Turkey’s role in the conflict of Kobane

Kobane, though located at the border with Turkey, is the heart of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan).  The recent events in Kobane have drawn global attention and have put Turkey’s role in the conflict under criticism.

Kobani is also called ”Ain El Arab” in Arabic because of the Arabisation process under the Baathist regime. The population is mainly Kurdish with minorities of Arabs, Assyrians and Turkmens.  Since the start of civil war the Democratic Union Party of Syria has had the control of the town, the group called PYD in Kurdish is closely affiliated with PKK in Turkey, hence not favoured by the Turkish government.

The Islamic State militants, after advancing extensively in Sunni populated areas in Iraq and then not being able to advance in Autonomous region of Kurdistan in Iraq and suffering severe defeats from the Peshmarga Kurdish forces there, planned to attack the Syrian Kurdistan and control the strongholds of YPG/YPJ (People’s Protection Units) which is the military wing of PYD. Currently, the town of Kobane is surrounded by the Islamic State militants from three sides and Turkey on the fourth side. Turkey has allowed the safe passage of civilians to Turkey (which should not go unappreciated) but hesitates to allow Kurds from Turkey to join forces with YPG/YPJ in the town and help defeat the Islamic State militants. Furthermore, it is believed that the Islamic State militants get reinforcement and funds through Turkish soil and the Turkish government is keeping a blind eye on it. Even though it is a hugely debatable issue, there are quite a few facts supporting the claims.

The Kurdish people have taken to the streets around the world in the last few days and are demanding for a neutral role of Turkey in the conflict and are asking the Turkish government to allow the passage of Kurdish fighters to Kobane. However, the global media has been narrating it differently and are giving the message that the Kurds want involvement of Turkey in the conflict, which is utterly not true. It is understandable that getting involved in the conflict is not an option for Turkey yet, but Turkish involvement in supporting the Islamic State is unacceptable.

There are many counter arguments supporting the Turkish stand on the issue, many of them still putting all the emphasis on the narrative of international media and many of them on alternative theories trying to shift the focus on Assad regime.

Recently there was a message from Mr. Erdogan circulating on the social media, in which he accused the supporters of the movement against him with turning a blind eye on the atrocities done by the Syrian regime in Homs and other parts of Syria. He also mentioned the chemical weapons used by the Assad regime. This message does not prove him innocent by proving Assad guilty. The Syrian regime has committed atrocities and that is not deniable. The Free Syrian Army and other opposition groups have committed atrocities and those are not deniable too. The Islamic and Jihadist groups have committed atrocities and those are not deniable as well. In fact, the Turkish regime has played a vital role in this too, by providing assistance to different groups in Syria and strengthening the conflict in a country they had no business in.

Another argument put forward by the supporters of the policies of the Turkish regime is that why is the Islamic State only advancing in Iraq and Kurdistan region of Syria and not in Syria. Hence, the blame the Assad regime fro supporting the Islamic State, which is completely baseless and not supported by any evidence. The Islamic State faced no strong resistance in the Sunni populated areas they are holding now and they considered Kurdistan to be an easy-to-conquer region. As far as they are occupied in Kurdistan now, in no way can they think of getting into a fight with Syrian regime and fight a strong and heavily armed Syrian army compared to Kurdish forces, who are armed with outdated weapons. The Islamic State, in case it decides to attack more regions in Syria, has not only to fight the Syrian regime but also the Syrian opposition and other Islamist and Jihadist groups.

Recently a blogger put forth an accusation that the aerial bombing of a few regions in Syria by Assad regime facilitated the advance of the Islamic State in there. Which is true but does not prove that Assad regime is supporting the Islamic State. The Islamic State militants, many of who are well experienced and have the expertise of tactical warfare, have benefited extremely from such situations/occasions and have known when to move forward. In short, the Islamic State has no friends in the region and it is at war with anybody opposing them.

All things considered, the Turkish regime is playing the same role in this conflict as the Pakistani regime played in the Afghan civil war. Not only the conflict in Afghanistan destroyed Afghanistan but has also disintegrated the political system in Pakistan and has caused the rise of extremism and the loss of more than 70,000 innocent Pakistani lives. Turkey should consider not bombing the PKK in Turkey and weakening the Kurdish resistance. It should take serious measures to stop the flow of funds and reinforcements to the Islamic State from its soil. In addition, it should play a neutral role in the conflict in Syria and not help exacerbate the civil war which has already taken so many innocent lives. The Turkish regime should not only do these for the sake of innocent Iraqis and Syrians but for the sake of its own people who could be dragged to an unnecessary war and for the sake of staying a united, secular and democratic Turkey with both Turks and Kurds as equal citizens.

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