Two months or so ago, the name of Kobane was virtually unknown outside Syria and the Kurdish region. Now, as a result of the heroic resistance of Kobane against ISIS, the name is inspiring people around the world. Actions in support of Kobane’s struggle have been held in the unlikeliest of places many far removed from the Middle East. By any estimate, Kobane has put up a remarkably formidable resistance against ISIS which has sought to conquer the city for months. It has refused to yield.
Kurds are asking why ISIS is expending so much effort to take Kobane. Why has ISIS concentrated on taking this once obscure city? It is said to occupy a strategically vital border location integral for control of Syria, but there are many other important locations in Syria and Iraq where ISIS seeks to hold sway.
Clearly ISIS is able to fight on various fronts simultaneously. At the end of October it began to pose a threat in Lebanon and it has been reported that ISIS even has a presence in Finland. But in launching its determined onslaught on Kobane, ISIS was not acting alone; at least it has not only been acting in its own interests. The fall of Kobane would greatly please Ankara which has been concerned about the success of Syrian Kurds in establishing a functioning democratic structure in the area known as Rojava, of which Kobane is a part. The defeat of Kobane would be the start of an effort to eradicate the entire Rojava “model”. This model has the potential to offer an alternative system for the peoples of the Mideast showing that they can establish a form of democracy completely unknown in the region. There are certainly tremendous vested interests principally among local rulers who would be more than content to see Kobane fall, and by extension would like to undermine the whole of Rojava. There are tangible reasons why they should fear what has been unfolding in Rojava because its grassroots, participatory democratic model poses a direct challenge to the remote, autocratic rule of the few who tyrannise over the many and callously dismiss the people’s interests as a matter of policy.