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Kobani is a Monument to Kurdish Resistance

Jonathan Dworkin
October 4, 2014

The siege of the Kurdish town of Kobani by the self-anointed soldiers of Islam has now entered its third week. That’s a week longer than a group of Americans, including the famous James Bowie, held the Alamo against Santa Anna’s army. No doubt the caliph’s men were hoping to encounter a feeble and terrorized people. Killing women is holy work for the Islamic State, but doubts must enter their deformed minds when the women fight back with such ferocity.

Like the Americans in the Alamo, the Kurds in Kobani have no hope of victory. They are now, at this late stage, a small island of civilization surrounded by a sea of hatred. Their only chances of resupply – the American-patrolled sky above and the Turkish border behind – have inexplicably been closed to them. By now they realize that the powerful don’t want them there, that their continued existence has become inconvenient for comfortable people hundreds and thousands of miles distant. This American president has made clear that he is a partner to everyone and a friend to no one.

The resistance of Kobani in the face of this callousness is splendid. No one could fault these young people, many barely older than children, for following their families into refugee camps, or for surrendering, under the weight of overwhelming firepower, their birthright. No one could fault battered few a life in exile. For two grueling years now the Kurds of Syria have waited for salvation. While their countrymen murdered and plundered, they created fragile spaces of peace. They have resurrected an education system and worked towards democratic governance. They have shared what little they have with scores of refugees living in their midst. When the Yezidis in Iraq fell under attack, it was Kurds from Syria who crossed the border and attacked – yes, attacked – the ISIS war machine. Thousands were saved from torture, rape, and murder. An ancient culture threatened with extinction was rescued, sheltered, and armed to resist.

The Kobani region itself is now the target. This should surprise no one. Such resilient people are the greatest threat to tyranny. Their existence itself is an insult to the sleep walking denizens of the Islamic State. The caliph has room only for those who find truth in his bloody sermon. His curiosity extends no further, except to the black arts of war and ritualized murder. We should be under no illusions about these people. We should seek no parley, truce, or compromise. As Christopher Hitchens put it, co-existence with such people is “neither possible nor desirable.” 

When this latest attack began, the Kurds of Kobani protected the powerless. While an American president made speeches, they brought hundreds of thousands to safety across a hostile border. Then they defended their own villages and towns. Massively outgunned by stolen American weapons, and ignored by American diplomacy, they continue to defend, street by street and house by house, the last few meters of their homeland. Their city itself is swallowing the invader. This is heroism that can’t be faked. It can’t be taught or “trained,” as much as American politicians would like to pretend otherwise. The living, beating heart of the Kurdish people is in Kobani. It is also the beating heart of humanity. Americans of good conscience see it, as do all decent people. It would take a pitiful cynicism to turn our eyes from it.

Dr. Jonathan Dworkin is an infectious diseases doctor in the United States. He’s the author of the first medical study to investigate the long-term social impact of chemical weapons on the people of Halabja, Iraqi Kurdistan. He has also written several articles on Kurdish culture, Kurdish politics, and relations with America.


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