Sardar is a 26-year-old fighter in the ranks of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known by its Kurdish acronym, the YPG. A former blacksmith, he has taken up arms for the past five years, since he first became involved with the militant group. In his eyes, it is the core of a Kurdish army that will someday represent the future state of Kurdistan.
His priority now is to defend the city of Ain al-Arab, also known by its Kurdish name, Kobani. The city has been under attack by ISIS since September.
“Compared with the weapons used by the Islamic State, our weapons are primitive. They are using heavy artillery and mortars, while we are tackling them with individual arms and medium-sized machine guns,” Mohammad Amine, a Kurdish commander, told Syria Deeply.
He said the arrival of Peshmerga forces – Kurdish fighters from northern Iraq – gave Kobani’s Kurds a boost in moral support.
“They are professional fighters, and what they brought with them in terms of weapons helps to balance us against ISIS in Kobani,” he said.
By Wednesday Kurdish fighters had reportedly managed to retake key villages around Kobani, but “the front lines in the town itself appeared little changed, with the insurgents still controlling its eastern part,” according to Reuters.
The young soldier Sardar spoke to Syria Deeply about the state of the battle and his experience within it.
This city was relatively safe since the uprising. Our forces were not targeted with the destruction that the regime applied in other Syrian cities. So the people of this city were living a normal life until recently.
The YPG has been preparing for such times. The situation that Kobani is facing was expected. Kobani is now defending itself against the terrorism that has swept Syria, which is represented by the Islamic State trying to impose its control to establish their state.
The Kurds in Syria have long suffered from the regime, and now they are suffering at the hand of the Islamic State. The tragedies that faced the Kurds during the reign of the regime are back today, only harsher than ever. All the villages that are under the Islamic State’s control have faced horrific massacres.
I fear for the people who sought refuge in Turkey because the Turkish government is hostile towards Kurds; we are urging the Turkish government to secure better conditions for refugees. So many fighters are away from their children, and their concerns are split between fighting ISIS in Kobani and worrying about their families, who face the bitterness of seeking asylum in Turkey.
My mother, brother and two sisters are in Turkey now. I know that they are now staying in a mosque along with a large number of people from Kobani. I think of them all the time, as well as being preoccupied with everything that is going on around me. I fear they may be harmed, and I fear that I may be harmed as well.
The situation is not going well, despite our success in preventing the Islamic State from taking control of Kobani. ISIS has tried to advance from more than one direction, but our defense forces were prepared and have held out well so far. The [U.S.-led] coalition launched airstrikes against ISIS, but it didn’t achieve an effective result: ISIS had the opportunity to reorganize their ranks and attack again.
Until now, no one has lent the YPG a helping hand. Instead, they have watched the violations committed by [ISIS] against the Kurds, as we struggle to protect ourselves and manage our own defenses. Everyone knows that if it falls, there will be huge massacres like the ones the Islamic State committed in Deir Ezzor against factions of the Free Syrian Army.
We are trying to drive the Islamic State away, but we call on the international community to intervene because we will not be able to resist forever. So many of our soldiers fell, and many injured people were transferred to Turkey for treatment, which means that our numbers are decreasing, until someone fills this void.
There are many battalions and brigades belonging to the Free Syrian Army that are fighting in Kobani along with the YPG. Arabs and Kurds are cooperating to fight the Islamic State. This shows that the ordeal is not in Kobani alone, but is being faced by both Arab and Kurdish areas, which makes it every fighter’s duty to battle against the terrorism.
If Kobani falls, it would be a turning point for the Islamic State expanding its hold on the Turkish border. It would merge their access from Jarabulus in Aleppo’s countryside to Tell Abyad near Raqqa. This merger would give the Islamic State new power and a greater control, allowing them to advance to other Arab or Kurdish cities.
But a victory [for Kurds in Kobani] would be a starting point in working against the Islamic State, regaining the territories they seized and allowing the displaced people who have fled the Kurdish regions to return.