Burak Akinci
Last updated: 17 October, 2014

Refugees thank Turkey, the Coalition, and Kurdish fighters as hope returns for a free Kobane

It's hardly the moment to plan a victory parade – but the mood has changed.

Sensing the resistance of their fellow Kurds fighting jihadists for Kobane, the refugees who fled the besieged Syrian town for Turkey are now allowing themselves to hope.

The battle between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State (IS) militants has been raging for a month and around 200,000 people, mainly Kurds, from the Kobane region have fled to Turkey.

With the battle for Kobane easily seen and heard from over the Turkish border, the refugees have endured an agonised wait as the IS militants advanced and even planted their black flags on strategic points.

“Around 200,000 people, mainly Kurds, from the Kobane region have fled to Turkey”

But amid reports that the People’s Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish fighters, with the help of US-led coalition air strikes, are now recapturing parts of the town, the refugees are hoping its fall may not be inevitable.

“We have not won the victory, for sure not. But bit by bit we are advancing,” said Kurdish refugee Faiza Abdi, a legislator from Kobane’s municipal council who fled to Turkey two weeks ago.

“Above all, in the last two days, the YPG have fought back attacks by IS in the east of the town and have taken several districts from them,” she added.

The jihadists are far from being defeated, with activists saying they are still occupying several districts of Kobane.

Judging by the number of funerals of slain YPG fighters that can be witnessed on the Turkish side of the border, the IS jihadists are still inflicting heavy losses on the Kurdish fighters.


But many of the Kurdish refugees think that the US-led coalition air strikes – which have multiplied over the last days – have put a brake on the IS advance.

“The coalition destroyed a lot of (IS) vehicles and pieces of artillery,” Anwar Moslem, the head of the region of Kobane who has stayed in the town amid the fighting, told AFP by telephone.

The extremists were now trying to conceal their military hardware, he said.

“They hid their armoured vehicles, their cannons and their tanks between the houses so they were not targeted in air strikes.”


Each air raid is welcomed with a cry of “hooray” on the hills on the Turkish side of the border which for weeks have served as the main vantage point for the Kurdish refugees, many of whom have got hold of binoculars to get a better view.

“These air strikes have saved Kobane,” said Kurdish refugee Servan Ali. “According to the information that we have, the situation has improved considerably.”

For over a week, the 30-year-old doctor has passed much of his time working in the cultural centre in the Turkish border town of Suruc, which has now been transformed into a field hospital.

With the resistance of the YPG, Ali allows himself to dream of a Kurdish victory that would allow him to return to his hometown.

“If the war is won, and I hope it with all my heart, I will return instantly to Kobane, despite the destruction.

“These air strikes have saved Kobane”

“It’s my country, my home town, it’s where I grew up,” he said.

His desire is shared by all those refugees who have crossed the border since September. The first rains of the autumn have started to hit Suruc, adding to the precariousness of their situation.

“We fled the town, just with our clothes. We left our houses, leaving our dinner on the table, once we were told that the jihadists were arriving,” said Zayide Ismail, a woman in her forties.

Crouched outside the tent that she shares with another family, she puffed nervously on a cigarette and said she just thinks about one thing – returning home.

“I can’t even think about what would have happened to us, our children, our honour without the hospitality of Turkey,” she said.

“But here we are reduced to misery while at home we had everything ready to spend the winter,” she added.