ANKARA, Turkey – Kurdish activists expressed outrage as the Turkish military began preventing any young person from crossing the border to fight Islamic militants in Syria, where Kurdish forces have been fighting to save the city of Kobane.
Turkish troops were out in force in Mursitpinar, on the Turkish-Syrian border that abuts Kobane.
“Kobane’s fall means Kurdistan’s fall,” said Ferhat Encu, a 29-year-old Turkish-Kurd from Sirnak.
”We can’t sit here and just watch. I’m trying to get into Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan), but the Turks have blocked the border,” said Encu, who was a frontier guard before leaving to fight for Kobane earlier this month. He returned for a break, and now cannot go back.
The Turkish government fears young Kurds returning with military and weapons skills, after fighting alongside the Kurdish People’s Defence Units (YPG), the main protection force in Rojava. That is because of the group’s links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a 30-year war in Turkey for greater rights.
Selahattin Demirtas, a leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) crossed the border into Kobane on Tuesday in a visit of solidarity. He later called on the Turkish government to support the fight of Syrian Kurds against the IS. He said this was an opportunity to strengthen Turkey’s peace process with its own Kurdish population.
“I want to go to Kobane and fight the IS, which is right now butchering my people, but I can’t,” complained Hamo Sen, a 30-year-old Turkish-Kurd from Urfa.
Media reports say that hundreds of young Kurdish men and women from Turkey are believed to have crossed the border to fight. “Many young people want to go to Rojava to join YPG against IS,” Encu claimed.
Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, a fortnight ago urged Kurds to “mass mobilize” against IS.
“Not only the people of Rojava, but also everyone in the North (Turkey) and other parts of Kurdistan should act accordingly,” he said in a message sent through his lawyers.
The Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet recently reported that 30-year-old Serdar Macit, a former Turkish archery champion, is among those who have taken to Rojava to fight with the YPG against the militants.
“It is an honor to be a part of YPG, who are fighting against injustice,” Macit told Turkish media.
Many locals are convinced that Turkey – which has for years turned a blind eye to Islamic militants using its territory for ”jihad” in Syria — is actively supporting IS with heavy weaponry, medical care and money.
Sen accused the Turkish authorities of double standards.
“They turn a blind eye to jihadists crossing into Rojava, while we can’t go there to fight for our people,” Sen complained.
In New York last week for the UN General Assembly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied backing the jihadis. Any support for “any terrorist group is out of the question, as Turkey is a country which has suffered heavily from terrorism in the past,” he was quoted as saying.
The US-led anti-IS coalition launched airstrikes targeting militant strongholds on the outskirts of Kobane for the first time early Saturday.
Tens of thousands have fled the IS assaults on Kobane that began about 10 days ago, many washing across the Turkish border.