Murat Can Bilgincan reporting

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Kobani: The Stadium of Death

This article was published on, on Oct. 18, 2014, in Turkish. : Below you will find an English translation.

I spent the past 12 days along the Turkish-Syrian border, reporting on the War in Kobani. The Kurdish canton was in a state of devastation. It was difficult to spot people in the streets, but collapsed buildings and thick smoke were everywhere.

It was interesting to realize that even a war zone could become monotonous. Every day was the same. Wake up at six; do your first live at eight; do another one at ten; put on your vest and helmet; get as close as 500 meters to Kobani; show the viewers where the airstrikes had hit; eat your kebab; sleep…

The town of Kobani also had a routine of her own. Mornings were usually “peaceful”. However, things would change soon after the midday prayers. Mortar fire and street battles wouldn’t stop. Coalition airstrikes would be added on top. At 3 p.m., Kobani would suffocate in smoke. Meanwhile, I would watch the day’s events from a hilltop, alongside Kurdish villagers. We would try to direct our binoculars to the source of the smoke, as if we were following the football in a match of death.

After a major blast following jet noise, the villagers would start applauding. “Biji Obama,” (Long live Obama) they would shout out. The Kurds had every reason to like Barack Obama. If it were not for the coalition strikes lead by the President, Kobani would have fallen a while ago.

However, when I compared different days of war, it was obvious that the airstrikes weren’t enough to bring the war to an end. After the coalition fighters hit the ISIS supply routes, ISIS pulls back – just to return a few hours later. The terrorist group responds to the coalition’s airstrike “goal” with car bombs and mortar fire. 12 days have past with successive goals on both sides, and nothing has changed for Kobani – except for the rising death toll.

The War in Kobani forced 200,000 refugees out of Syria. More than 500 people died and more than 800 were brought to Turkey for treatment. In order to prevent these numbers from rising, an air-supported ground operation is a must.

Last week, Iraqi Kurdistan’s regional government had announced that they could not dispatch their forces to Kobani for a ground operation. Back then officials had said that the government needed all of its soldiers to fight ISIS in Iraq, but things seem to have changed. Today news broke that the Peshmerga, Iraqi Kurdish Armed Forces, was on its way to Kobani. Moreover, the Turkish Government announced that it would be aiding the Peshmerga’s passage through Turkey.

Although the Iraqi Kurdish fighters’ military capabilities are questionable, they have stepped up to do what neither the Turkish government nor the international coalition were willing to do – to attempt to blow the final whistle of this match of death.