How Kobane placed a dark cloud on the peace process in Turkey
Out-gunned, out-numbered and lacking firepower, it was the tenacity and willpower of the Syrian Kurdish forces that prevented an overrun of the Kurdish town of Kobane on the Turkish border and a likely massacre under the hands of the Islamic State (IS).
As the town of Kobane faced a dire threat under the hands of IS, the situation was made more difficult to stomach for the Kurds on both sides of the border, with the presence of Turkish troops and their heavy armory on the border.
The reluctance of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to intervene in Kobane, even as he previously vowed to prevent the fall of Kobane, puzzled and drew widespread anger amongst the highly suspicious Kurds in Turkey.
Moreover, widespread pro- tests cross Turkey highlight that it isn’t just Kobane that is at risk of falling, it also the tentative peace process that only recent brought a halt to almost 3 decades of conflict.
Ultimately for Turkey, coming to the aid of the YPG forces and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which is affiliated with the PKK, would be akin to bailing out and fighting alongside the PKK.
Turkey continues to see Kobane as a PKK versus IS battle and not a Jihadist battle against ordinary Kurds. It simply does not differentiate between PKK or IS who they deem on equal footing.
That stance not only demonstrates the fragile nature of the peace process and Kurdish-Turkish relations, but that the climate for real peace amidst strong mistrust and animosity is lacking.
Turkey has set a number of preconditions before joining the fight against IS, which in many ways is understandable, including the need for a longterm plan in Syria if and when IS can be defeated and a no-fly zone, but this cannot be at the expense of ignoring a perilous humanitarian plight on your door step and to station a huge force on the border, with the bloodshed in clear sight, and then do nothing only adds to the fire.
Either way, as the Kurds have shown, they are more than capable of defeating IS if their fighters are allowed access and weapons at the border.
Turkey could have significantly enhanced its hand with the Kurds in Turkey if it had seen the battle against the Kurds in Syria as a fight against the partners of their nation.
On the contrary, it has long seen the autonomous Syrian Kurdish enclaves as a threat and has often accused the PYD of colluding with the Bashar al-Assad regime, as the Kurds refused to join the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Whatever the political stance, religious affiliation or nationality when it comes to averting a humanitarian catastrophe differences must be put aside.
The US and Western powers supported the Kurds in Iraq at their time of need including providing crucial arms, and support for the Syrian Kurds, as an effective force in the war on IS, should be no different.
Above all, it would be a real tragedy if the peace process ended in Turkey after the painstaking journey to reach to this elusive juncture.