Syrian Kurds fear Ankara will seize their city "symbol"

Ankara has been carrying out airstrikes against Kurdish areas in northeastern Syria since Sunday. And Turkey has made it clear that Kobané, symbol of the victory of the Kurdish forces against the IS, is at the top of the objectives of a ground offensive that it threatens to trigger.

In memory of the bloody fighting that dislodged the jihadists from the city in January 2015, the Kurdish authorities established a cordon around a group of destroyed buildings, charred vehicles and missile debris, which they named “museumfrom Kobane.

In this border town of Turkey, the tension is palpable and can be read on the tense faces of the inhabitants, even if some continue to follow the matches of the World Cup.

Most of them had fled fighting with IS, before gradually returning and rebuilding their homes.

We fought ISIS for the whole world and today the world closes its eyes and hides in the face of the Turkish bombardments“, protests Saleh, a 42-year-old baker.

A week after an attack that killed six people in Istanbul on November 13, attributed by Ankara to the Kurds, Turkey launched a campaign of air raids in the Kurdish areas of Syria, starting with Kobané.

Ankara claimed that the attack had been ordered from Kobané, but the Kurds denied any responsibility.

The Turkish bombardments then targeted other regions, in particular the province of Hassaké (north-east), stronghold of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition led by the Kurds and supported by the United States.

Turkey is also threatening to launch a ground operation to protect its southern border.

– “Break the will of the Kurds“-

The situation in Kobani is bad and people do not sleep at night“, lest “the city is not bombed at any timesays Nabo Jumaa Ramadan, who opened a convenience store in the city after returning from neighboring Lebanon in 2019.

Kobané is a symbol for the Kurds; she defeated ISIS“, he assures proudly.

According to him, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants “break the will of the Kurds in the city“.

If Kobané falls, all of Rojava will fall“, he warns, using the name given by the Kurds to the regions they control in Syria.

Mr. Erdogan had already threatened to attack Kobané and other areas under Kurdish control. In 2019, the United States and Russia intervened to prevent Ankara from carrying out a large-scale attack.

Moscow had facilitated the withdrawal of Kurdish forces, which Ankara calls “terrorists“, from Kobané, their former stronghold, to an area more than 30 kilometers from the Turkish border.

Thursday, despite the fear of a ground intervention, no military mobilization was visible in the streets of the city, according to AFP correspondents.

A civilian car equipped with a loudspeaker crisscrossed the city center, calling for people to take part in a demonstration against the Turkish bombardments.

From several districts of Kobané, Turkish flags are visible at the border.

On a nearby hill, which houses a post of soldiers of the Syrian regime, we can also see the Syrian and Russian flags.

We are afraid of bombs. We are poor, without property or land“says Amina Youssef, a 65-year-old woman, in front of her house.”We only have this house. What does Turkey want? We don’t know what to do“, she adds, distraught.

In a shop in the city, Cherwan Hami, 39, sits near a radiator, sheltering from the rain.

We came back years ago, we started to rebuild our houses. The city and the markets prospered, and people returned to work“, he told AFP.

But it’s war again, we live under the bombs again“.

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