Welcome to Stalingrad. Welcome to Kobane’: Inside the Syrian Town Under Siege by the Islamic State


By Danny Gold

January 13, 2015 | 7:50 am

“Welcome to Stalingrad. Welcome to Kobane,” said a Kurdish militant, starting his car. A mad dash across the closed Turkish border had just brought us into the majority Kurdish Syrian town, then nearing its 100th day of fighting off a brutal siege by the Islamic State. The jihadists have blitzed it since mid-September from the south, west, and east after taking over all the nearby towns, sending wave after wave of fighters for more than three months.

The Kurdish militia defending the city, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), have made progress in pushing back the Islamic State back in recent weeks, but it was still necessary for the YPG fighter driving to keep the headlights off so as not to draw attention to the vehicle. All across the city, hardened YPG fighters are still on guard, defending against new Islamic State attacks daily and pushing forward, block by block and house by house.

This market street was completely destroyed.

When VICE News arrived in late December, the YPG had effectively pushed the Islamic State outside the city center. One YPG commander said they controlled 75 percent of the city, but that appeared an over-estimation, and a sizeable portion is changing hands regularly. Fierce street battles have mostly given way to mortar and rocket attacks, as well as constant sniper fights.

A walk along the eastern front shows the scale of devastation from more than three months of siege, mortars, airstrikes, and close-quarter street fighting. Half the town now lies in ruins. Since the US, faced with the black flag of the Islamic State fluttering on the doorstep of Europe, began to lead airstrikes on Kobane in September, it has become the area most heavily bombed by the alliance in all of Syria.

Sheets are hung to block the vision of snipers.

The attention on Kobane has come into question. The city holds little strategic interest in Syria’s civil war. The Islamic State  already controls border crossings to the east and west, and appears to operate in a tacit détente with Turkey. Tactically, it holds minimal value for Kurdish forces, as it is far from the other Kurdish Cantons of Cizire and Efrin.

And yet, despite the lack of Western journalists inside Kobane, the siege has captured international media attention and become the prime focus of the coalition bombing campaign. According to Central Command data, 76 percent of all airstrikes in Syria had been focused on Kobane.

Kobane has also become an international symbol of resistance against the Islamic State. An under-armed Kurdish force, known for its secular principles and gender equality, fought to push off the better-equipped Islamic State, which bulldozed its way through Syria and Iraq with few losses. Meanwhile, the battle of Kobane made its way to the forefront of the propaganda battle on social media. Analysts theorized about what it would mean if the Islamic State could take the city — even in the face of coalition airstrikes — or, on the converse, if the YPG could succeed in pushing the militants back.

The fight is now mostly a game of angles. Sniper screens — big tarps, blankets, sheets, anything that could be used to block vision — hang in almost any open space within hundreds of yards of the frontline. Perwer Ali Muhammad, a high school teacher turned Kurdish journalist and guide after he elected to stay in Kobane when most of its residents fled north to the Turkish border in September, advised those with him to cling to the walls, to be wary of mortars and stray bullets even in areas hundreds of meters from the front.

“The frontline is almost safer, because the mortars come anywhere at any time,” he said. His home was recently damaged by a mortar, and he now stays in a house with several other local journalists.

The jihadists are said to be launching between 10 and 200 mortars a day.

YPG sources say that the Islamic State is launching between 10 and 200 mortars a day. Unexploded ordinance and shrapnel are everywhere, barely getting a second glance from locals, as are the remains of buildings blown out by explosions. On walks around town, Kurdish journalists point out where the businesses and houses of friends used to stand. Some of them haven’t been able to get to their homes in months; they are located within territory controlled by the Islamic State.

The neighborhoods on the eastern side of the town, where the frontlines are still heavily active, are eerily empty of all normal activity except for a few people making their way through the rubble, or a bulldozer clearing debris. If there are civilians left, they are hiding inside their apartments.

The ruined buildings are littered with the debris of abandoned lives.

YPG fighters, however, are everywhere. They materialize out of the shells of buildings, climbing through holes sledgehammered through walls or walking purposefully in small groups out of side doors. We spend hours following them, clambering over rubble, through apartments littered with debris of abandoned lives, stepping over mattresses, clothes, yearbook pictures, dresses, dishes, and family photos. We walk behind the huge blankets and tarps, sprinting and ducking when needed, traipsing in and around over blasted concrete.

Some fighters decide to accompany us and lead us through apartment complexes or streets turned into improvised bases, while others man checkpoints at roads blocked off with burnt out cars and trucks. There are sniper holes at some; they insist we glance through and take a look at Islamic State positions. Others give us chocolate bars, sunflower seeds, and cigarettes and insist we join them for tea, no matter the proximity of the jihadis.

YPJ fighters on the eastern front.

On the northern side of Kobane lies the border with Turkey. Tens of thousands of refugees have fled across it over the past few months, the biggest wave in mid-September when it appeared the town’s fall was a foregone conclusion. The Turkish government is wary of the YPG because of its affiliation with the Turkish Kurdish militant group the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a 30-year separatist insurgency. Turkey has done little to alleviate the siege and even arrested and imprisoned some Kurdish civilians fleeing the battle.

Video Shows Kurds Blasting Islamic State Targets with Gunfire, Rocket Launchers in Weekend Advance. Read more here.

Kurds in Syria and Turkey have in turn accused the Turkish government of condoning the Islamic State attack, even being complicit in it, for their lack of action, and for making it difficult for civilians, reinforcements, and aid to cross across the border despite a previous relatively lax control policy regarding jihadi groups.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled to the nearby Turkish border.

The YPG have received some help: airdrops of aid and weapons accompanied the start of US-led airstrikes, and the Turkish government agreed to allow in a small force of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga equipped with heavy artillery. Yet they are still underarmed against the Islamic State’s tanks, artillery, and copious mortars. Electricity, heating, medicine, food, water, and gas are in short supply. They have no radars, no bulletproof vests, and no night-vision goggles. They must be on guard across the town at all times, yet many appear relaxed. At one base, a female fighter — from the YPG’s Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) — jokes around with a toy snake, scaring her comrades as another one informs us that the Islamic State is located only 150 feet away.

YPG and YPJ fighters at a position 150 feet away from Islamic State fighters.

One YPG guide stops to point out graffiti — the names of three Islamic State fighters scrawled on a wall. Across a courtyard is a base formerly held by the group, leveled by an airstrike. In areas retaken from the extremists, the charred bodies of Islamic State fighters lay strewn about. Some have been burned by their fellow militants to avoid being identified, others by the aerial attacks. The stench of corpses wafts from rubble.

The airstrikes come mostly at night. Locals scream out “Obama!” whenever one shakes the ground. The YPG says they help, but more are needed. An officer who gives his name as Commander Bilnk said that the YPG are advancing, but without heavy weapons they can only move slowly. “If they (the US) coordinated with us very precisely on the ground, we could clear Kobane in a week,” he added.

Commander Bilnk says the YPG could clear Kobane with more coordinated air support.

Even so, morale is astonishingly high among the mostly young fighters. They are usually smiling when encountered, and display little fear or anxiety. Many have already stayed their ground when it seems like the Islamic State would overrun their positions; now, with the militants pushed back and losing more ground every day, their confidence is evident.

The standard talking points spouted by Kurdish fighting groups, especially within the YPG, have become particularly clichéd. Fighters typically won’t answer questions without the permission of their superiors, and when they receive permission they only speak in well-rehearsed phrases often repeated in every interview: “We fight for equality, we are not scared of IS, we will die for our land and our freedom, until the last drop of blood.”

In other situations, these words can sometimes ring hollow, but in Kobane, they are undoubtedly true.

Many of the fighters holding Kobane were born and raised in the city, and know every street, every alley. Other fighters are from Efrin, another Kurdish city in Syria, or Turkey. Some have joined the YPG specifically to defend their home; others have been fighting with the group — or with the PKK — for years, driven by ideology or their notion of Kurdish identity.

YPG and YPJ fighters pose for a photograph before going out on patrol.

At a building near the Turkish border, a young YPJ fighter said she used to be a geography student, but left her studies five months earlier. Her parents still think she is in Turkey. She was living in the Turkish city of Izmir and didn’t know how to speak Kurdish. She was “away from the culture” and suffered anti-Kurdish discrimination.

She began reading the words of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the PKK, and was heavily influenced by them, she said. Feeling the need to rediscover her identity, she decided to come to Kobane.

Bodies of Islamic State fighters lie around a position leveled in an airstrike.

Asked why she chose a place under attack from the Islamic State, rather than safer Kurdish towns in southern Turkey like Diyarbakir or Derik, the fighter said she came because her people needed her. “If need be, I will go to other places to fight,” she added.

Like many of the others, she insists that she doesn’t miss her family and no longer thinks about them. Her family is conservative and wanted her to lead a more traditional life, she said. One of the reasons she joined the YPJ is to fight “to get rid of masculine mentality.”

Zozan and Avashin were students before joining the fight against the jihadists.

Three stories above her, Zozan and Avashin crouch behind sandbags on a roof, clutching their rifles. A flock of pigeons flutters whenever a shot from a sniper cracks nearby. Both in their early 20s, they were students prior to the fighting — “normal girls,” they say.

They too think not of their loved ones but of how to protect “their” civilians, they insist. “They are our family now,” Avashin said. “Many journalists come, just taking pictures of women holding weapons, but we are holding weapons for our own rights, for rights of Kurds, for rights of women,” she added.

A YPG fighter moves through a hole in a bombed out building.

The fight for Kobane has had a silver lining for their people, the young women say. “Almost four years ago no one knew about Kurdish suffering. Now with the Islamic State attack, the whole world is paying attention to us,” Avashin said.

Many, however, have died. A Swedish journalist, one of the last to leave Kobane months earlier when it looked like the town was about to fall, shows the women a magazine that published some of his previous photographs. He is searching for a YPJ fighter he photographed, trying to find out if she is still alive. Avashin and Zozan flip through the images, pointing out everyone they know. Nearly all have been killed. It is hard to find anyone in Kobane that has not lost a family member during the Islamic State siege.

YPG fighters pick their way through a courtyard.

Vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, or VBIEDs, are of most concern to many of the YPG fighters on the frontlines. The Islamic State has sent dozens of the car bombs towards them, sometimes multiple vehicles at once. All the fighters can do is fire rounds at the car, hoping they hit the driver or the explosives.

A few weeks earlier, three car bombs had struck right near the Mursitpinar gate, the official crossing with Turkey. A massive crater lay next to a destroyed building where one had hit and a single bulldozer cleared rubble nearby. Kurds took the bombings as evidence that the Turkish border guards were helping the Islamic State, insisting there was no way that the cars could have come from anywhere but Turkey.

A Kurdish journalist runs through an open space, ducking to avoid sniper fire.

A few blocks away, an Islamic State VBIED leveled one of Kobane’s hospitals. The group regularly targets medical facilities, forcing doctors to keep moving their clinics and the main hospital is now operating underground. It consists of two rooms, one stacked with boxes of supplies, and another that contains nothing but a table with a stethoscope laid on it. This is the operating room.

“We need so much equipment and medicine,” said Manaf Kitkani, a pharmacist turned medic, as fighters filter in and out of the room. “This is not enough.”

Kitkani now finds himself serving a doctor’s role. The city currently has 10 doctors, two pharmacists, and three nurses. Some are able to go to Turkey for an occasional, brief rest. Kitkani’s family is there, but he elected to stay in Kobane, against some of his relatives’ wishes, because he felt an obligation to his town.

A YPG fighter on patrol.

Kitkani said that the only way to get more medicine in is with people who are smuggled across the border, carrying small amounts. There is no international aid effort in Kobane, and while many requests for humanitarian assistance have been made, most of its support comes only from Kurdish civilians and political parties in the Turkish border town of Suruc. Suruc itself is already stretched to capacity, with refugee tent camps dotted along the sides of its roads.

Inside Kobane, the familiar rhythms of town life have disappeared. There are no shops open, no heat, no power, and the winter cold and rain have only stretched what little resources are left even further. The YPG provides basic food and water to civilians, but even those staples are said to be running low.

In the familiar narrative of the Syrian war, everyone in Kobane now has a new role. Students turned fighters, bakers turned aid workers, teenagers turned transportation experts, gas and cigarette smugglers turned people traffickers. The entire town is geared toward the fight.

This YPG fighter said his brother was martyred in the fight against the Islamic State.

Mahmoud, a 36-year-old iron-worker turned frontline fighter, sat in a backroom of the first floor of an apartment complex, wood and mattresses propped up against open windows and holes in the wall. He repeated the familiar refrain of needing heavy weapons to clear out the Islamic State. His family is living in Turkey and he hasn’t seen them in months but said that in some moments, he no longer missed them.

He soon tired of questions about the war effort. “We’re normal human beings,” he said. “We don’t like clashes, we like peace. We’re not war lovers.”

He clutched his AK-47. “This weapon kills a human,” he said, holding up the gun. “We don’t want to use this thing.”


‘Kapitalizmden daha kötüsü de gelebilir’

Cizire Kantonu’nda on gün geçiren Antropolog, Aktivist David Graeber, söyleşinin ikinci bölümünde 50 yıl sonraya Rojava üzerinden bakıyor: “Kapitalizmin ardından gelebileceklerin daha iyisi üzerine düşünmekle mesulüz.”

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London School of Economics’te Profesör, Antropolog, Aktivist, Anarşist. David Graeber, 8 Ekim’de The Guardian gazetesine “Dünya Suriye’deki devrimci Kürtleri neden görmezden geliyor?” başlıklı bir yazı yazmış, IŞİD’e karşı verilen mücadelenin yanında Rojava’nın üç kantonundaki “tarihe geçecek demokratik deneye” dikkat çekmek istemişti. Graeber, aralık ayının başında ABD’den ve Avrupa’dan mevzuyla ilgili akademisyen ve öğrencilerden oluşan sekiz kişilik bir grupla Cizire Kantonu’nda on gün geçirdi, her şeyi yerinde gördü.
Dün başlayan söyleşimizde Graeber, Rojava’da yaşananın gerçekten devrim olduğuna dair tereddütlerin politik ve toplumsal gerekçelerine değiniyordu. “Kürdistan’da da insanların Judith Butler okuyabileceği akıllarına gelmiyor” diyerek bir tür oryantalizmden yakınıyordu. Diğer yandan egemen güçlerin artık asla hakiki devrimler olamayacağı ideolojisine zımni biçimde kendini kaptıran sola değiniyordu. Üç kantonda hayata geçirilmeye çalışılan modele dair eleştirilere cevap verdi ve şöyle bitirdi: “Gerçekten eşitlikçi ve demokratik bir toplumun olabilirliğini kanıtlarlarsa, bu deney halkların insanlığın kapasitesine dair fikrini dönüştürecek.”
Söyleşinin ikinci bölümünde biraz daha reel politikaya baktık, kapitalizmin istikbalinden konuştuk.

Bir tarafta hem kapitalizm hem bağımsızlık konularında ideolojik olarak başka bir yerde duran Irak Kürdistanı var. Rojava’da size umut verdiğini söylediğiniz, bambaşka bir modelden konuşuyoruz. Türkiye’deyse Kürtler hükümetle bir barış süreci yürütmeye çalışıyor. Siz kişisel olarak Kürdistanlıların geleceğini kısa ve uzun vadede nasıl görüyorsunuz?
Kim bilebilir… Şu an da durum devrimci güçler açısından beklenmeyecek derecede iyi görünüyor. Ağustosta Erbil ve başka kentlerin IŞİD saldırısından kurtarılması için PKK’nin yaptığı etkili müdahale sonrasında, Irak’taki Kürt Bölgesel Yönetimi Rojava sınırına kazdığı dev hendeklerden bile vazgeçti. Kürdistan Ulusal Kongresinden görüştüğüm bir kişi bunun yirmi yılda becerilemeyecek, çok büyük bir bilinç yükselmesine neden olduğunu söyledi. Gençler özellikle bölgedeki Peşmerge ortadan yok olurken PKK’li kadınların orada bulunmasından çok etkilenmişler. Ama tabii Kürt Bölgesel Yönetimi bölgesinde böylesi bir devrimin yakında gerçekleşebileceğini hayal etmek zor. Buna uluslararası güçler de müsaade etmez zaten.

Peki sizin bir cevabınız var mı: IŞİD Kobane’yi niye bu kadar çok istiyor?
Tabii kaybediyor görünmek istemeyeceklerdir. Taraftar bulma stratejileri esasen durdurulamaz bir canavar oldukları fikrine dayanıyor; daimi zaferleri de Allah’ın takdirini temsil iddialarının da kanıtı olacaktır onlara göre. Hele bir grup feminist tarafından yenilgiye uğramak aşağılanmanın zirvesi olur. Kobane’de savaştıkları müddetçe, medyanın iddialarını çürütebilecekler, hakikaten ilerlediklerini de iddia edebilecekler. Aksini kim ispat edebilir? Çekilmek yenilgiyi kabul etmek olur.

Tayyip Erdoğan’ın ve AKP hükümetinin Ortadoğu’da, Suriye’de ne yapmak istediğine dair sizin net bir cevabınız var mı?
Sadece tahminde bulunabilirim. Suriye’de tek tek Kürt ve Esad karşıtı bir politikadan tamamen Kürt karşıtı bir stratejiye geçmiş görünüyor. PKK çizgisinde, radikal demokrasiden ilham alan her teşebbüse saldırmak için sözde dindar faşistlerle defalarca ittifak yapmak istedi. Çok açık ki bizatihi IŞİD gibi, Erdoğan da Rojava’da hayata geçirilen yönetim modelini, muhtemelen bu hat üzerinde sağcı İslamcılığa tek gerçek alternatif ihtimali, ideolojik bir tehdit olarak görüyor. Bu yüzden de kökünü kazımak için her şeyi yapacaktır.

Şu anda Türkiye’de demokratik özerlik müzakere masasında çok net olarak durmuyorsa da, Kürt Siyasal Hareketi özellikle toplumsal düzeyde birtakım çalışmalar yürütüyor, ekonomik anlamda olası modeller ve işlerlikleri tartışılıyor. Ekonomi başlığından gidelim. Sınıfsal olarak ve kapitalizmin seviyesi bakımından Rojava ile Türkiye Kürdistanı’nı karşılaştırırsak, antikapitalist ya da tarif ettikleri şekliyle kapitalizmin minimize edildiği bir düzen için mücadelede ikisi arasında nasıl farklar var? Ya da ne olacağını öngörüyorsunuz?
İki ülkede de Kürtlerin mücadelesinin bariz biçimde antikapitalist olduğunu düşünüyorum. Bu başlangıç noktaları. Bir tür formül ortaya çıkarmayı başarmışlar: Devletten kurtulamadan kapitalizmden kurtulamazsın, patriyarkadan kurtulamadan da devletten kurtulamazsın. Yine de sınıfsal anlamda Rojavalıların işleri daha kolaydı çünkü ekonomisi ağırlıklı olarak tarıma dayalı böyle bir bölgenin gerçek burjuvazisi Baas rejimiyle birlikte düşüşe geçmişti. Kalkınmacı teknokrat sınıfın gücü ele geçirmemesini sağlamak için eğitim meselesine yoğunlaşmazlarsa uzun vadede sorun yaşayabilirler. Fakat bu süreçte toplumsal cinsiyet konularına daha aciliyetle yoğunlaşmaları çok anlaşılır geliyor. Türkiye’yi o kadar iyi bilmiyorum ama birçok meselenin Rojava’dan çok daha karmaşık olduğunu da sezebiliyorum.

Daha ekim ayında heyecanlı bir yazı yazmıştınız, gidip görmek bunu daha da artırmış. Bazen Rojava konusunda fazla iyimser, aşırı heyecanlı olmakla eleştiriliyorsunuz. Öyle misiniz ya da böyle diyenlerin görmedikleri ne?
Mizacen zaten iyimser biriyimdir, hep iyi bir vaadi olan durumları kollayıp çıkarmaya çalışırım. Sonuçta bu modelin başarılı olacağına, tökezlemeyeceğine dair bir garanti olduğunu sanmıyorum. Fakat herkes daha baştan devrimlerin imkansızlığından konuşmaya başlarsa, aktif destek vermekten kaçınırsa, hatta birçoklarının yaptığı gibi tersine tüm enerjilerini saldırmaya, Rojavalıların yalnızlaştırılmasına adarlarsa başarılı da olamayacaktır. Bazılarının göremediği, benim farkında olduğum bir şey varsa o da tarihin sona ermediği hakikati. Kapitalistler son 30-40 yılda insanları var olanın, kapitalizmin de değil, kapitalizmin bugün hasbelkader içinde yaşadığımız olağanüstü bir hale gelmiş, finansallaşmış, yarı feodal biçiminin yegane ekonomik sistem olduğuna ikna etmek için muazzam bir enerji harcadı. Buna aslında işleyen küresel bir kapitalist sistem yaratmak için sarf ettiklerinden daha fazla çaba gösterdiler. Sonuç olarak kimsenin başka bir şey tahayyül etme kabiliyeti kalmadığı noktada da sistem her tarafımızda çökmeye başladı. Bence şu aşikar ki 50 sene içinde, bildiğimiz kapitalizm formları, muhtemelen tüm formları bitmiş gitmiş olacak, yerine başka bir şey gelecek. Bu illa ki daha iyisi olmak zorunda değil. Kapitalizmden daha kötüsü de gelebilir. Bana öyle geliyor ki tam da bu yüzden entelektüeller ya da sadece düşünen canlılar olarak ardından gelebileceklerin daha iyisi üzerine düşünmekle mesulüz. Ve eğer gerçekten daha iyisini yaratmayı deneyen insanlar varsa, onlara yardım etmek de mesuliyetimizdir.


Cizire’de geçirdiğiniz on günü en çok nasıl bir sahneyle hatırlayacaksınız?
Çarpıcı fikirler de, görüntüler de o kadar çok ki… İnsanların görünüşleriyle söyledikleri arasındaki ilgisizlik diyeyim, çok hoşuma gitti. Örneğin birine rastlıyorsunuz, doktor, haşin ifadesiyle, deri ceketiyle biraz ürkütücü Suriyeli militarist bir havası var. Sonra bir konuşmaya başlıyorsunuz, anlatıyor: “Biz halk sağlığına en iyi yaklaşımın koruyucu hekimlik olduğunu düşünüyoruz. Hastalıkların büyük kısmı stresten kaynaklanıyor. Eğer stresi azaltırsak kalp krizi, diyabet, hatta kanser oranı düşecek. O yüzden nihai hedefimiz kentleri yüzde 70 yeşil alanlarla yeniden inşa etmek.” Bunlar çılgınca, çok parlak planlar. Ama tabii sonra başka bir doktorla konuşuyorsunuz, Türkiye’nin uyguladığı ambargo yüzünden en temel ilaçlara ve teçhizata ulaşamadıklarını anlatıyor. Sınır dışına kaçıramadıkları bütün diyaliz hastaları ölmüş. Hedefleriyle boğuştukları koşullar arasında uçurum var.
Bir de şu…  Ağrılıklı olarak bizim tercümanlığımızın yapan, ekonomi bakanının yardımcısı, Amina isimli bir kadındı. Bir ara ambargo yüzünden mağdur durumdaki Rojavalılara daha iyi hediyeler getiremediğimiz için özür diledik. Bize dedi ki: “Sonuçta hediye önemli değil. Biz kimsenin size çıkarıp veremeyeceği bir şeye sahibiz. Biz özgürüz. Siz değilsiniz. Keşke özgürlüğümüzden size de vermenin bir yolu olsaydı.”


David Graeber: Rojava’dan on yaş genç döndüm


David Graeber: Rojava’dan on yaş genç döndüm

Üç ay kadar önce dünyanın neden Rojava’daki demokratik modelle ilgilenmediği üzerine bir yazı yazan antropolog, aktivist David Graeber, Cizire kantonunda on gün geçirdi. Graeber’la tanık olduklarını, hayata geçirilmeye çalışılan özyönetim modelini neden “tarihi” bulduğunu konuştuk.


Şu anda London School of Economics’te profesör olan David Graeber, daha ziyade ekonomik ve sosyal boyutlarında yoğunlaşmış bir antropolog. Anarşizmi bir kimlik olarak taşımayı tercih etmediğinden kendisine “anarşist antropolog” denmesinden hazzetmiyor lakin anarşizm fikir ürettiği mühim konulardan. Kendisi aynı zamanda 2000’lerin başından beri “işgal” temalı toplumsal hareketlerin içinde fikren olduğu kadar fiziken yer alan bir aktivist. Occupy Wall Street hereketinin “Biz yüzde 99’uz” sloganıyla hatırlanmasında büyük pay kendisine ait. Tersine Devrimler (Everest Yayınları) ve Anarşist Bir Antropolojiden Parçalar (Boğaziçi Üni. Yayınları) adlı kitapları Türkçe’ye de çevrilmiş.
Graeber, bu yıl 8 Ekim’de The Guardian gazetesine “Dünya Suriye’deki devrimci Kürtleri neden görmezden geliyor?” başlıklı bir yazı yazdı. Lafa İspanya Cumhuriyeti’ni savunmak için 1937’de Enternasyonel Tugay gönüllüsü olan babasından giriyor, iki tarihi hadisenin farklılıklarını teslim ederek İspanyol devrimcileriyle Rojava’da savaşanlar arasında paralellik kuruyordu. Dünyanın dikkatini çekmeye çalıştığı asıl konuysa Suriyeli Kürtlerin sadece bağımsızlıklarını değil, üç kantonda özyönetimle “tarihe geçecek bir demokratik deneyi” de savunmaya çalıştıklarıydı.
Şöyle bitiriyordu yazısını: “Eğer bugün Franco’nun yalandan dindar, katliamcı Falanjistlerine benzer birleri varsa o IŞİD değil de kimdir? Eğer bugün İspanya’nın özgür kadınlarına benzer birileri varsa Kobanê’de barikatları savunan cesur kadınlar değil de kimdir? Dünya kamuoyu, bu kez en vahimi de uluslararası sol, tarihin tekerrürüne izin vererek bu suça ortak mı olacak?”
David Graeber, bu ayın başında ABD’den ve Avrupa’dan konuya yakın akademisyen ve öğrencilerden oluşan sekiz kişilik bir grupla Cizire kantonunda on gün geçirdi. Derik’te, Rimelan’da, Amude’de, Quamişlo’da, Serekaniye’de iki yıldır hayata geçirilmeye çalışılan demokratik özerklik modelini ve pratikleri inceledi, bir sürü soru sordu, insanları dinledi. Bu arada ekiptekilerden biri de Abdullah Öcalan’ın sıkça referans verdiği Murray Bookchin’in uzun dönem aynı mevzularda çalışma ve ayrıca hayat arkadaşı olan, Kürt hareketini de yakından takip eden Janet Beihl’di.
Graeber, Cizire’den büyük bir heyecanla döndü, tanık olduklarını büyük bir heyecanla anlattı.

Ekim ayında The Guardian gazetesine yazdığınız dünyanın neden Suriyeli Kürtlerin “demokratik deneyini” görmezden geldiğini soran yazınız Türkiye’de de belli çevrelerde çok konuşulmuştu. Bu deneyi yakından gözlediğiniz on gün bunun cevabını verdi mi, yoksa yeni sorularla mı döndünüz?
Rojava’da yaşananın gerçekten devrim olduğuna dair içinde kuşku bulunan ya da her şeyin sadece bir vitrin düzenlemesi olduğunu düşünen birinin gidip görmesinin tüm bu fikirleri ilelebet unutturacağını söyleyebilirim. Hâlâ böyle konuşan insanlar var: Bu sadece PKK’nin bir cephesi, PKK de radikal demokrasiyi benimsemiş numarası yapan Stalinist otoriter bir örgüt… Hayır. Tamamen samimiler. Bu da gerçek bir devrim. Fakat bir açıdan gerçek mesele de bu. Büyük güçler kendilerini artık asla hakiki devrimler olamayacağı ideolojisine adamış durumdalar. Aynı esnada solda duran birçokları, hatta radikal sol da üstü kapalı biçimde aynı çıkarıma varan bir politikayı benimsemiş görünüyor; hâlâ yüzeysel devrimci bir patırtı çıkarıyor olsalar dahi böyle. Seçtikleri o bir çeşit bağnaz “anti-emperyalist” fikrî çerçeve, kayda değer oyuncuların hükümetler ile kapitalistler, üzerine konuşmayı hak eden yegane oyunun da bu olduğunu farz ediyor. Mütemadiyen bir savaş sürdürdüğünüz, hayali kötü adamlar yarattığınız, petrolü ve diğer kaynakları ele geçirdiğiniz, hamilik ağlarının inşa edildiği bir oyun bu; şu an buralardaki tek oyun. Rojava’daki insanlar “Biz bu oyunu oynamak istemiyoruz” diyorlar, “Biz yenisini yaratmak istiyoruz.” Çok kişi bunu kafa karıştırıcı ve rahatsız edici bulduğundan tüm bunların gerçekten yaşanmadığına, bu insanların da kandırılmış ya da düzenbaz ya da naif olduğuna inanmayı tercih ediyor.

O yazı çıktıktan sonra geçen zamanda farklı politik hareketlerden Rojava’yla dayanışanlar oldu. Ana akım dünya medyasında heyecanla yazılmış genişçe haberler çıktı. Ve tabii Rojava’nın politik kabulü bir nebze daha arttı. Tüm bunlar o tarihten beri önemli değişikliklerse de “demokratik özerklik” deneyinin hâlâ yeterince konuşulduğunu düşünüyor musunuz? Var olan alakada “Çağımızın belası IŞİD’e karşı savaşan cesur insanlar” fikri ne kadar ağır basıyor sizce?
Batı’da bu kadar çok insanın örneğin silahlı feminist birlikleri görüp de bunun arkasında yatan fikir üzerine asla düşünmeyişini çok manidar buluyorum. Bir şekilde olmuş zannediyorlar. “Galiba bir Kürt geleneği” diyorlar. Bu elbette ki bir miktar oryantalizm içeriyor ya da basit ırkçılık. Kürdistan’da da insanların Judith Butler okuyabileceği akıllarına gelmiyor. En iyi ihtimalle “Demokraside ve kadın haklarında Batı standartlarına gelmeye çalışıyorlar. Acaba bunu gerçekten istiyorlar mı yoksa yabancılar beğeniyor diye mi yapıyorlar?” diyorlar. Tüm bunları “Batı standartları” denilenin ötesinde bir yere taşıma ihtimallerini, Batı’nın sadece sahip olma iddiasındaki kimi değerlerine Kürtlerin samimiyetle inanabileceklerini düşünemiyorlar.

Rojava’da şahit olduğunuz kadarıyla demokratik özerklik pratiğinde sizi en çok etkileyen ne oldu?
Çok fazla etkileyen şey vardı. Bir kere aynı politik güçler tarafından oluşturulmuş ikili bir iktidar sistemini dünyanın başka bir yerinde duyduğumu sanmıyorum. Demokratik özyönetimde aslında meclis, bakan vesaire gibi devletlere mahsus unsurlar ve tuzaklar mevcut fakat tüm bunlar baskıcı bir iktidar alanı yaratmamak için de özenle ayrılmış. Diğer tarafta aşağıdan yukarı doğru demokratik kurumsallaşmayı sağlayan TEV-DEM var. Şu kritik bir nokta ki güvenlik güçleri nihai olarak yukarıdan aşağı doğru örgütlenen yapıya değil, aşağıdan yukarı doğru inşa edilmiş demokratik yapılara hesap veriyor. İlk ziyaret ettiğimiz yerlerden biri Asayiş Akademisi oldu. Şiddetsiz çatışma çözümü ve feminist teori kursları almadan bir kişinin silaha dokunması mümkün değil. Eşbaşkanlar bize tüm halka altışar aylık asayiş eğitimi vermek istediklerini ve son kertede polis gücünü tamamen ortadan kaldırmayı hedeflediklerini anlattı örneğin.
Başta sizin de andığınız solda Rojava’ya dair “bağnaz anti-emperyalist” çerçeve içinde olması gerekmiyor; Batı’nın, emperyalizmin bugün verdiği desteği Suriyeli Kürtlere bir gün ödeteceği fikrine ne diyorsunuz? Ulus-devlet fikrine yanaşmayan, antikapitalist bu model o taraftan nasıl görünüyor? Şu an hem de bizzat kendilerinin yarattığı düşmana karşı canı gönülden savaşan Kürtlerin, savaş koşullarında bir miktar görmezden gelinebilecek bir deney mi?
ABD’nin ve Avrupa’nın bu devrimi yıkmak izin ellerinden geleni artlarına koymayacağı kesinlikle doğru. Bunu artık konuşmaya bile gerek yok. Orada görüştüğüm herkes de bunun bilincinde. Fakat bunu söylerken ABD ya da diyelim Fransa gibi Avro-Amerikan güçlerle, Türkiye, İran ya da Suudi Arabistan gibi bölgesel güçler arasında da öyle derin bir ayrım da yapmıyorlar. Hepsini, en iyi ihtimalle onlara katlanmaya ikna edilebilecek ama asla aynı tarafta yer alınamayacak, aynı derecede kapitalist, devletçi ve bu yüzden devrim karşıtı sayıyorlar. Bir de çok daha karmaşık olan, uluslararası toplum dediğimiz, Birleşmiş Milletler, Uluslararası Para Fonu gibi kurum ve kuruluşlar, sivil toplum örgütleri, insan hakları örgütleri meselesi var. Bunların hepsi aslında devletçi bir yapıyı, kanun yapan ve kanunların uygulanmasında zorlayıcılık tekeli bulunan hükümet anlayışını kabul eden küresel sistemin parçası. Cizire’de sadece bir havaalanı var ve o da Suriye hükümetinin kontrolü altında. İsteseler anında alabileceklerini söylüyorlar. Bunu yapmamalarının bir sebebi, devlet olmayan bir yapı bir havaalanını nasıl işletir? Havaalanlarında yaptığınız her şey, bir devletin yapacağı farz edilen uluslararası düzenlemelerin konusu.

Dünyada halkların belli nedenlerden nefes alamadığı günlerde, Rojava seyahatiniz size ilham verdi mi? Halkların nefesini açacak ilaç ne?
Fevkaladeydi. Bütün hayatım tam da böyle şeyleri uzak bir gelecekte nasıl beceririz diye düşünmekle geçti ve birçok kişi bunu hayal ettiğim için bana deli gözüyle bakıyordu. İşte bu insanlar şu an yapıyorlar. Gerçekten eşitlikçi ve demokratik bir toplumun olabilirliğini kanıtlarlarsa, bu deney halkların insanlığın kapasitesine dair fikrini dönüştürecek. Şahsen ben sadece 10 gün geçirerek Rojava’dan 10 yaş genç döndüm.


Rojava’daki demokratik özerklik deneyine yönelik eleştirileri size sorayım. “Savaş koşulları olmasaydı böyle bir şey hayata geçemezdi” deniyor örneğin.
Ağır savaş koşullarıyla yüzleşen politik hareketlerin büyük kısmı, tam da bu koşullarda ölüm cezasını kaldırmaz, gizli emniyet teşkilatını lağvetmez, ordularını demokratize etmezdi diye düşünüyorum. Askeri birlikler yöneticilerini kendileri seçiyor şu anda.

Türkiye’de hükümete yakın cenahın sık kullandığı bir argüman da “PKK ve PYD çizgisinin dayattığı bu model o toprakların tüm halkları tarafından benimsenmiş değil. O çok dilli, kültürlü, inançlı yapı da bir tür vitrin.”
Cizire kantonunun eşbaşkanlarından biri bir Arap, hatta bölgenin önemli aşiretlerinden birinin lideri. Onun sadece göstermelik bir figür olduğunu düşünebilirsiniz. Bu anlamda bütün hükümet öyle gelebilir. Fakat asıl aşağıdan yukarı örgütlenmelere bakarsanız, katılımcı olanlar kesinlikle sadece Kürtler değil. Bana orada söylenene göre asıl sorun, 1950’li ve 60’lı yıllarda Baas rejiminin uluslararası bir politikanın parçası olarak Kürtleri asimile ve marjinalize etmek için Suriye’nin diğer bölgelerinden getirilenlerle yarattığı kimi Arap Kuşağı yerleşimleri. Anlattıklarına göre bu grupların bir kısmı devrime hiç de dostça yaklaşmıyor. Fakat kuşaklardır orada olan Araplar ya da Asuriler, Kırgızlar, Çeçenler ve daha birçokları gayet coşkulular. Konuştuğumuz Asuriler, rejimle uzun süren çok zor bir ilişkinin ardından, nihayet dini ve kültürel özerkliklerini özgürce yaşayabileceklerini hissettiklerini söyledi. Muhtemelen en zorlu mesele kadın özgürlüğü. PYD ve TEV-DEM bunu devrimin kesinlikle en merkezi fikri olarak görüyor. Fakat aynı zamanda bunun temel dini kaidelere uymadığını düşünen Arap topluluklarla daha geniş çaplı ittifaklar kurmakta sorun yaşıyorlar. Örneğin Süryanilerin kendi kadın örgütlenmesi var ama Arapların yok. Toplumsal cinsiyet meseleleri etrafında örgütlenmek ya da feminist seminerler almak isteyen Arap kadınları bunu Asurilerle, hatta Kürtlerle birlikte yapmak zorunda.

Yarın: Yeni Ortadoğu, Kürdistanların geleceği ve 50 sene sonra kapitalizm…

Salih Muslim: ISIS-Turkey relations should be investigated


Salih Muslim: ISIS-Turkey relations should be investigated

Democratic Union Party (PYD) Co-President Salih Muslim who spoke to ANF reacted angrily to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s comment that Turkey did not support ISIS, proposing that an independent international commission be set up to carry out an inquiry.

Defence line from Tel Kocher to Afrin

What is the current situation in the cantons of Rojava? Is there still a threat of attack?

There is war and struggle in Rojava. While military defence against attacks is continuing efforts are also being made to establish a system, which is gradually coming into being. All the institutions and people are involved in this system. The defence of this unique system is being undertaken by the people of Rojava from Tel Kocher to Afrin.

We know that before the Kobanê resistance there were circles that were opposed to you and did not accept your system. Has this changed?

Important cities like Mosul and Raqqa did not hold out 24 hours against But a small city like Kobanê has been resisting for 3 months. The whole world has seen this. This is down to organisation. If we had not been organised we couldn’t have resisted. This has undoubtedly changed many people’s minds.

Can people who are not PYD supporters take their place in the system?

The government in Rojava is not PYD or TEV-DEM. It is the people who are resolving their own problems. There is not a classic system of authority, this needs to be understood. The circles you mention have offices and associations in many towns, particularly in Qamişlo. Nobody prevents them carrying out their activities. Everyone is free to carry out their democratic activities. Let everyone struggle for the freedom of Rojava with their own ideas.

Following the halting of ISIS in Kobanê what changes have occurred in the region?

ISIS thought it could capture the whole region, but it was mistaken. Regional states and forces also calculated this would happen. But it hasn’t worked out like that. Even the US was fooled. Until a few months ago they didn’t want to speak to us. However, now they have realised the threat posed worldwide by ISIS.

A commission of inquiry should be set up

Which forces do you think are behind ISIS?

US Deputy President Joe Biden made this abundantly clear. The whole world knows who is behind them.

Recently ISIS launched an attack on Kobanê from Turkey. In the subsequent debate Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said: “No one can say we support ISIS”. How do you evaluate this?

We claim Turkey is supporting ISIS. We suspect this. If Ahmet Davutoğlu is right and is so sure, we propose that an independent international commission be set up to investigate what has gone on.

You are calling for a commission to be established?

Yes, it should come to Turkey, to Rojava and carry out an enquiry in the border areas. Then it will emerge who is and who isn’t supporting ISIS, and the debate will stop.

How are your relations with the opposition within Syria?

They previously carried our propaganda against us. Some circles oppose us, saying we have a relationship with the PKK, and others clasim we collaborate with the regime. For those reasons they didn’t want to associate with us in international forums. But Kobanê has demonstrated who is a terrorist and who is fighting against terrorism. Both Western countries and forces in the Middle East have changed their stance as they have realised we are a serious actor in the Middle East.

In 2015 we will develop Kurdish diplomacy

Weren’t the Kurds seen as an actor previously?

International forces previously spoke to the Kurds through states such as Turkey, Iran and Iraq, but with Kobanê the Kurds began to be spoken to directly. For instance, it is because of Kobanê that states such as America, the UK and France have accepted us at a high level. This came about as a result of the struggle being waged by the Kurds in Kobanê. For three months the hearts of 40 million Kurds have been beating for Kobanê. Hence, hundreds of thousands of people all over the world came onto the streets for Kobanê. This opened many doors.

How will this assist Rojava diplomacy in 2015. What initiatives are you thinking of taking?

As a movement we are new to diplomacy and international relations. Therefore we have shortcomings. We could have achieved a lot more if we had had the cadre and organisation. I therefore take this opportunity to call on young people in academic circles in different countries to make contact with us, as we cannot go everywhere.

But despite this we have made a good start, and in 2015 we are expecting to achieve significant results in diplomacy. We do not expect ISIS and the chaotic situation in the Middle East to end soon. We are a significant force in the region, despite our shortcomings. We have proved this. Every day we receive applications from dozens of delegations wanting to visit Rojava, as we are establishing a freedom-based system in the Middle East with women playing a prominent role. Hence the interest.

At the Kurdish conference in the European Parliament you said that you would take an initiative for 1 November to be declared an international day against terrorism and in solidarity with Kobanê. Have you taken any steps?

We have announced this twice. We will continue our efforts to have this taken up by international bodies such as the UN. We decided this as a party and will wage a struggle for it.


Is the Middle East’s newest country a territory called “Rojava”? Out of the chaos of Syria’s civil war, mainly Kurdish leftists have forged a radical, egalitarian, multi-ethnic mini-state run on communal lines. But with ISIS Jihadists attacking them at every opportunity – especially around the beleaguered city of Kobane, how long can this idealistic social experiment last? Our World has gained exclusive access to Rojava, from the frontlines, to the politicians and refugee camps.

BBC: World News

A Revolution of Life – Interview with Saleh Muslim

On Sunday November 10 Saleh Muslim Mohamed, co-president of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) representing the independent communities of Rojava (Syrian-Kurdistan) and its armed wings, the People’s Defense Unit (YPG) and Women’s Defense Unity (YPJ), visited the Netherlands. Muslim spoke about the fight of Rojava against the Islamic State (ISIS) and the development of democratic autonomy during the Rojava revolution. Artist Jonas Staal interviewed him afterwards.

Jonas Staal: In your lecture today you made clear that the battle in Rojava is not just about fighting against the Islamic State (ISIS), it is also a fight for a specific political idea: the model of democratic autonomy. What exactly is this model of democratic autonomy that lies at the heart of the Rojava revolution?

Saleh Muslim: The reason we are under attack is because of the democratic model we are establishing in our area. Many local forces and governments do not like to see these alternative democratic models being developed in Rojava. They are afraid of our system. We have created, in the middle of the civil war in Syria, three independent cantons in the Rojava region that function by democratic, autonomous rule. Together with the ethnic and religious minorities of the region – Arabs, Turkmen, Assyrians, Armenians, Christians, Kurds – we have written a collective political structure for these autonomous cantons: our social contract. We have established a people’s council including 101 representatives from all cooperatives, committees and assembly’s running each of our cantons. And we established a model of co-presidency – each political entity always has both a female and a male president – and a quota of 40% gender representation in order to enforce gender equality throughout all forms of public life and political representation. We have, in essence, developed a democracy without the state. That is a unique alternative in a region plagued by the internally conflicted Free Syrian Army, the Assad regime and the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Another way of referring to this concept of democratic confederalism or democratic autonomy is radical democracy: to mobilize people to organize themselves and to defend themselves by means of peoples armies like the Peoples Defense Unit (YPG) and Women’s Defense Unit (YPJ). We are practicing this model of self-rule and self-organization without the state as we speak. Other people will speak of self-rule in theory, but for us, this search for self-rule is our daily revolution. Women, man, all strands of our society are now organized. The reason why Kobanê still stands is because we have built these structures.

JS: In your lecture the words “democracy,” “freedom” and “humanity” came by very often. Could you explain what you regard as the fundamental difference between capitalist-democracy and what you have just described as democratic autonomy?

SM: Everyone knows how capitalist democracy plays for the votes; it is a play of elections. In many places parliamentary elections are just about propaganda, only addressing the direct self-interest of a voter. Democratic autonomy is about the long term. It is about people understanding and exercising their rights. To get society to become politicized: that is the core of building democratic autonomy. In Europe you will find a society that is not politicized. Political parties are only about persuasion and individual benefits, not about actual emancipation and politicization. Real democracy is based on a politicized society. If you now go to Kobanê and you meet the fighters of the YPG and the YPJ you will find that they know exactly why they are fighting and what they are fighting for. They are not there for money or interests. They are there for elementary values, which they practice at the same time. There is no difference between what they do and what they represent.

JS: So how does one politicize a society to that level of political consciousness?

SM: You have to educate, twenty-four hours a day, to learn how to discuss, to learn how to decide collectively. You have to reject the idea that you have to wait for some leader to come and tell the people what to do, and instead learn to exercise self-rule as a collective practice. In dealing with daily matters that concern us all: these have to be explained, criticized and shared collectively. From the geopolitics of the region to basic humanitarian values, these matters are discussed communally. There has to be collective education so we know who we are, why we are facing certain enemies and what it is we are fighting for.

JS: In a community that is at war and facing humanitarian crisis, who is the educator?

SM: The peoples themselves educate each other. When you put ten people together and ask them for a solution to a problem or propose them a question, they collectively look for an answer. I believe in this way they will find the right one. This collective discussion will make them politicized.

JS: What you are describing as the heart of democratic autonomy is in essence the model of the assembly.

SM: Yes, we have assemblies, committees; we have every possible structure to exercise self-rule throughout all strands of our society.

JS: What do you consider the conditions for such a democratic experiment to be able to take place?

SM: It is a long term process. I myself have been involved for decades in this movement, in this fight – I have been in jail, I have been tortured. So the people of my community also know why I do what I do. I am not there to collect money or to benefit personally. The reason for the Syrian government at the time to capture and torture me was that I was educating the people. And I am just one person; so many friends like me have gone through the same. Many have become martyrs as they died as a result of the torture of the regime. Democratic autonomy is not an idea to be realized in a day; it is an approach, a process that takes explaining, education: it’s a revolution that takes all of our lives.

JS: There are many students, intellectuals and artists who are looking to Rojava, who are looking to Kobanê, and who recognize that the promise of stateless internationalism in a way has found its way back in our time. What do you say to these people that are not in Rojava, but that see its revolution as a horizon. What can they do?

SM: Well, go to Kobanê. Meet the people and listen to them, understand how they have brought their political model about. Speak to the YPG, the YPJ and learn what they are doing; ask them, meet their society. In the near future the conditions will allow you to go, and you can learn about the model of democratic autonomy that was defended in the worst imaginable conditions, with threat to life, with a lack of food and water. Go and speak to the people and you will understand how and why they did it. And what our society looks like as a result of it.

JS: Do you believe that democratic autonomy could be a model enacted on a global level?

SM: I believe that the democratic administration that we have established is one that everyone feels they are sharing in, so yes, that is a model to the world. There were many prejudices about our revolution, but when people from outside visited and sat down with our communities they started to believe that democratic autonomy was the right thing: we had people joining our revolution even from Damascus. Everyone can come and see for themselves that our revolution is being fought and realized every day. It is a revolution of life, and as such, our struggle is a struggle for humanity.

Here the social contract of Rojava as mentioned in the interview: http://civiroglu.net/the-constitution-of-the-rojava-cantons/

Turkey and US’ Syria Policy

Whose side is Turkey on?

Patrick Cockburn

London Review Books Oct 24, 2014


Over the summer Isis – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – defeated the Iraqi army, the Syrian army, the Syrian rebels and the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga; it established a state stretching from Baghdad to Aleppo and from Syria’s northern border to the deserts of Iraq in the south. Ethnic and religious groups of which the world had barely heard – including the Yazidis of Sinjar and the Chaldean Christians of Mosul – became victims of Isis cruelty and sectarian bigotry. In September, Isis turned its attention to the two and a half million Syrian Kurds who had gained de facto autonomy in three cantons just south of the Turkish border. One of these cantons, centred on the town of Kobani, became the target of a determined assault. By 6 October, Isis fighters had fought their way into the centre of the town. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan predicted that its fall was imminent; John Kerry spoke of the ‘tragedy’ of Kobani, but claimed – implausibly – that its capture wouldn’t be of great significance. A well-known Kurdish fighter, Arin Mirkan, blew herself up as the Isis fighters advanced: it looked like a sign of despair and impending defeat.

In attacking Kobani, the Isis leadership wanted to prove that it could still defeat its enemies despite the US airstrikes against it, which began in Iraq on 8 August and were extended to Syria on 23 September. As they poured into Kobani Isis fighters chanted: ‘The Islamic State remains, the Islamic State expands.’ In the past, Isis has chosen – a tactical decision – to abandon battles it didn’t think it was going to win. But the five-week battle for Kobani had gone on too long and been too well publicised for its militants to withdraw without loss of prestige. The appeal of the Islamic State to Sunnis in Syria, Iraq and across the world derives from a sense that its victories are God-given and inevitable, so any failure damages its claim to divine support.

But the inevitable Isis victory at Kobani didn’t happen. On 19 October, in a reversal of previous policy, US aircraft dropped arms, ammunition and medicine to the town’s defenders. Under American pressure, Turkey announced on the same day that it would allow Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga safe passage from northern Iraq to Kobani; Kurdish fighters have now recaptured part of the town. Washington had realised that, given Obama’s rhetoric about his plan ‘to degrade and destroy’ Isis, and with congressional elections only a month away, it couldn’t afford to allow the militants yet another victory. And this particular victory would in all likelihood have been followed by a massacre of surviving Kurds in front of the TV cameras assembled on the Turkish side of the border. When the siege began, US air support for the defenders of Kobani had been desultory; for fear of offending Turkey the US air force had avoided liaising with Kurdish fighters on the ground. By the middle of October the policy had changed, and the Kurds started giving detailed targeting information to the Americans, enabling them to destroy Isis tanks and artillery. Previously, Isis commanders had been skilful in hiding their equipment and dispersing their men. In the air campaign so far, only 632 out of 6600 missions have resulted in actual attacks. But as they sought to storm Kobani, Isis leaders had to concentrate their forces in identifiable positions and became vulnerable. In one 48-hour period there were nearly forty US airstrikes, some only fifty yards from the Kurdish front line.

It wasn’t US air support alone that made the difference. In Kobani, for the first time, Isis was fighting an enemy – the People’s Defence Units (YPG) and its political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) – that in important respects resembled itself. The PYD is the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which since 1984 has been fighting for self-rule for the 15 million Turkish Kurds. Like Isis, the PKK combines fanatical ideological commitment with military expertise and experience gained in long years of guerrilla war. Marxist-Leninist in its original ideology, the PKK is run from the top and seeks to monopolise power within the Kurdish community, whether in Turkey or Syria. The party’s imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan, the object of a powerful personality cult, issues instructions from his Turkish prison on an island in the Sea of Marmara. The PKK’s military leadership operates from a stronghold in the Qandil Mountain in northern Iraq, one of the great natural fortresses of the world. Most of its fighters, estimated to number seven thousand, withdrew from Turkey under the terms of a ceasefire in 2013, and today move from camp to camp in the deep gorges and valleys of the Qandil. They are highly disciplined and intensely dedicated to the cause of Kurdish nationalism: this has enabled them to wage a war for three decades against the enormous Turkish army, always undeterred despite the devastating losses they have suffered. The PKK, like Isis, emphasises martyrdom: fallen fighters are buried in carefully tended cemeteries full of rose bushes high in the mountains, with elaborate tombstones over the graves. Pictures of Ocalan are everywhere: six or seven years ago, I visited a hamlet in Qandil occupied by the PKK; overlooking it was an enormous picture of Ocalan picked out in coloured stones on the side of a nearby mountain. It’s one of the few guerrilla bases that can be seen from space.

Syria and Iraq are full of armies and militias that don’t fight anybody who can shoot back, but the PKK and its Syrian affiliates, the PYD and YPG, are different. Often criticised by other Kurds as Stalinist and undemocratic, they at least have the capacity to fight for their own communities. The Islamic State’s string of victories against superior forces earlier this year came about because it was fighting soldiers, such as those in the Iraqi army, who are low in morale and poorly supplied with weapons, ammunition and food, thanks to corrupt and incompetent commanders, many of whom are liable to flee. When a few thousand Isis fighters invaded Mosul in June they were in theory facing sixty thousand Iraqi soldiers and police. But the real figure was probably only a third of that: the rest were either just names on paper, with the officers pocketing the salaries; or they did exist but were handing over half their pay to their commanders in return for never going near an army barracks. Not much has improved in the four months since the fall of Mosul on 9 June. According to an Iraqi politician, a recent official inspection of an Iraqi armoured division ‘that was meant to have 120 tanks and 10,000 soldiers, revealed that it had 68 tanks and just 2000 soldiers’. The Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga – literally ‘those who confront death’ – aren’t immensely effective either. They are often regarded as better soldiers than the soldiers in the Iraqi army, but their reputation was won thirty years ago when they were fighting Saddam; they have not done much fighting since, except in the Kurdish civil wars. Even before they were routed by Isis in Sinjar in August, a close observer of the peshmerga referred to them derisively as ‘pêche melba’; they were, he said, ‘only good for mountain ambushes’.

The Islamic State’s success has been helped not just by its enemies’ incompetence but also by the divisions evident between them. John Kerry boasts of having put together a coalition of sixty countries all pledged to oppose Isis, but from the beginning it was clear that many important members weren’t too concerned about the Isis threat. When the bombing of Syria began in September, Obama announced with pride that Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Turkey were all joining the US as military partners against Isis. But, as the Americans knew, these were all Sunni states which had played a central role in fostering the jihadis in Syria and Iraq. This was a political problem for the US, as Joe Biden revealed to the embarrassment of the administration in a talk at Harvard on 2 October. He said that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE had promoted ‘a proxy Sunni-Shia war’ in Syria and ‘poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad – except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaida and the extremist element of jihadis coming from other parts of the world’. He admitted that the moderate Syrian rebels, supposedly central to US policy in Syria, were a negligible military force. Biden later apologised for his words, but what he had said was demonstrably true and reflects what the administration in Washington really believes. Though they expressed outrage at Biden’s frankness, America’s Sunni allies swiftly confirmed the limits of their co-operation. Prince al-Waleed bin Talal al-Saud, a business magnate and member of the Saudi royal family, said: ‘Saudi Arabia will not be involved directly in fighting Isis in Iraq or Syria, because this does not really affect our country explicitly.’ In Turkey, Erdoğan said that so far as he was concerned the PKK was just as bad as Isis.

Excluded from this bizarre coalition were almost all those actually fighting Isis, including Iran, the Syrian army, the Syrian Kurds and the Shia militias in Iraq. This mess has been much to the advantage of the Islamic State, as illustrated by an incident in northern Iraq in early August when Obama sent US special forces to Mount Sinjar to monitor the danger to the thousands of Yazidis trapped there. Ethnically Kurdish but with their own non-Islamic religion, the Yazidis had fled their towns and cities to escape massacre and enslavement by Isis. The US soldiers arrived by helicopter and were efficiently guarded and shown around by uniformed Kurdish militiamen. But soon afterwards the Yazidis – who had been hoping to be rescued or at least helped by the Americans – were horrified to see the US soldiers hurriedly climb back into their helicopter and fly away. The reason for their swift departure, it was revealed later in Washington, was that the officer in charge of the US detachment had spoken to his Kurdish guards and discovered that they weren’t the US-friendly peshmerga of the Kurdistan Regional Government but PKK fighters – still listed as ‘terrorists’ by the US, despite the central role they have played in helping the Yazidis and driving back Isis. It was only when Kobani was on the verge of falling that Washington accepted it had no choice but to co-operate with the PYD: it was, after all, practically the only effective force still fighting Isis on the ground.

And then there was the Turkish problem. US planes attacking Isis forces in Kobani had to fly 1200 miles from their bases in the Gulf because Turkey wouldn’t allow the use of its airbase at Incirlik, just a hundred miles from Kobani. By not preventing reinforcements, weapons and ammunition from reaching Isis in Kobani, Ankara was showing that it would prefer Isis to hold the town: anything was better than the PYD. Turkey’s position had been clear since July 2012, when the Syrian army, under pressure from rebels elsewhere, pulled out of the main Kurdish areas. The Syrian Kurds, long persecuted by Damascus and politically marginal, suddenly won de facto autonomy under increasing PKK authority. Living mostly along the border with Turkey, a strategically important area to Isis, the Kurds unexpectedly became players in the struggle for power in a disintegrating Syria. This was an unwelcome development for the Turks. The dominant political and military organisations of the Syrian Kurds were branches of the PKK and obeyed instructions from Ocalan and the military leadership in Qandil. The PKK insurgents, who had fought for so long for some form of self-rule in Turkey, now ruled a quasi-state in Syria centred on the cities of Qamishli, Kobani and Afrin. Much of the Syrian border region was likely to remain in Kurdish hands, since the Syrian government and its opponents were both too weak to do anything about it. Ankara may not be the master chess player collaborating with Isis to break Kurdish power, as conspiracy theorists believe, but it saw the advantage to itself of allowing Isis to weaken the Syrian Kurds. It was never a very far-sighted policy: if Isis succeeded in taking Kobani, and thus humiliating the US, the Americans’ supposed ally Turkey would be seen as partly responsible, after sealing off the town. In the event, the Turkish change of course was embarrassingly speedy. Within hours of Erdoğan saying that Turkey wouldn’t help the PYD terrorists, permission was being given for Iraqi Kurds to reinforce the PYD fighters at Kobani.

Turkey’s volte face was the latest in a series of miscalculations it had made about developments in Syria since the first uprising against Assad in 2011. Erdoğan’s government could have held the balance of power between Assad and his opponents, but instead convinced itself that Assad – like Gaddafi in Libya – would inevitably be overthrown. When this failed to happen, Ankara gave its support to jihadi groups financed by the Gulf monarchies: these included al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, and Isis. Turkey played much the same role in supporting the jihadis in Syria as Pakistan had done supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. The estimated 12,000 foreign jihadis fighting in Syria, over which there is so much apprehension in Europe and the US, almost all entered via what became known as ‘the jihadis’ highway’, using Turkish border crossing points while the guards looked the other way. In the second half of 2013, as the US put pressure on Turkey, these routes became harder to access but Isis militants still cross the frontier without too much difficulty. The exact nature of the relationship between the Turkish intelligence services and Isis and al-Nusra remains cloudy but there is strong evidence for a degree of collaboration. When Syrian rebels led by al-Nusra captured the Armenian town of Kassab in Syrian government-held territory early this year, it seemed that the Turks had allowed them to operate from inside Turkish territory. Also mysterious was the case of the 49 members of the Turkish Consulate in Mosul who stayed in the city as it was taken by Isis; they were held hostage in Raqqa, the Islamic State’s Syrian capital, then unexpectedly released after four months in exchange for Isis prisoners held in Turkey.


Had Erdoğan chosen to help the Kurds trapped in Kobani rather than sealing them off, he might have strengthened the peace process between his government and the Turkish Kurds. Instead, his actions provoked protests and rioting by Kurds across Turkey; in towns and villages where there had been no Kurdish demonstrations in recent history tyres were burned and 44 people were killed. For the first time in two years, Turkish military aircraft struck at PKK positions in the south-east of the country. It appears that Erdoğan had thrown away one of the main achievements of his years in power: the beginnings of a negotiated end to the Kurdish armed insurgency. Ethnic hostility and abuse between Turks and Kurds have now increased. The police suppressed anti-Isis demonstrations but left pro-Isis demonstrations alone. Some 72 refugees who had fled to Turkey from Kobani were sent back into the town. When five PYD members were arrested by the Turkish army they were described by the military as ‘separatist terrorists’. There were hysterical outbursts from Erdoğan’s supporters: the mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçek, tweeted that ‘there are people in the east who pass themselves off as Kurdish but are actually atheist Armenians by origin.’ The Turkish media, increasingly subservient to or intimidated by the government, played down the seriousness of the demonstrations. CNN Turk, famous for showing a documentary on penguins at the height of the Gezi Park demonstrations last year, chose to broadcast a documentary on honeybees during the Kurdish protests.

How great a setback would it be for Isis if it failed to capture Kobani? Its reputation for always defeating its enemies would be damaged, but it has shown that it can stand up to US airstrikes even when its forces are concentrated in one place. The caliphate declared by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on 29 June is still expanding: its biggest victories, in Anbar Province, have given it another quarter of Iraq. A series of well-planned attacks in September saw Isis capture territory around Fallujah, forty miles west of Baghdad. An Iraqi army camp at Saqlawiyah was besieged for a week and overrun: three hundred Iraqi army soldiers were killed. As in the past, the army proved incapable of staging an effective counteroffensive despite support from US airstrikes. On 2 October, Isis launched a series of attacks which captured Hit, a town north of Ramadi, leaving the government holding only a single army base in the area. Isis forces are today very close to the Sunni enclaves in west Baghdad: until now these have remained quiet, though every other Sunni area in the country has been in turmoil. According to Isis prisoners, the Isis cells in the city are waiting for orders to rise up in co-ordination with an attack from outside the capital. Isis might not be able to seize all of Baghdad, a city of seven million people (the majority Shia), but it could take the Sunni areas and cause panic throughout the capital. In wealthy mixed districts like al-Mansour in west Baghdad half the inhabitants have left for Jordan or the Gulf because they expect an Isis assault. ‘I think Isis will attack Baghdad, if only to take the Sunni enclaves,’ one resident said. ‘If they hold even part of the capital they will add credibility to their claim to have established a state.’ Meanwhile, the government and the local media doggedly play down the seriousness of the threat of an Isis invasion in order to prevent mass flight to safer Shia areas in the south.

The replacement of Nouri al-Maliki’s corrupt and dysfunctional government by Haider al-Abadi hasn’t made as much difference as its foreign backers would like. Because the army is performing no better than before, the main fighting forces facing Isis are the Shia militias. Highly sectarian and often criminalised, they are fighting hard around Baghdad to drive back Isis and cleanse mixed areas of the Sunni population. Sunnis are often picked up at checkpoints, held for ransoms of tens of thousands of dollars and usually murdered even when the money is paid. Amnesty International says that the militias, including the Badr Brigade and Asaib Ahl al Haq, operate with total immunity; it has accused the Shia-dominated government of ‘sanctioning war crimes’. With the Iraqi government and the US paying out big sums of money to businessmen, tribal leaders and anybody else who says they will fight Isis, local warlords are on the rise again: between twenty and thirty new militias have been created since June. This means that Iraqi Sunnis have no choice but to stick with Isis. The only alternative is the return of ferocious Shia militiamen who suspect all Sunnis of supporting the Islamic State. Having barely recovered from the last war, Iraq is being wrecked by a new one. Whatever happens at Kobani, Isis is not going to implode. Foreign intervention will only increase the level of violence and the Sunni-Shia civil war will gather force, with no end in sight.

24 October

Uncovered atrocities in Syria

Useful Atrocities

Posted on October 26, 2014 by


Who outside of Syria knows the names Yara Abbas, Maya Naser, Mohamed al-Saeed…? The corporate media has inundated us with news of the two American journalists allegedly beheaded, the first of whose execution video has been deemedfaked. But what of the non-Western journalists and civilians beheaded and murdered by ISIS, al-Nusra, and associated terrorists in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine?

Why didn’t the August 2012 execution (which some reported as a beheading) of TV presenter Mohamed alSaeed, claimed by the Nusra gang, create the same outrage? Or the December 2013 kidnapping and point blank execution in Idlib by ISIS of Iraqi journalist Yasser al-Jumaili?

Why wasn’t the murder of Yara Abbas—a journalist with al-Ikhbariaya, whose crew’s car was attacked by an insurgent sniper—broadcast on Western television stations? Or that of Lebanese cameraman for al-Mayadeen, Omar Abdel Qader, shot dead by an insurgent sniper on March 8, 2014 in eastern Syria.

Maya Naser, Ali Abbas, Hamza Hajj Hassan (Lebanese), Mohamad Muntish(Lebanese), Halim Alou (Lebanese)…all were media workers killed by the Western-backed insurgents in Syria. Their deaths were reported by local media, some even got a passing notice in corporate media, but none resulted in a media frenzy of horror and condemnations as came with the alleged killings of Westerners. Another at least 20 Arab journalists have been killed by NATO’s death squads in Syria in the past few years.

The killing of 16 Palestinian journalists in Gaza, at least 7 targeted while working, during the July/August 2014 Zionist Genocide of Gaza, also fell on deaf ears. Nor were the previous years of murdering Palestinian journalists noted, let alone whipped into a media frenzy. [see also: Silencing the Press, Sixteenth Report, Documentation ofIsraeli Attacks against Media Personnel in the opt ]

In Syria, there are thousands of civilians and Syrian soldiers who have been beheaded—and in far more brutal and realistic manner than the SITE videos insinuate—by the so-called “moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA), al-Nusra, Da’esh (ISIS), and hoards of other Western-backed mercenaries. At the hands of the various NATO-gangs, tens of thousands more civilians have been assassinated and subjected to various sadistic practices—torture, mutilation, crucifixion, burning in ovens, throwing into wells, and a sick lot more. Thousands more, including children and women, remain missing after being kidnapped during mercenary raids and massacres.

Nidal Jannoud, a farmer from Banias (southwestern Syria), was one of the earlier victims of “moderate rebel” assassination. Jannoud was tortured and slaughtered by “peaceful demonstrators” in April, 2011. Omar Ayrout and Yahya Al Rayes confessedlater that they aided a mob in killing Janoud. “I heard gunfire and saw a group of people detaining Jannoud….I took a knife from Taha al-Daye and stabbed Jannoud in his right shoulder…Then the group attacked him with knives and mutilated his body afterwards,” Yahya alRayyis confessed.

In the case of the organeating alFarouq Brigade militant “Abu Sakkar,” who bit into the lung out of a Syrian soldier, there was corporate media notice and general horror. Yet, very quickly corporate media like the BBC, The Guardian, TIME, among others, rushed to justify his cannibalism (see: Facetoface with Abu Sakkar, Syriashearteating cannibal and BBC whitewashes Syriahearteating cannibalto justify armingalQaeda). How the tides would have turned if the lung in question belonged to a Western soldier, or worse, an “Israeli”soldier… would the BBC have then humanized the perpetrator of this barbaric act? Would the world have so quickly moved on, forgotten? Of course not.

Apart from the thousands more individual slaughters, there are also numerous massacres, mostly overlooked or simply lied about in the media.

In Raqqa, overtaken by al-Nusra and the so-called FSA in March 2013, then two months later by ISIS, civilians have faced floggings (including whipping of women),executions and crucifixions…with bodies left on public display for days, usually for the “crime” of supporting President Assad and the Syrian army, and often for the “crimes” of not living up to the warped version of Islam by their executioners. [see also: Raqqais Being Slaughtered Silently]

With the May 2012 slaughter of 108 Houla civilians (including 49 children and 34 women)—among them patients in a hospital and entire families in their homes—most corporate media and political fingers pointed at the Syrian Arab Army as the culprits, without a shred of evidence. The BBC brandished Italian journalist Italian journalistMarco Di Lauros image of dead Iraqi civilians in shrouds, claiming it to portray Houla victims. Upon demand of the aghast journalist, the claim was later retracted and corrected, anaccident…but who was listening by that point? Once the trickery of the BBC and other corporate media was revealed, the massacre was no longer newsworthy. [see: “Syria: Media Lies, Hidden Agendas and Strange Alliances” and “Syria : One Year After the Houla Massacre. New Report on Official vs. Real Truth” and Syriasfalse flagterrorism, Houla and the United Nations”]

While later investigations into Houla revealed the culpability of the so-called insurgents, the MSM had already moved on, leaving the average person confused, or stuck with the initial lies. Investigative articles aside, there was the confession of aninsurgent member who was present that Friday in Houla:

“…we’d been asked by our supporters from outside to do something to inflame the situation…The planning came from outside…On Friday after prayers, a large number of armed men came…they didn’t enter the mosque or pray. …The goal was to attack an army checkpoint and to liquidate these families supportive of the government. There were men, like Haytham al-Hassan, who had weapons including a cleaver. They butchered families….They sent people to announce that ‘Shabbiha’ had entered the village and slaughtered everyone. I was there. There were no Shabbiha.”

The December 2012 slaughter in Aqrab of at least 150 Alawites was likewise misreported, in spite of survivor testimonies. The UK Channel 4’s Alex Thomson met Aqrab survivors whose separately-given accounts corroborated one another:

“…our eyewitnesses say Sunni rebels took hundreds of Alawite civilians as prisoner,” noted Thomson, also writing, “They all insist…rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) corralled around 500 Alawite civilians in a large red-coloured two-storey house…” kept there for 11 days.

“They had long beards, and sometimes you couldn’t quite understand what they said. They were not dressed in the normal way,” said one survivor, Madlyan Hosin. A second interviewee, Hayat Youseh, said, “…they forced us out of our homes and set fire to them.”

A Syrian from a village three kilometers from Aqrab told me, “When Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya started saying that the Syrian Arab Army had attacked Aqrab, I went there to find out. I interviewed a lady from Aqrab who said that no army had come near there at the time of the massacre.”

Kassab, a predominantly Armenian Christian village near the Turkish border, came under heavy assault earlier this year by insurgents and Turkish soldiers. Kim Kardashian tweeted about Kassab…then, otherwise, the world largely forgot. In Latakia, some of Kassab’s internally-displaced spoke of the March 21, 2014 assault originating from Turkey. One young woman reported that the insurgents “raped our older women because they couldn’t find any girls.”

According to a Latakia resident, with friends and a home in Kassab, 88 Christians were murdered, 13 of whom were beheaded, others who were shot dead on the spot. Another 22 elderly were kidnapped and taken to Turkey where they were held for about three months before being released into Lebanon.

The fact that Christians were murdered by foreign mercenaries, let alone beheaded, should have created shock waves in the media. But, not surprisingly, it has had the exact opposite effect, because spotlighting those crimes doesn’t serve the West’s stated agenda to overthrow President Assad, to dismember Syria as the NATO-backed takfiris are dismembering Syrians.

It the case of the Kassab massacre, it became transparent that the lack of any governmental/political condemnation of the massacre and kidnappings was not due to lack of knowledge: Turkey helped commit the attack and housed the kidnapped [see: NATO and Turkeys Genocidal War on Syria and Searching for casus belli:Turkeys assault on Kassab?]; the West’s darling, Ahmed Jarba, visited soon after, sitting with “what appeared to be local rebel commanders in a house that was said to be in Latakia province,” the Daily Star reported, noting “Jarba also said ‘the Coalition has provided assistance to (fighters on) the front’, according to his office.”

Four months after it was liberated of the terrorists, most of the displaced from Kassab still have not returned to their desecrated and looted homes. According to a Latakia resident who keeps informed on Kassab, “The roads are fairly safe, but they have been targeted by short range missiles and mortars from Turkey. The ‘threat’ of attack and lack of money or resources to rebuild their homes and shops has kept most away. A handful will have enough money to repair, and those who are dirt poor may freeze this winter.”

The August 2013 insurgent massacre and kidnappings in the villages of Balouta, Hambushiya, and a number of other agricultural hamlets in the Latakia countryside did briefly receive some corporate media coverage…and also absolutely zero international outrage. That outrage was reserved for the falsified sarin gas attacks not long after, using the kidnapped children to stage their videos. [For a very detailed account of the Latakia massacre and its relation to FSA-falsified Sarin gas videos, see: “Combating the Propaganda Machine in Syria”]

In the nearly two weeks of attacks on these rural hamlets, 220 civilians were massacred (according to doctors in a Latakia hospital), including infants, children, women, and elderly—even a nonagenarian. At least one hundred were kidnapped (mostly children, some women), only 44 of which were nine months later released. These kidnap survivors spoke of torture at the hands of their “moderate rebel” captors. Al Akhbar reported that “according to another freed child, the fighters gouged out the eyes of one of the abducted children.”

The assault took place by roughly 20 coordinated factions, including ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the so-called FSA (with the knowledge and approval of the SNC’s George Sabra).

But, there was no outcry by the humanitarian, would-be interventionalists and their public.

Two months after the fact, the Guardian’s Jonathan Steele reported on the attacks, including the insurgents’ move early on August 4 from their base in nearby Salma village to attack the Latakia countryside. Surprisingly, the article actually quoted Syrian Arab Army and National Defence Forces (NDF) officers’ testimonies:

Special forces officer Hassan told Steele, “I heard a rebel telling another rebel: ‘Kill this one, but not that one’. One rebel asked: ‘What do I do about the girls?’ The answer came: ‘I’m sending a truck to pick them up’. Several were taken and raped, and have not been seen again.”

NDF officer Shadi told Steele, “When we got into the village of Balouta I saw a baby’s head hanging from a tree. There was a woman’s body which had been sliced in half from head to toe and each half was hanging from separate apple trees.’”

SAA soldier Ali told Steele, “We found two mass graves with 140 bodies. They were not shot. They had their throats slit. About 105 people of different ages were kidnapped…Salafists from abroad were behind the attack.”

In a separate video interview, a resident of one of the villages (unnamed for his safety) testifies:

“There were Chechen, Libyan, Saudi, and Afghan terrorists among them….One group was killing people by swords. And the other group was running after those who had been able to escape and killing them by shooting them….They broke into house while people were sleeping and beheaded them. They removed the foetus of a pregnant woman. I lost 42 from my family. Some of them were killed and others arrested (kidnapped).”

In the face of mounds of evidence, eyewitness testimony, mass graves, doctor and coroner reports of death by throat slitting, the massacre in Latakia resulted again in none of the fervor that we’ve seen in recent months…in spite of 220 civilians being brutally massacred, another 100—mostly children—abducted by the West’s freedom-loving terrorists.

Twenty km north of Damascus, Adra industrial town suffered horrific atrocities that went largely unreported in the corporate media. The town came under Jabhat al-Nusra and Liwa Al-Islam insurgents attack on December 11, 2013, Russia Todayreported, massacring at least 80 residents.

In another report, Russia Today interviewed eyewitnesses, one of whom said:

“There was slaughter everywhere…The eldest was only 20 years old; he was slaughtered. They were all children. I saw them with my own eyes. They killed fourteen people with a machete. I don’t know if these people were Alawites. I don’t know why they were slaughtered. They grabbed them by their heads and slaughtered them like sheep.”

In addition to the massacre of entire families”, bakery workers were executed and “toasted…in ovens used to bake bread ,” an Adra resident told RT.

Professor Tim Andersons report noted “Beheaded bodies from Adra were proudly displayed by the terrorists… Severed heads were also said to have been hung from trees.”

In Latakia city in April, 2014, I met refugees from Harem, a northwestern city 2 km from the Turkish border, who had fled after Harem came under attack by McCainsmoderates, with the help of Turkey.

One man told me:

“The terrorists attacked us, terrorists from Turkey, from Chechnya, and from Arab and other foreign countries. They had tanks and guns, like an army, just like an army. For 73 days we were surrounded in the citadel of Harem. They hit us with all kinds of weapons. We had women and children with us. They showed no mercy. When they caught any of us, they slaughtered him, and then send his head back to us. They killed over 100 people, and kidnapped around 150… children, civilians, soldiers. Until now, we don’t know what’s happened to them.”

Harem refugee in Latakia centre speaks of atrocities committed by foreign insurgents

The first Turkish-backed attacks on Harem were in September, 2012, and by October 31, al Akhbar reported that 4,000 civilians were under siege in the town fortress, warning of a potential massacre by insurgents who are “known to have been supplied with Turkish-made short-range missiles and launchers mounted on four-wheel drive vehicles, as well as an abundance of mortars.” The report also noted Turkey’s role in treating the FSA terrorists: “the FSA wounded are transported across the border to Turkey in ambulances,” and in killing Harem residents: “Dozens of people were killed in Harem’s al-Tarmeh neighborhood after it was subject to a missile bombardment from a Turkish police station.”

Once again, the FSA and ISIS attack was misreported in the corporate media, and the kidnappings of Harem residents not reported period. The situation of occupied Harem has been non existent in the media since. Breaking that silence, on October 12, Twitter user “Nutsflipped @Nutsflipped_z_1 ” tweeted a series of updates on Harem:

“I just talked to someone from #Harem near the Turkish borders. 60 SAA held off 5000 Islamist all coming from #Turkey for 1 year.#Syria

They literally killed 1000s of attackers, until the Turks gave Islamist Grad MLRS and flooded the town with fighters from #Turkey. #Syria

#Kobani, #Kessab and #Harem, cities in #Syria near the Turkish border attacked in the same manner by Islamist coming from#Turkey.”

In a personal message, he explained further. His information, he said, is from a contact from Harem now displaced who has “lost many male relatives. Executed. He was almost executed himself fleeing.”

“ISIS is genociding the natives of Harem, throwing their bodies in caves, selling their women and children. This has been going on since 2012, it was first FSA but they were losing. Then Turkey unleashed ISIS. Now ISIS has stepped up the massacre. Turkey is behind this. The West turns a blind eye. Turkey did the same thing all across the border.”

Some of the most recent massacres and atrocities at the hand of the Western/NATO/Gulf-backed/financed/trained terrorists that have gotten scant notice or tears include:

Shim’s suspect death went unnoticed by corporate media for at least a day; were she a Western journalist who died—accident or assassination—all the major media would have been broadcasting her death endlessly. [see: Journalists under attack, hypocritical Western media remains silent]

And this is the point. The murders of non-Westerners—whether in Syria, Palestine or elsewhere—doesn’t matter to the media and public, unless it serves an Imperialist or Zionist agenda.

In fact, supremacism and racism aside, the only reason the alleged-beheadings of the two Western journalists, among others, is really being trumpeted and shoved down our fear-mongered throats is that these questionable stories serve perfectly the Axis-of-Destruction’s agenda: a justification to bomb Iraq and Syria, to re-invade, to attempt to implement the Yinon Plan.

The murders of Syrians and other Arab journalists and civilians by NATO thugs are not forgotten, even if the corporate media would have it otherwise. And whereas the corporate media shirks their obligation to report these murders, let alone to report honestly on the real agenda to oust President Assad and destroy Syria as per Iraq, Libya, independent journalists, activists, and concerned pro-resistance people must fill the gap.