The Rebirth of Kobane
Kobane, Syria. February, 2014.
On 27 January 2015 the town of Kobane, in the grip of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) for more than six months, was freed by the grassroots-based People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the associated Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) – men and women from the Kurdish region of Syria who took up arms to defend their city. Kobanî is mostly in ruins, the only areas of the city not razed to the ground have neither water nor electricity. And yet, afer little more than a month, its citizens – who for the most part fed to Turkey – are returning. Every week hundreds of people leave the refugee camps along the Turkish-Syrian border to return to their city; to their homes and shops, ransacked at best, most ofen only rubble. Tose who no longer have a house to come home to return to Kobane for a few days a week, stay with friends or relatives and, picking through the wreckage, try to gather the pieces of their former lives. Sabah, 33, has come back on her own; her family has stayed behind in Turkey. Te house where she lived and where she was born simply no longer exists. Her family had no time to save anything as they fed for their lives. Yet Kobane refuses to give up; it insists on living, even among burned out buildings, unexploded bombs and deadly booby traps lef behind by ISIS. Its citizens have started cleaning up the streets, their shops and houses. A school has been opened where the Kurdish language can finally be taught – up until now forbidden by the various Syrian governments. Te students number one hundred or so, the teachers – both men and women – are ofen young and for the most part not professional educators, before the war many of them were themselves students; but the old professors have not yet returned and no one wanted to wait any longer. Te city’s only bakery works non-stop to guarantee bread for everyone – free of charge. Te owner reopened as soon as the fghting stopped; at frst for the soldiers and then for Kobane ‘s citizens as they made their way home. He believes that in a month or so he will be able to start selling his bread. Other shops, those still standing, have started reopening for business, ofering goods brought in from Turkey. Most shop owners, however, are still trying to clear out the rubble and put back together their lives as well as their livelihood. Kobane’s citizens want to start living their lives again but the war lurks at their doorstep – yet they insist, they will not give up.