The Liberation of Kobani

Today there have been numerous reports that the Kurdish Syrian town of Kobani has been liberated from ISIS. The fighting has been going on there for months, with the defence carried out predominantly by the women and men of Kobani, fighting for their freedom. They fought alongside the YPG (Kurdish forces) the Peshmerga from Iraq, and the American military whose airstrikes turned out to be essential to the defence of Kobani. Today, at last, it seems the people of Kobani have won.

If this is correct (and it does seem to be), this is an incredible victory for the Kurdish people. They deserve the respect and admiration of every person throughout the world who believes in the principles of freedom, equality and peace. Led largely by women – mothers and grandmothers – who stood in the streets outside their homes, where they had grown up, and where they were now raising their own children, looked into the eyes of some of the most depraved men the world has ever seen, and said “No. Way”. They fought and in many cases died out of love. For their children, who they refused to give up to lives of slavery and barbarism, and for their parents, who they would not allow to live out their days under a fascist state. And they died for freedom, for equality, and for peace.

ISIS are driven by pure hate. They are the absolute rock bottom of humanity’s many manifestations and they – and their hideous ideological brethren around the world – have to be defeated, wherever they are.

Labour didn’t support airstrikes in Syria, something I and many other members of the Labour Party and Trade Union movement felt was not right. David Cameron didn’t push for airstrikes in Syria because Ed Miliband had made it clear that he wouldn’t support them without a UN resolution, which of course could never have happened because it would have been vetoed by Russia. Ed Miliband said at the time that he wasn’t convinced that the ground force was adequate in Syria to defeat ISIS and therefore airstrikes would be essentially futile. He wasn’t prepared to support British troops being used in this way and so he decided, as was widely claimed, to “stop the rush to war”.

Thankfully the American government was willing to take a lead and so the people of Kobani have had effective air support. The news today has shown that this combination of local ground troops plus effective airstrikes support has worked, but after over 1000 people from Kobani were killed in a battle that has raged for several months, perhaps it is worth considering that had more international allies taken part, and had they done so more quickly, this battle could have been shorter, and with considerably less death for the people of Kobani.

In a month that has seen the horrors of Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Charlie Hebdo murders, more people and governments seem to be recognising the assault being carried out on the world by the growing global Islamist movement. The victory at Kobani is a rare, and extremely welcome, source of hope for the world. It shows that this hateful fascism can be defeated, and that where there is an absolute belief and determination, they can be defeated by a citizen’s army which regularly had one arm tied behind its back (lack of weapons, lack of international support, Kurdish fighters unable to cross borders to help and so on.) It is possible to defeat these people, but not if we don’t try.

This is an important victory, and an important day, but the battle in Syria and Iraq is by no means over. ISIS still control large areas, millions are now displaced throughout the Middle East, there is still slavery, systematic rapes and child abuse, butchery, be-headings, they still have weapons, they still have people travelling across the globe to join their dreadful crusade of death. The world still needs to act.

If the international community can be a little more honest about this war, maybe we can stop sleepwalking into a future dominated by fascism. If we can give support to the Kobanis of the future (and the now) without unachievable caveats, good might just triumph over evil once again. And if we can try really hard to remember that freedom and equality are not inevitable human states, but are the result of long, hard battles by good people and that they need to be defended and protected and treasured, we might have a chance of preserving them for future generations.

Solidarity to the people of Kobani. The world salutes you.

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