Rebuilding Kobanî : After Liberation From ISIS, The Fight Isn’t Over Yet

“The battle for Kobanî was not only a fight between the YPG and Daesh, it was a battle between humanity and barbarity, a battle between freedom and tyranny and between all human values and the enemies of humanity”, said a statement issued by the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) militia and  it couldn’t be truer considering how intense a threat ISIS is to the entire world.

Kobanî’s first celebration of the liberation of the Miştenûr Hill comes at a time when almost all of humanity is plunged in a persistent fear of what the ISIL might do next. This commemoration thus stands as a significant symbol of victory not only over our fears, but also over those who the world has come to fear.


The festivities were carried out at Newroz square, in Mount Miştenûr. It was attended by thousands of Kobanî citizens, and very symbolically, by people from Tal Abyad (Gire Spi) as well, a city that bears an equally unfortunate testimony to the horrors of ISIL attacks and control last year. The month of June in 2015 not only marked the wresting of Gire Spi from ISIL’s hands but also the launch of another offensive on Kobanî by the Islamic State militants that resulted in around 200 deaths.    

Very significantly, the celebration started with a commemoration of the contributions of the martyrs from the YPG and YPJ, the latter being the women’s contigent of the Kurdish People’s Protection units after which Commandant Rehîme addressed the attendees. Representatives from the Kobanî Democratic Autonomous Administration and Movement for a Democratic Society (TEV-DEM) also talked to the audience present at the event. Asayîş (public security) forces bore the responsibility of ensuring the safety of the attendees there.

In the wake of the war-torn city’s first independence comes the most vital question of restoring it; a deeply difficult task considering the persistent attempts to sabotage every civic initiative.

Kurdish sources had given a large list of requirements for the reconstruction that is necessary after the losses incurred in the siege. Sadly, there is a trade embargo imposed by Turkey one one hand and on the other, every route through Syria is controlled by ISIL.

The severity of the damages and lack of help that has put thousands at risk

Drone footage of Syrian conflict
Drone footage of Syrian city razed.

The siege caused severe infrastructural damages to several parts of the town as well as large sections of the surrounding villages. In a most appalling attempt to cause inconvenience to the citizens of Kobanî, Al-Qaeda, along with its allies had severed electric supply and water connections to the region in January,2014. Unfortunately, even the replacement arrangements were completely wrecked. Wells could only provide non-potable water and packaged drinking water is in extreme shortage. The government bakery, having been captured by ISIL led to a painfully low supply of primary food products as well. The strife caused an almost complete destruction of all the three hospitals present in the city that consequently made way for a severe lack of important medical amenities.

The terrible conditions at the Turkish refugee camps forced citizens to return to Kobanî the moment ISIL was routed and pushed back from the city premises. This put added pressure on the already deficient resources in the region.

Heval Dostar, the chief of the Board erected to rebuild the city said, “We have cleaned upto 1.5 tonnes of debris. When one walks through the bombarded streets of Kobanî, with its collapsed buildings and the dust in the air that invades your lungs, it is hard to imagine anything worse.” The chief has provided an estimate of losses worth 3.5 million dollars approximately.


Explosions carried out by both the coalition forces led by the YPG and the US on one hand, and ISIL on the other, has left enormous sections of the city in ruins. Kobanîs who had managed to take refuge in the Turkish areas nearby returned not only to find their homes completely destroyed but also to find the ground full of explosives and landmines that were left behind by ISIL.  

Constructive and elaborate plans of rebuilding were made at the Brussels conference in July, 2015 but little has actually come of it. Several NGOs have indeed made significant contributions to the city’s re-formation activities by way of improving the sewerage and by deactivating the landmines but the greater part of the work is still left. As a matter of fact, there are acute problems in getting help given the embargo posed on easy passage within the territory. Sanitary aid or bringing in medical supplies in larger amounts is extremely difficult thereby adversely impacting the overall health of the citizens.  

These problems have put the people in a desperate bid to take refuge elsewhere which is again very difficult and risky. People still try to cross the Turkish border despite a risk of being killed by the frontier soldiers. Many try to leave by the Kurdish border of Iraq where legal procedures like obtaining a permit from the Barzani bureau are very complicated and long-drawn. Surprisingly, even political delegates are faced with a hard time when trying to enter Syrian Kurdistan. The graveness of the situation has amplified since the elections were held in Turkey last November. Access to relief has been further endangered making it even more difficult for the NGOs and Doctors Without Borders to help the Kobanîs.    


The medical concerns: Disease and despair


The war has created frightening medical repercussions on the people. Respiratory difficulties and skin problems have practically become a norm. According to the Hevya Sor Organization’s medical aid volunteers, the situation is especially dangerous for patients with cancer, cardiac problems and diabetes given the terrible supply of medicines for these. The war also left serious psychological effects on many which are hardly being dealt with. The dead bodies trapped under the debris are a serious health threat for the city dwellers, especially kids who are anyway careless about hygiene measures. Fact is, these problems can hardly be addressed if the neighbours of Kobanî continue to be so tenaciously uncooperative. It is of utmost importance that a ‘humanitarian corridor’ is provided for, considering how desperate the situation is.  

People like Heval Dostar and the VP of the district of Cizîrê have constantly stressed on the importance on an international pressure on Turkey to open up the borders in order to enable the passage of relief workers and resources.

One cannot adequately stress how important it is that an awareness is generated about the alarming situation in Kobanî. If the Turkish and Regional Kurdish Governments don’t relax the embargoes soon, the losses that will occur is really beyond our imagination. It is extremely sad how human politics can make people ignore the basic principles of humanity.

Why is the world not fuming in rage over what is happening in Kobanî? There is an international outcry when hundreds are killed in Paris. That is exactly how it should be. It makes me very happy to see people furious over the losses incurred by strangers living thousands and thousands of miles away. That is what humanity demands of us but I do not understand why our humanity becomes so selective at times.Hundreds have died in Kobanî and thousands will succumb to death simply because some very powerful people have decided not to cooperate. No state-policy can be a reasonable grounds for inhumanity and human rights abuse.

By Suchandra Banerjee & edited by Manisha 
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