by Deniz Serinci in Copenhagen and Joshua Thaisen in Los Angeles.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Large numbers staged protests in Europe and the United States in solidarity with the people of Kobane in Syria, coinciding with the first US airstrikes on the city’s outskirts on Saturday against Islamic State (IS or ISIS) forces.
Sit-ins and protests took place on Friday and Saturday in cities in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Britain, Austria and the United States.
In Copenhagen, many Kurdish organizations and parties with roots in Turkey, Iraq and Iran staged a joint procession and demonstration, ending outside the Danish parliament.
The demonstrations, which included some native Danes, began with a moment of silence to honor Kurds killed in the conflict, and urged Western countries to arm forces in Syrian Kurdistan, or Rojava in Kurdish.
“You - the Kurds - stand for freedom and democracy. IS stands for oppression, fascism and dictatorship," said MP Pelle Dragsted, who was among the speakers and who stressed that the United Nations and European Union should intervene to "protect civilians."
The Kurdish forces should have "all the world's support,” he added.
The US-led anti-IS coalition launched airstrikes targeting militant strongholds on the outskirts of the beleaguered Kurdish city of Kobane for the first time early Saturday.
The raids followed a weeklong IS offensive that has driven over 140,000 Syrian Kurds across the Turkish border, most from Kobane, the unofficial capital of the autonomous Kurdish villages in Rojava.
The airstrikes targeted the vicinity of the embattled Kurdish city, arriving after a week of desperate pleas from local residents and opposition militias for the coalition to intervene.
In London, meanwhile, a group of Kurdish women began an anti-IS hunger strike outside the UK parliament, some chaining themselves to the gates of the British parliament. One was arrested by British police.
"We are here to make the British public aware that the Kurds right now risk genocide in Syria. It’s not only an attack on the Kurds, but on all who defend democracy and human rights," Mizgin Zhaleh, one of the demonstrators, told Rudaw.
In Frankfurt and Amsterdam Kurds held sit-ins at airports, carrying pictures of Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
"Long live the Kobane Resistance,” said a banner carried by protesters at Frankfurt airport on Saturday.
The US-led air raids on IS targets in Iraq have been ongoing since last month, recently joined by France and several other European countries.
But there has been greater Western reluctance for the strikes in Syria. That is because the Iraqi government has asked for Western support, while the embattled regime in Syria has insisted that any air raids must be coordinated with it.
The US and other Western countries have been supporting rebels against the Damascus regime in the civil war that has raged for more than three years, and refuse to work with the regime.
Western governments also remain opposed to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which governs the Syrian areas and is linked to the PKK. The US and EU controversially label the PKK as a terrorist organization. Throughout the civil war, the PYD’s armed wing has remained a bulwark against IS incursions into Rojava.
In the streets of Frankfurt, large numbers turned out for a protest organized by the Kurdistan Democratic Confederation, the umbrella group of the PKK.
"As Europe's Kurds, we must make the international community aware of ISIS attacks and massacres," said Mehmet Emin Yıldız, co-president of the confederation.
Ruken Karakoc, from the Amara Women Assembly, called Kobane "the Kurdish people's honor," and condemned the abduction of women by the religious radicals.
"Kurdish women in Shingal were kidnapped and sold on the black market. Now, they are doing the same in Kobane, and as women we will not be silent," said Karakoc, referring to hundreds of women and young girls reportedly abducted and sold into slavery or sex by the militants, following their attack on Shingal in northern Iraq last month.
Also in Frankfurt, some 30 Kurds occupied a building of the HR3 television station for several hours, according to the pro-PKK Firatnews.com, forcing the station to postpone programming.
In the Austrian city of Graz, many pro-PKK supporters turned out with slogans supporting Ocalan. “If Kobane falls, all of Kurdistan falls," said a banner carried by demonstrators, who also staged a sit-in outside the UN building in Vienna.
Austrian MP for the Greens, Berivan Aslan, said that, “every word and every message against IS is of great value,” and called for Europe to be “courageous” and stand up to the militants.
Meanwhile, PYD leader Salih Muslim sent a phone message to demonstrators in Paris who staged an overnight protest Friday outside the parliament building in Paris.
"The resistance of Kobane has united us all. Victory will be ours. Today the Kurds are fighting for brotherhood and democracy. All the countries of Europe must hear this," Muslim said.
In the United States, meanwhile, American Kurds gathered in peaceful protest outside the Turkish Consul General’s office in Los Angeles, protesting the IS attacks on Kobane and condemning Turkey for reportedly turning a blind eye to militants using its territory.
“Members of the Kurdish community in Los Angeles feel appalled at disturbing reports that an extensive jihadist infrastructure in Turkey has been involved in supporting, recruiting, placating, and funding different al- Qaeda affiliated organizations,” said a statement released prior to the demonstration.
“In accordance with new international resolutions, the Turkish government should dismantle and eliminate all forms of protection and flows of oil revenues for the Islamist extremists if it does not want to be implicated in the monstrosities committed by the ISIL,” the statement said.
“Turkey should open their borders to our brothers and sisters—the Kurds—but they’re been betrayed by the Turkish government,” said Mike Cheikosman, a 55-year old American-Kurd whose family is from Kobane.
“We Kurds are secular and we don’t care about religion, we have Jews, Christians, Yezidis, Muslims, and Alawis. We live peacefully, said Murat Daslik, a 32-year old American-Kurd from Diyarbakir (Amed in Kurdish) in Turkish Kurdistan.