TURKEY

'Kobane is being abandoned to IS group,' say Kurds in Turkey

Since Monday night, Kurds and their supporters have held dozens of demonstrations in streets all over Turkey to protest against the Islamic State organisation’s advance on Kobane, a Kurdish town just across the border in Syria. Turkish police have responded by dispersing protesters using tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets, which for many protesters has confirmed what they already believed: the government doesn’t care about Kobane’s collapse.

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Protesters clashed with police in Istanbul on Tuesday night. Photo published on Twitter by @LumpenKroleter.

Since Monday night, Kurds and their supporters have held dozens of demonstrations in streets all over Turkey to protest against the Islamic State group’s advance on Kobane, a Kurdish town just across the border in Syria. Turkish police have responded by dispersing protesters using tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets, which for many protesters has confirmed what they already believed: the government doesn’t care about Kobane’s collapse.

Kurdish parties in Turkey started calling for protests on Monday night, as it became increasingly clear that the IS group was on the brink of taking Kobane, despite US-led air attacks. Demonstrators gathered in multiple districts of Istanbul, as well as dozens of other cities throughout the country. All these protests were short-lived, as the police quickly moved in; several ended in riots, with protesters throwing Molotov cocktails. On Tuesday afternoon, protests again erupted throughout the country, with no sign of waning. At least 12 people have been killed during clashes with police.

Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan said Kobane was “about to fall” on Tuesday afternoon, which many protesters saw as an admission that his government would stand by and watch. Last week, Turkey’s parliament authorised strikes against the IS group. However, despite having tanks massed at the border, the Turkish army has not yet made any move to defend Kobane.

Protesters clashed with police on Monday night in Istanbul.

“For us Kurds, Kobane is not in another country”

Hiwa (not his real name) is a Kurd who lives in Istanbul. A law student, he took part in protests there both Monday night and Tuesday.

For us Kurds, Kobane is not in another country; yes, there is a border, but the Kurds who live there are our neighbours, and in some cases our family. All the Kurds I know are protesting, because we feel abandoned by Turkey. A massacre is imminent, and the Turkish government isn’t doing anything – and that’s very scary. So when we protest, it’s first to denounce the government’s inaction, and secondly to try to attract the international community’s attention so that the coalition will put more effort into defending Kobane.

What we would like the government to do – but which we doubt they will – is to open up a corridor to Kobane so that we can send humanitarian aid or even weapons for the badly outgunned Kurdish fighters. [Editor’s Note: Turkish border police have reportedly stopped hundreds of Kurds from crossing into Syria; it was unclear whether they meant to fight IS or bring humanitarian aid].

But instead of trying to help save the people of Kobane, the authorities are cracking down on protesters here in Turkey just for denouncing the Islamic State. So how can we have any faith in them? If they let IS slaughter Kurds in Kobane, I don’t see how the peace talks between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [the PKK, which has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule from Turkey for over three decades] will be able to continue.

I would like to stay here and continue my studies. But if our protests don’t achieve anything, and Kurds keep getting killed, I will have to go to Syria to help in any way I can.

“This is not about being Kurdish or Turkish – it’s an urgent situation in which many people may be massacred”

Emre Yeksan is a Turkish resident of Istanbul. He took part in protests in Kadikoy district on Monday night.

The majority of the protesters were Kurds, but there were many Turks as well. For me, this is not about being Kurdish or Turkish – it’s an urgent situation in which many people may be massacred, just next door, and we need to do whatever we can to stop it. As a left-wing Turk, I’ve always felt close to the Kurdish struggle, and I quite admire the self-governance that Kurds in Kobane have been able to achieve. [Editor’s Note: Kobane is in one of three enclaves of Syria governed by Syria’s Kurds.] They have an admirable constitution, and it would be a real shame to see jihadists destroy their efforts.

The protest was quickly dispersed with tear gas, but calls had already made for more protests the following day. Ever since the Gezi Park protests, neighbourhood committees have emerged, and this makes it easy to organise protests rapidly. We spread protests out in different districts to try to make them harder for the police to disperse.

For now, there’s not as much interest on the part of Turks for this issue as there was for Gezi Park; I think a lot of Turks here in the West have this feeling that the border is very far away. And while they’re afraid of IS, many are afraid of Kurds too, and associate the Kurdish struggle with terrorism. But the protests are growing, and if Kobane falls, I'm afraid to imagine what may happen in Turkey.

Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Gaelle Faure (@gjfaure).