The Eyes of the World Look to Kobani

The Arabs have appropriated Saladin, the Kurdish leader who defeated the Crusaders; yet while they embrace him they have turned their backs on his grandchildren.

Reuters

Four wolves fight each other all day, but at night they unite in their desire to take a bite out of the Kurdish nation. Each one claims the Kurds as if they were its private property, with slogans of nationalism, history and unity, but at the moment of truth they all turn their backs on them.

Less than a month after the 2011 revolution began, Syria granted citizenship to hundreds of thousands of Kurds 50 years after stripping it from them. During this period these Kurds were barred from working in government institution. Their marriages were not recognized by the state, even if one of the partners was Syrian, and because they had no passports their freedom of movement, in particular foreign travel, was restricted. The state also changed the names of their villages, in order to lend them a Syrian flavor.

In Turkey, progressive in the spirit of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, even speaking Kurdish was a criminal offense until 1991. In Iraq, President Saddam Hussein tested his chemical weapons for the first time on the Kurds in Halabja. The Khomeini regime in Iran oppressed the Kurds and blocked them from participating in drawing up the constitution. It was not until the election of President Mohammad Khatami that Tehran’s attitude to the community shifted.

Now that a fifth wolf, the Islamic State, has emerged, there’s no one to save the Kurds. Neither the Iraq wolf nor the Syrian wolf, which is supported by the Iranian wolf, could save them even if they wanted, and they don’t want. That leaves only the Turkish wolf, and only God knows what shady deal President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made with IS.

IS had barely begun its conquest of Syria’s Kurdish region, along the Turkish border, when Erdogan predicted the imminent downfall of the area’s main city, Kobani. Somehow I got the feeling that this was closer to wishful thinking than it was to an analytical assessment. Afterward Erdogan went on to brutally suppress demonstrations by Kurds in Turkey pleading to save their brethren from the jaws of the Islamic State. And while Turkey’s borders are open to all the world’s fanatics, Erdogan closes it to Kurds and Arabs whose hearts are with the besieged Kurds. Lest there be any illusions, if Erdogan were to extend a hand to the Kurds in Syria it would be a betrayal of a long-standing Turkish tradition.

Kobani’s Arabic name is Ein al-Arab (“eye of the Arab”); if that’s how the Arabs treat the apple of their eye, it doesn’t bode well. What’s worse, the besieged Kurds in Ein al-Arab today are the descendants of Salah al-Din Yusuf Ibn Ayyub, or Saladin, the Kurdish commander who liberated the Arabs from the Crusader occupation.

The Arabs have appropriated Saladin and his legacy. Yet while they embrace him they have turned their backs on his grandchildren, who are putting his legacy into practice and bringing his message of resisting evil to the Arabs and the entire world.

In northern Iraq the Kurdish peshmerga forces are the only ones that, with air support from the U.S.-led alliance, have racked up impressive successes against IS. Compare their performance to the Iraqi military’s embarrassing campaign against the organization.

The eyes of the world now look to Kobani. The heart goes out to these brave people. What’s more, women, mainly young women and teenagers, are taking an active role in the combat.

History sometimes provides opportunities in which by standing up and fighting for his freedom the individual can symbolizes the greatness of mankind. Today that opportunity is in Kobani.

In Arabic there’s a phrase “the Kurdish satchel,” a bag filled with all the various items that the Kurd has accumulated in his arduous, endless wanderings. Each time that “satchel” surprises us anew with something unique.

How wonderful it would be if this time, from the depths of this difficult campaign, the surprise would be the establishment of an independent Kurdish state that would in every way be more cohesive than any of the states that surround it.