The gathering included non-Kurds in solidarity with the people and Kurdish fighters of Kobane. Photo by author
WASHINGTON—Kurdish Americans led demonstrations in front of the White House and the State Department this week, demanding the US act to stop an Islamic State (IS/ISIS) takeover of the besieged Kurdish city of Kobane.
During the three days of demonstrations, protesters called on the US not only to increase strikes on IS, which is closing in on Kobane, but also to press its allies such as Turkey to intervene on behalf of Kurdish fighters.
"People are here because they are trying to ask for help from the United States and its allies to break the siege on Kobane and get it out of the hands of IS,” said Parvez Barraghi, a 36-year-old Kurd from Harrisonburg, Virginia.
"The US has been slow, but they have been moving; however its ally in the region which is Turkey is watching while women and children being killed and not doing anything (to help) them," he added.
Powered by advanced US armory seized in Iraq and weapons seized in Syria, IS last month launched a major assault on Kobane. The United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) reports that 170,000 people have fled to nearby Turkey from the border city of Kobane, which is being defended by People's Protection Units (YPG).
The Syrian Kurdish militia is outgunned by IS but not receiving weapons from Turkey or the west largely because it is tied to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which is deemed a terrorist organization by the European Union, the US and Turkey.
The demonstrators delivered a letter to State Department officials, asking for US military assistance for the Kurdish fighters and increased US airstrikes to halt the IS advance.
Demonstrators chanted "Arm Kurdish fighters, Stop ISIS, Down with ISIS, Mr. Obama Save Kobane."
Carrying Kurdish and American flags with signs for Kobane, the protesters marched toward the White House, where they caught the attention of passers-by.
"We want the United States to be more assertive with its allies, "Barraghi said.
He also urged Turkey, which has tanks a few kilometers away from Kobane on the Turkish side of the border but has not intervened, to act to prevent killing women and children. Turkey has said it would intervene if the Kurds commit to ousting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
"We want Turkey to do something because they are the biggest ally and the second biggest force of NATO. They should do something at least to protect the women and children. They should put the Kurdish problem and political problem away to protect humanity."
"We are standing here in solidarity with the Kurds everywhere, especially in Kobane and its struggle because of possible genocide and massacre. We want to prevent that from happening," said Omer Pacal, a Washington-based Kurdish American.
Pacal said that while US-led international coalition has played a role in helping Kobane, "Unfortunately the airstrikes were late. If the airstrikes would have started weeks ago, it would not have been at this stage."
Pacal accused Turkey of dragging its feet in acting against IS, saying that Ankara “will be responsible” if a massacre occurs. He noted that at least 31 Kurdish civilians have been killed in several days of protests in Turkey, which is still debating how to deal with IS.
The gathering included non-Kurds in solidarity with the people and Kurdish fighters of Kobane.
Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian said he joined the protest because he believes the future of Kurds and Armenians, both persecuted minorities in Turkey, are tied.
He claimed Turkey’s reluctance to act on Kobane was driven by Ankara's "anti-Kurdish" stance.
"Turkey has a very clear responsibility. They have an opportunity to help and they are not,” he said. “Why? Because they have an anti-Kurdish agenda. All you need is to look at the history of the last 30 years to see how they have tried to destroy Kurdish nationalism and destroy Kurdish cultural identity.”
Gorran Rahim, another Kurd from northern Virginia, called on the US to step up military intervention against IS.
"Thousands of people are trapped and we ask America to save them," Rahim said.