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  • Publicity for World Kobane Day this Nov. 1.
    In Depth
    28 October 2015

    Publicity for World Kobane Day this Nov. 1.

On the one-year anniversary of the start of Kobane’s fight against the Islamic State group in Kurdish Syria, teleSUR looks back at why this has been an important year for Kurds and why the Kurdish struggle is important for the world.

Noam Chomsky, Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Erez Esquivel, Jose Ramos-Horta, Nora Cortinas and Reem Kelani are just some of the academics, writers, lawyers, politicians and activists from political, social-justice and environmental movements from countries as diverse as India, Ecuador, Croatia, Norway and the Basque Country, who have have signed a call for a day of international solidarity for Kurdish resistance.

Kurdish people are spread throughout Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Some belive Kurdish regions should be united to form a country, Kurdistan, while others want to live within other states, like Syria’s Kurds, but carve out autonymous regions. Each group of Kurds face different challenges.

Kurdish resistance movements & political forces
YPG | People's Defense Units: the main Kurdish armed group in northern Syria and an armed wing of the Democratic Union Party.
YPJ | Women’s Protection Unit, part of the YPG
PKK | Kurdistan Workers' Party: mainly operating in Turkey, considered a terrorist organization by the U.S.
Peshmerga | Official Kurdish army in Iraq​

RELATED: Kurdish Resistance to the Islamic State Group

A map of Kurdish-inhabited areas in 1992 | Image: Commons/CIA

Banner reads: "Free Kurds do not recognize borders!" | Photo: Rojava Media Project

Is Facebook Trying to Censor Kurds?

Dilar Dirik on Kurdish Struggles

Dilar Dirik is part of the Kurdish women's movement and is a writer and PhD student at the Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge.

Forget the UN! Meet the Self-Determining Refugees in Kurdistan | PKK-supported refugee camps in Kurdistan have taken control of their fates by creating their own autonomous system. Read more…

Kurdish Women’s Radical Self-Defense: Armed and Political | The Kurdish women's resistance operates without hierarchy and domination and is part of larger, societal transformation and liberation. Read more…

From Genocide to Resistance: Yazidi Women Fight Back | Having suffered a traumatic genocide, Yazidi women on Mount Sinjar mobilize their autonomous armed and political resistance with the PKK’s philosophy. Read more…

Interviews from Quito:

One of the longest conflicts in the Middle East is the struggle of the 40 million Kurdish people for self-determination. Living in Southeastern Turkey, Northern Syria, Northern Iraq, and Western Iran, in addition to a sizable diaspora in Western Europe, Kurds have been subject to various forms of ethnic discrimination and repression. In today's program, host Gregory Wilpert interviews journalist, documentary maker, and anthropologist Mehmet Dogan, spokesperson for the Kurdistan Latin American Solidarity Committee.

Syria’s Kurds

More than a year on from a siege of the Syrian town of Kobane — also known as Kobani and Ayn al-Arab — by the Islamic State group, when the Kurdish fighters there achieved world fame for their resistance, they are still fighting, “while the so-called international coalition ... appears unwilling to come to the aid of the Kurdish resistance,” the press release on Peace in Kurdistan campaign’s website says.

RELATED: Who is Who in Syria's Civil War?

Kobane is one of three cantons in the Democratic Autonomous Administration of Rojava (Western Kurdistan, Syria). Under Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Kurds were granted this devolved region. The campaign calls for “the world to recognise that democratic autonomy in Rojava and the ‘Rojava Model’ promises a free future for all peoples in Syria.” The signatories agree that, ‘If the world wants democracy in the Middle East, it should support the Kurdish resistance in Kobane’.”

The campaign says the people of Kobane are fighting the Islamic State group’s “U.S.-made heavy weapons” with “basic weapons ... with only the assistance of People’s Protection Unit in Western-Kurdistan, the YPG and YPJ, but without any international help.”

Interview: Sardar Saadi of the Rojava Media Project

Justin Podur interviews the Sardar Saadi, coordinator of a media production and training project for young people in Rojava and doctoral student in anthropology. Read more…

teleSUR Opinion: Syria’s Kurds

If Kobani falls, Turkey and the US Will Have Blood on Their Hands | Jerome Roos | Though shamelessly under-reported in the international media, the battle for Kobani is of crucial importance for the fight against ISIS, the fate of the Kurds, and the future of the region more generally. As one of the few strongholds of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Kobani is both a major thorn in the side of ISIS and the site of a thriving popular experiment in secular pluralism, gender equality and democratic autonomy. Read more…

Fighting and Hoping for Freedom: Kobani and Beyond | Preeti Kaur | While we celebrate the women and men fighting the Islamic State group today, it is important not to forget the Kurdish women and men who have been tortured, imprisoned, subject to extra-judicial executions, and those political prisoners that remain in prison charged or convicted of dubious offenses. Read more...

A map of Kurdish-inhabited areas in 1992 | Image: Commons/PANONIAN

Joris Leverink on Syria’s Kurds

Joris Leverink is an Istanbul-based freelance journalist with an MSc in Political Economy, and editor for ROAR Magazine.

The Revolution Behind the Headlines: Autonomy in Northern Syria | The project of radical democracy, the creation of autonomous zones and its harsh critiques of both imperialism and capitalism hasn't left the Kurds of northern Syria with many friends. Read more...

Kurds Fight Islamic State Group as Russia Enters Syrian War | The Syrian Kurds are seen as the Islamic State group’s most formidable enemy. Read more…

Gallery: The Strong People of Kobane

Click on the photo to see the whole gallery (opens new window)

Turkey’s Kurds

Turkey’s Kurds are arguably the most infamous, thanks to the PKK – the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

RELATED: 8 Key Facts About the PKK

In 2013, the Turkish government and one of the most important Kurdish movements in the Middle East, the Kurdistan Worker's Party, known as the PKK, announced a bilateral cease-fire and the beginning of “historic” peace talks between the two sides, which aimed to end a bloody conflict that has lasted for almost three decades and claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds.

The cease-fire has now ended. Turkey broke it when it launched what is, according to a pro-government journalist, a “comprehensive” operation against the “terrorist” PKK.

RELATED: A History of the Turkish-Kurdish Conflict

Snapshot: Turkey Goes After the PKK

teleSUR Opinion: Turkey’s Kurds

Erdogan’s Self-Coup Deepens with New War on the Kurds | Alp Altınörs, Vice-President of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) looks at the real reasons for the Turkish President’s recent war declaration. Read more…

Turkey’s New War Against the Kurds | Tayan Tosun | The illegitimate power block in Turkey couldn’t tolerate the gains of Kurds both in Rojava and Turkey. Read more…

In Turkey, a Perfect Storm Gathers on the Horizon | Jerome Roos | The historic gains of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the Turkish elections have upset the autocratic ambitions of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Read more...

Joris Leverink on Turkey’s Kurds

Joris Leverink is an Istanbul-based freelance journalist with an MSc in Political Economy, and editor for ROAR Magazine.

Turkey's Radicalizing Youth Dominates Escalating Conflict | Politicized youth organizations on both ends of the political spectrum in Turkey are becoming more vocal, violent and popular. Read more…

US Shows its Real Face in Choosing Turkey over the Kurds | In its choice of allies in the battle against IS, the U.S. is showing that defeating the jihadists might in fact not be its number one priority. Read more…

Kurdish Victory in Syria Forces Turkey to Take a Stance | Tel Abyad functioned as an ISIS gateway to Turkey – and to the rest of the world. It fell in a matter of hours. Read more…

RELATED: In Depth: Turbulence in Turkey Ahead of Elections

Iraq’s Kurds

Iraq’s Kurds, who run a semi-autonomous region in the north of the country under the Kurdish Regional Government, are also under attack by the Islamic State group. The KRG is dependent on Baghdad for funding, but it controls some of the country's most valuable oil reserves and pipelines and has its own Parliament, security forces called the Peshmerga, borders and flag.

Under Saddam Hussein, Iraq's Kurds were brutally repressed for decades, and subjected to a harsh Arabization plan that aimed to stamp out Kurdish culture. 

Kurdish fighters largely backed the U.S. when it invaded Iraq, with many hoping they would be rewarded with independence.

Instead, the Kurds have been left with a semi-autonomous strip of land straddling Iraq's northern borders. However, they have quietly taken advantage of the country's new post-invasion divisions to reinforce their own regional borders. 

The KRG, then led by uncle-nephew team Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and President Masoud Barzani, said it gave them a window of opportunity to “realize the dreams of past generations” to bring about “a self-governing, stable and secure Kurdistan.”

Full independence is not currently on being sought by Iraq’s Kurds. The official line is that the Kurdistan Regional Government “remains unwavering in its adherence to the Constitution as the highest authority in the land” and that it “continues its good faith effort to resolve a number of unresolved issues with the federal government.”

Despite lacking the heavy arms of Baghdad's forces, the 200,000 strong Peshmerga have garnered a reputation as a professional, hardened military force. The Peshmerga has been crucial not only to Iraq’s struggle against the Islamic State group, but also to the fight in Kobane, where the Peshmerga was permitted to assist. Take a look at some of the most important stories about the Iraqi-Kurd army below:

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