Thousands of Kurds protest in Europe against IS attacks on Kobani

Published October 12th, 2014 - 08:13 GMT

Protesters marched through the streets of several major European cities today in an orchestrated show of support for besieged Kurdish fighters currently battling Islamic State (ISIS) forces in Kobane.

The Kurdish city of Kobane on the border of Syria and Turkey has been the scene of fierce fighting for weeks now between Kurdish resistance forces and the advancing ISIS jihadists.

In a show of solidarity for the embattled Kurds, protesters in France, Britain and Germany today called on their governments to provide further assistance to the city's Kurdish fighters.

Although the US has conducted air strikes on targets within the city, ISIS has tightened its grip on the town in recent days and thousands of Kurds face massacre should Turkey not open its border to allow the delivery of arms.

The Kurds, an ethnic group spread across much of the Middle East have borne the brunt of much of the war against ISIS.

In recent months Kurds in northern Iraq have defended, and in some instances successfully retaken, cities along the Iraq border from the jihadists. However, it is their attempts to halt the ISIS takeover of Kobane, in Syria, which triggered today's demonstrations.

In London protesters bearing placards and flags were marshalled by police as they marched on Parliament Square, Westminster.

The demonstration later became heated when the angry protesters clashed with the police force security cordons.

A similar demonstration took place in Paris, with thousands marching through the city to try and force a French Government commitment to help the Kurds and pile pressure on the Turkish Government.

And in Germany, more than 20,000 Kurdish immigrants undertook a demonstration in the western city of Duesseldorf.

Police said the German demonstration was peaceful with people marching through the city's downtown area and waving large Kurdish flags. 

Similar protests in Germany last week had turned violent when Kurds clashed with supporters of a hard-line Islamic movement.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish forces defending Kobane have urged the U.S.-led coalition to escalate air strikes on ISIS fighters who have tightened their grip on the border town.

The Kurdish forces are now believed to face inevitable defeat in Kobane if Turkey does not open its border to let through arms - something Ankara has so far appeared reluctant to do.

The U.S.-led coalition escalated air strikes on ISIS in and around Kobane, also known as Ayn al-Arab, some four days ago.

The main Kurdish armed group, the YPG, said in a statement the air strikes had inflicted heavy losses on ISIS, but had been less effective in the last two days.

A Kurdish military official, speaking from Kobane, said street-to-street fighting was making it harder for the warplanes to target ISIS positions.

'We have a problem, which is the war between houses,' said Esmat Al-Sheikh, head of the Kobane defence council.

'The air strikes are benefiting us, but Islamic State is bringing tanks and artillery from the east. We didn't see them with tanks, but yesterday we saw T-57 tanks,' he added.

While ISIS has been able to reinforce its fighters, the Kurds have not.

The militants have besieged the town to the east, south and west, meaning the Kurds' only possible supply route is the Turkish border to the north. 

The U.N. envoy to Syria on Friday called on Turkey to help prevent a slaughter in Kobane, asking it to let 'volunteers' cross the frontier so they could reinforce the Kurdish forces defending the town that lies within sight of Turkish territory.

Turkey has also yet to respond to the remarks by Staffan de Mistura, who said he feared a repeat of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia when thousands died.

Kurdish leaders in Syria have asked Ankara to establish a corridor through Turkey to allow aid and military supplies to reach Kobane. 

'(ISIS) is getting supplies and men, while Turkey is preventing Kobane from getting ammunition. Even with the resistance, if things stay like this, the Kurdish forces will be like a car without fuel,' said Rami Abdelrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an organisation that monitors the conflict in Syria through sources on the ground. 

While much of the population has already fled Kobane, 500-700 mostly elderly people are still in the town, while 10,000-13,000 are nearby in a border area between Syria and Turkey, U.N. envoy De Mistura said.

The observatory said no fewer than 226 Kurdish fighters and 298 Islamic State militants had been killed since the group launched its Kobane offensive in mid-September. It said the overall death toll including civilians was probably much higher.

The Kobane crisis has sparked deadly violence in Turkey, which has a Kurdish population numbering 15million.

Turkish Kurds have risen up since Tuesday against President Tayyip Erdogan's government, which they accuse of allowing their kin to be slaughtered.

At least 33 people have been killed in three days of riots across the mainly Kurdish southeast, including two police officers shot dead in an apparent attempt to assassinate a police chief. The police chief was wounded.

 A senior Kurdish militant has threatened Turkey with a new Kurdish revolt if it sticks with its current policy of non-intervention in the battle for Kobane. 

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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