Dispatch from the war zone, October 21

From a village near Kobanê

by Ulf Peterson of TATORT Kurdistan

We spent two nights in the village of Mehser (Turkish: Çaykara), about four kilometers from Kobanê–close enough see and hear the war. In the border villages a few thousand people stand guard. Many of them have children or other relatives who have been fighting in the People’s Protection Unites (YPG) for thirty-seven days in Kobanê against the Islamic State (IS). The guards are supposed to prevent IS fighters from coming over the border. The military police (Turkish: Jandaram) often attack them with tear gas, and a few villages have been entirely evacuated.

In Mehser we stayed as guests of a family on the village’s southeastern border, about 1.5 kilometers from an IS-occupied village directly behind the border. Through a telescope we could make out the black flag. Map: goo.gl/maps/25ks0

Two evenings ago, around 8:30 pm, we watched as the U.S. Air Force dropped three bombs on the IS in Kobanê. Along with our Kurdish friends, we applauded. A few here speak of ironically of “Heval (Comrade) Obama”. An old Kurdish saying goes: “If you’re drowning, you have to grab onto the snake.”

A family driven from its village by IS

A family driven from its village by IS

Yesterday we took part in the burial of two YPG fighters and a YPJ fighter. (YPJ are the Women’s Protection Units). The coffins were carried in a protest march from the hospital to the cemetery. We saw a whole row of fresh graves, the headstones often still without names.

The district town of Suruç is 8 kilometers from the border. It has 60,000 inhabitants and is currently accommodating 50,000 refugees, among whom 12,500 are in temporary camps. They are lacking pretty much everything, and the tents aren’t winterproof. One woman reported that when ISIS attacked Kobanê, she had to watch as IS decapitated her neighbors.

In Suruç we met the journalist Natalie Amiri, who made a good report for ARD’s morning magazine [German]: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MoJsw03N5Q

And then there was the mentally ill seventeen-year-old German from North Rhine-Westphalia, who arrived in Mehser the evening before we did. He wanted to join IS, so he could “behead the infidels.” The mayor of Batman, who was participating in the guard, was able to persuade the police in Suruç to detain him until his mother comes to pick him up.

My traveling companion Nick Brauns is writing an article for tomorrow’s edition of the daily Junge Welt [German]: (www.jungewelt.de).

Brigitte Kiechle, Gül Güzel, Nick Brauns, and Ulf Peterson in the village of Mehser, in sight of Kobanê

Brigitte Kiechle, Gül Güzel, Nick Brauns, and Ulf Peterson in the village of Mehser, in sight of Kobanê

Greetings from Urfa (Turkish: Şanlıurfa),

Ulf

Translated by Janet Biehl.

 

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