” said an American official to the New York Times.

Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy, warned the world of another Srebrenica massacre, this time in  Kobanê. Turkey’s inaction has been seen as Turkey’s willingness to neighbour a terrorist organization on its southern border, rather than tolerate a Kurdish region: one more proof of how hostile Turkey could be against the Kurdish aspiration for further national rights—even endangering the peace process President Erdogan himself championed as Prime Minister.

Erdogan’s handling of the crises could be likened to Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling the of Gaza war, ironically since the former has on many occasions criticized the latter. “Hamas is like ISIS” said Netanyahu; “PKK and ISIS are the same for Turkey,” Erdogan said; two remarks which went into deaf ears, at least in the media. In fact, they face the very same fate, while Hamas is no match to Israel militarily, so isn’t the PKK to Turkey, but both state actors are losing to non-state actors in the PR campaign—for this  Kobanê has helped the Kurds to symbolize the denial of their rights for so long.

Iran was the first country to offer help when Erbil was on the verge of collapse, seizing the opportunity to reach out to the Kurdistan Region. This comes after Iran felt itself lagging behind Turkey in its relations with the Kurdistan Region. Turkey has to learn from itself: it could have seized the opportunity to make friendly relations with Rojava Kurds, just like it did with Kurdistan Region. It is late now for Turkey, but the question is: is it too late?

There are some calls here and there demanding that the US and Europe take the PKK off the terrorist list, Turkey is in negotiation with the outlawed party, and the world is watching as the YPG is winning back territory in the fighting on the ground. Therefore opening the border to Kobanê at the last minute could ease at least part of the weight on Turkey’s shoulder—without which Turkey could lose a potential partner, and public support among the Kurdish community at home and the world at large.

Osamah Golpy is a Kurdish freelance journalist: Mobile No. +964 (0) 750 788 2603, twitter @osamagolpy, Skype: osamagolpy

One Response to World is watching Turkey through Kobanê
  1. Jan Best de Vries
    October 19, 2014 | 14:57

    Dear Osamah Golpy,
    It is now already too late for Turkey to get a better relation with the Kurds in North Syria after Erdogan too hastily giving the prediction and thereby betraying his wish in an official statement to the press that Kobane would falll into the hands of IS. In De Balie at Amsterdam, Tuesday 21 October 19.30 p.m. will be Kurdish officials from Rovaja to discuss with our Dutch audience the behaviour of Turkey during what was expected and wished for by Erdogan to become a massacre of Kurds in Kobane. In the audience there will at least be two Peshmerga’s who will plead that 1. Turkey be removed from NATO, 2. that the PKK be recognized as a firm ally of the West as it has shown itself to be in Iraq and therefore removed from the American list as a “terrorist organization”: Erdogan has Turkey proven to be a merciless state and in practice (oil bought from IS, IS soldiers from Istanbul) a merely hidden tally of IS. What is there more to say?

    Dr. Jan Best de Vries

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL