Peshmerga soldiers with some of the remaining residents of Kobane. Photo: Rudaw.
by Sidad Lashkiri
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Months of fighting and intense air strikes against jihadi insurgents in Kobane have reduced most of the old Kurdish city in Syria to rubble and rebuilding could take a half-century, say some Peshmerga soldiers who recently returned from there.
“What you see of Kobane in the videos and on TV is only a few houses on the frontline,” said Fereydoun, who was among the second batch of Peshmerga who were deployed in Kobane in early December.
“The destruction is so immense that it would take more than 50 years to rebuild. I have walked through every part of the city,” Fereydoun told Rudaw.
Siud, another Kurdish soldier who returned to Kurdistan recently from Kobane, said that five months of fighting had turned the city on the border with Turkey into another Stalingrad – a reference to the city in Russia that was razed to the ground during World War II.
“The same kind of destruction that happened in Stalingrad has happened in Kobane, but the people’s will is strong,” added Siud, who for 45 days fought the insurgents carrying out atrocities under the Islamic State (ISIS) banner.
Kurdish military officials in Kobane said last week that they now control more than 85 percent of the city and that they expect to wipe up the remaining radicalized fighters from the city soon.
Siud, a Peshmerga soldier said he will never forget the day the people of Kobane who had fled to Turkey received him and his fellow soldiers as their convoy crossed through Turkey en route to Kobane.
The first batch of Peshmerga soldiers arrived in Kobane at the start of November. They were replaced a month later by a second batch.
As tensions grow between the Peshmerga and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Syria that are fighting in Shingal in the Kurdistan Region, Siud said there had been excellent coordination between the two forces in Kobane.
“We and the YPG had great coordination together,” said Siud. “Every time the YPG fighters launched an attack we would heavily bomb ISIS positions with artillery in order to allow the YPG advance.”
Tensions have recently risen in Shingal, where the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has expressed anger at the Kurdistan Workers’ Party for trying to extend its rule over the Yezidi town through the YPG, the PKK’s Syrian wing.
When ISIS attacked Kobane last September and controlled a number of villages, the majority of the city’s population fled the onslaught and settled in a refugee camp across the border in Turkey.
The Peshmerga soldiers say that now a couple of hundred families have returned to the city, especially since recent YPG-Peshmerga victories over ISIS that has pushed the radicals to the city’s outskirts.
“When we first arrived there were few families left in Kobane,” said Ferhad, another recently-returned Peshmerga soldier. “But while we were there, about 200-300 families returned to the city,” he recounted.
The city has been under an ISIS siege on three fronts for more than four months. On the city’s north lies the strictly-controlled Turkish border that has made life equally difficult for the Kurdish fighters and few civilians.
“The most difficult thing was seeing the children hungry,” said Ferhad, as he sat with his son at their home in Erbil.
While the Peshmerga are confident that the whole city will be liberated soon, some of the soldiers hoped that the international community would step in to assist in rebuilding and helping displaced residents return to their homes.