Battle for Kobane: Turkey pressed to let weapons through to Kurdish fighters

With US-led airstrikes having a limited impact on the Islamic State siege of Kobane, Turkey is being urged to open its borders to let weapons through to the increasingly overwhelmed Kurdish fighters.

Lefteris Pitarakis/AP
A Turkish Kurd watches the fighting between Islamic State militants and Kurdish forces in Kobane, Syria, rage on from the Turkey side of the border on Sunday.

Militants with the self-described Islamic State pressed deeper into Kobane over the weekend, as calls intensified for Turkey to help the Kurdish fighters defending the Syrian border town.

With US-led airstrikes appearing to have limited impact on the IS siege, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, has called on Turkey to open its borders to let weapons through to the Kurdish fighters. It says the forces in Kobane face inevitable defeat if Turkey fails to do so soon.

Rami Abdelrahman, head of the monitoring group, told Reuters that IS "is getting supplies and men, while Turkey is preventing Kobane from getting ammunition."

"Even with the resistance, if things stay like this, the Kurdish forces will be like a car without fuel," he said. 

The United Nations envoy to Syria has also called on Turkey to let volunteer fighters cross the border to reinforce the Kurdish forces, warning of a massacre if the city falls.

But so far Turkey has been reluctant to help those defending Kobane. It opposes the establishment of an autonomous Kurdish region on its own territory and considers the pro-autonomy Kurdistan Workers' Party, PKK, who are allies of the Syrian Kurdish fighters, to be a terrorist organization. On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan expressed his frustration with the growing international pressure on his country to do more to help the Kurds, according to Turkish media.

The United States, meanwhile, is working with Turkey on plans to help train and equip moderate Syrian opposition fighters, the BBC reports. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the US had made "considerable progress" in talks with Turkish officials. He said a team of US military officials was scheduled to travel to Turkey this week for more discussions.  

The US-led coalition expanded its airstrikes against IS in and around Kobane last week. But observers and Kurdish officials said escalating street-to-street, guerrilla-style fighting made it harder for planes to target the group's positions.

"We have a problem, which is the war between houses," Esmat al-Sheikh, head of the Kobane defense council, told Reuters.

Al Jazeera reports that Kurdish fighters thwarted an IS attempt to storm the center of town on Saturday. The Kurdish People's Protection Unit (YPG) told Al Jazeera that fighting was still raging in the eastern and southern parts of Kobane.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated that more than 500 people have been killed since the siege on the town started in mid-September. It counted 298 IS causalities. 

Some 200,000 mostly Kurdish Syrian refugees have crossed the border into Turkey since the fighting began. But hundreds of civilians remain trapped inside Kobane, the Guardian reports:

Two of them begged for a rescue mission in phone calls yesterday, as the battles raged through a powerful sandstorm that shrouded the city from journalists and anxious refugees who have been watching the fighting from the safety of Turkish soil, just a few hundred feet away.

"There is a terrible smell from bodies in the street. At first I didn't know what it was," said Welat Shaheen, a farmer who stayed in his home at the edge of the city when the rest of the family fled. "There are bombs and fighting all around, so no one really goes out."

The 31-year-old is surviving on bulgar wheat and other dried food, eking out a tank of water stored up before the siege began. "I can't wash myself, or wash dishes; it's just for cooking and drinking. Please can someone come and get us out. If my water runs out, I will die."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Battle for Kobane: Turkey pressed to let weapons through to Kurdish fighters
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today