Desperately sad to see the current situation in Kobane

Richard Branson

Desperately sad to see the current situation in Kobane, where more than 500 people are reported dead after a month of conflict. As fighting between Islamic State militants and the Kurdish people continues on the Turkey-Syrian border, Turkey urgently needs to recognise this historic opportunity for reconciliation with the Kurdish people. By supporting the Kurds in their efforts to defend the vital border town, Turkey could help prevent a far larger massacre. 

It is a positive step that Turkey has agreed to let the US use its military bases in the campaign against Islamic State militants.However, Turkey’s Kurds have been prevented from crossing the border to help defend Kobane, and have been blocked in efforts to equip themselves to defend the heavily-armed IS forces. Turkey has been unwilling to help the Syrian Kurdish fighters trying to defend Kobane because of their affiliation to the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s party), a long-term enemy.

However, as the Financial Times put it, Turkey’s President Erdogan needs to realise that Isis is a bigger threat to Turkey than the Kurds have ever been. \"Isis is a grave danger to the entire region, Turkey included. At some point, the group could strike western targets inside Turkey to further its propaganda goals. Whatever enmity he may feel towards the Assad regime or the PKK, the risks to his own country posed by such a threat on its border are on an altogether larger scale.\"

The Economist expanded on this point, adding that the US, Turkey and the coalition need to rise above the shortcomings of their strategies and act quickly: “IS poses a threat to the entire Middle East and is potentially a source of terrorism against the West. So more effort makes sense, but only if the campaign can resolve its contradictions.”
As protests in Turkey and around the globe grow, Turkey’s leadership needs to recognise the critical nature of the situation, provide equipment for the fight against IS militants, and allow those who want to join the fight to do so. This joint effort could be looked upon as a milestone in cooperation in the years to come. What’s more, a huge humanitarian disaster could be averted, as, according to the BBC, around 200,000 Syrian Kurdish refugees have crossed the border since the IS advance began last month.

Turkey should not see the Kurdish people as its enemy. The Kurds must be treated with compassion, dignity and respect over Kobane. If Turkey can show this flexibility and support, then maybe it can herald the start of a new bright beginning between Turkey and the Kurds. Sadly, if the government does not, the consequences will be profound.