Why has Kobane not fallen to IS(IS)?

12.12.2014 Habertürk
Translated by: Turgay BAYINDIR /
Orjinal Metin (tr-11/29/2014)

The siege of Kobane by IS(IS) has almost reached its 80th day. The city has not fallen and it does not look like it will. Yet, in the first days, many people in Turkey and abroad were predicting, “Kobane will fall any minute”. These predictions, which were mostly also forms of wish fulfillment, were based on quite strong indications at first because:
1.  As clearly witnessed in Mosul, when IS(IS) attacked a city, it soon captured it.
2.  Thanks to the heavy artillery that IS(IS) captured from the Iraqi military, IS(IS) had an obvious advantage over the YPG fighters in Kobane in terms of weapons (tanks vs. Kalashnikovs).
3.  Since Kobane was surrounded by IS(IS)-controlled areas on three sides, the only gate of the city to the outside world was the Mürşitpınar border crossing in Şanlıurfa’s border town of Suruç and Ankara only allowed for humanitarian use of it.
4.  The international coalition was not doing effective air strikes on IS(IS) targets around Kobane because they saw the situation as “hopeless”.

However, when victory for the Kobane resistance emerged as a strong possibility, first air strikes were intensified, then the defenders of the city received air-dropped military aid, and finally peshmerga forces were sent to the aid of the city through the route of Turkey.

The difference between Mosul and Kobane

We have been observing that those who underestimated the Kobane resistance from the beginning are attempting to connect the fact that the city has not fallen to the intervention of the international coalition and even to the arrival of the peshmerga. Even though both of these factors must have contributed to the situation, the real determining factor in Kobane was, and still is, the resistance.  
If we are asking, as the title of this piece reflects, “why has Kobane not fallen to IS(IS)?” the answer is very simple: Kobane has not fallen for the same reasons why Mosul did. Even though the Iraqi military in Mosul had a considerable advantage over IS(IS) in terms of weapons, most of the Sunni Arabs in Mosul, who constitute the majority in the city, saw the “occupying” IS(IS) as one of their own. While there were many IS(IS) fighters who would easily sacrifice their lives for the cause of jihad, for many of the officers in the Iraqi military their own lives were more important.
Kobane, however, presented the complete opposite: IS(IS), which had no significant local support base in Kobane, was seen as “occupying”. YPG resistance fighters, on the other hand, both men and women, were not like the members of the Iraqi military at all. On the contrary, like IS(IS) militants, YPG fighters were also ready to die for their cause.

Suicide attacks

I want to express this in parenthesis. An al Qaeda administrator once said, “young people in the west do whatever they can in order not to die while our young people go to death without hesitation”. This obviously provides an advantage for movements like al Qaeda and IS(IS). However, as scientific research on suicide attacks also shows us, being ready to die for one’s cause is not in the monopoly of radical Islamist groups. Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka and PKK in Turkey can be cited as prominent examples to this.   
Therefore, even though IS(IS) used suicide attacks frequently and effectively in both Syria and Iraq, it is not surprising that such attempts in Kobane were not very effective. Moreover, we know that, as seen in the case of Arin Mirkan, a member of YPJ (the women’s branch of YPG), suicide attacks delivered a heavy blow on IS(IS) in Kobane.
Doubtless, there must be various other reasons besides these for the failure of IS(IS) in Kobane. Everyone who sees IS(IS) as a threat should examine the case of Kobane in detail and take lessons from it to apply in other areas.
Yet this is a fact: the fate of Kobane has been determined by the human factor and it continues to do so. 

Destek olmak ister misiniz?
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