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Ayn al-Arab (عين العرب)
|City and nahiyah|
View of Kobanî during the siege of 2014
|• City||7 km2 (3 sq mi)|
|Elevation||520 m (1,710 ft)|
|Population (2004 census, unless stated otherwise)|
|• Estimate (2015)||40,000|
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|• Summer (DST)||+3 (UTC)|
Kobanî (pronounced [koˈbaːniː], also rendered Kobanê [koˈbaːne], Arabic: كوباني, Classical Syriac: ܟܘܒܐܢܝ), officially Ayn al-Arab (Arabic: عين العرب North Levantine pronunciation: [ʕeːn elˈʕɑrɑb]), is a city in the Aleppo Governorate in northern Syria, lying immediately south of the border with Turkey. As a consequence of the Syrian Civil War, the city has been under control of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia since 2012. In 2014, it was declared to be the administrative center of the Kobanî Canton of the de facto autonomous Democratic Federation of Northern Syria.
From September 2014 to January 2015, the city was under siege by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Most of the city was destroyed and most of the population fled to Turkey. In 2015, many returned and reconstruction began.
The Ottoman name of a village east of Kobanî's location was Arab Pinar "Spring of the Arabs" (Arappinar in Modern Turkish orthography; pınar "spring") . The Arabic name, ʿAyn al-ʿArab (عين العرب) is a translation of this. The word "Spring" came from the creek that used to flow east of the village. The location was called "Spring of the Arabs" because in summer Arab nomads used to bring their herds to the location. Kobanî was built between the village of Arap Pinar (Kaniya Ereban) in the east and the village of Mürşitpinar (Kurdish: Kaniya Murshid) in the west. This village was located south of a small lake that dried up in the 1960s. The name Mürşitpinar is still used as the name for the village and the railway station in the Turkish side. Both the above-mentioned villages are parts of today's Kobanî. The name ʿAyn al-ʿArab was introduced officially by the Syrian government as part of a broader Arabization effort in the 1980s. The origin of the name Kobanî (كوباني) is the word company, referring to the German railway company who built that section of the Konya-Baghdad Railway from 1911.
|Climate data for Kobanî|
|Average high °C (°F)||7.7
|Average low °C (°F)||−1.1
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||78
|Average rainy days||11||7||5||5||4||2||0||0||2||4||6||10||56|
|Average snowy days||2.5||1.5||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||6|
|Average relative humidity (%)||75||67||60||56||42||40||34||34||44||47||55||75||52.4|
Ottoman Empire and before
Prior to World War I, the area was mainly populated by semi-nomadic Kurdish tribes, many but not all part of the Milli confederation. These tribes had progressively migrated in from the north during the 19th century, pushing back the Arab Tribes which had previously occupied the area. Local Kurds living in the plains to the east of the modern town reportedly provided lodgings at their encampment for a French-led archaeological team on its way to survey the nearby ancient Assyrian site of Arslan Tashî (Kurdish name: Shêran) in the summer of 1883.
As of 1892, there were three homesteads situated in the area. During the construction of the Baghdad Railway, Kurdish raiders from the Busrawi and Shahin Bey clans—rivals who lived south and east of today's Kobani - reportedly harassed work crews attempting to mine basalt from the nearby hills, partially owing to the fact that the German companies responsible for its construction were lax in providing payment and compensation to local landowners. German engineers staying in the area from 1912 to 1913 described Arab Punar as a "small Kurdish village around 35 km (22 mi) east of the Euphrates" comprising a small cluster of square mud-brick huts, many with domed roofs; the local chief's hut was notable among these in its incorporation of European-style doors and windows and its concrete flooring. The area was apparently also known for its swarms of biting sand-flies.
The newly-built town began to form south of a simple train station built in 1912 along the railway by workers from the nearby town of Suruç. The train station was part of the Baghdad Railway project launched by the Ottoman government to connect Baghdad with Berlin. Refugees fleeing the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire settled in the newly built town around 1915, and were soon joined by more Kurds from nearby areas.
Many of the Kurds who settled in Kobani were originally from Turkish Kurdistan. Some fled prosecution following the Kurdish-led Sheikh Said rebellion in that country in 1925. After demarcation of the border with Turkey along the railway line in 1921, the northern part of Mürşitpinar was left on the other side of the border. This small settlement is incorporated in the Suruç district and still has a little railway station and a border crossing gate. By the middle of the 20th century, there were three Armenian churches and two schools in the town, but many Armenians emigrated to the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic in the 1960s while others moved to bigger cities, including Aleppo and Beirut, as well as cities in the USA and other countries. The town was also home to a small Syriac Orthodox community, but their numbers dwindled and the town's only Syriac Orthodox church was demolished in the early 1960s.
The city's infrastructural layout was largely planned and constructed by French authorities during the Mandatory period, and a number of French-built buildings were still standing and in use until recently. During this period, the city of Suruç served as the regional center of Kobanî. The area was marked by several border crossings with Turkey, unsanctioned by either the Turkish or French Mandatory governments. The crossings became a source of numerous Turkish complaints and led to the establishment of a French intelligence office in Kobanî to monitor border activity. Throughout the 20th century, the border remained officially closed even as the neighbouring towns of Tell Abyad and Jarablus—both of which had smaller Kurdish populations—were allowed to have commercial border crossings, a situation which economically marginalised Kobanî for many years. However, there was limited traffic at the Kobani-Mürşitpinar gate and passengers from Kobani often crossed through it to travel by train to Aleppo. By 2011, as a result of the Syrian Civil War, traffic through this gate increased. Wounded and sick people could cross to the Turkish side while trucks carrying goods crossed into Kobani. Mürşitpınar.
When Syria gained independence from France in 1946, the intelligence building served as the political office of the Kobanî area's highest-ranking local administrator. Kobanî started to develop as a city in the 1950s when it was further separated from Suruç as a result of the Turkish government mining of the border area.
Syrian Civil War
Siege by ISIL
The People's Protection Units (YPG) took control of Kobanî on 19 July 2012. Since July 2012, Kobanî has been under Kurdish control, while the YPG and Kurdish politicians anticipate autonomy for the area, which they consider part of Rojava. After similar less intense events earlier in 2014, on 2 July the town and surrounding villages came under a massive attack from fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. On 16 September, ISIL resumed its siege of Kobanî with a full-scale assault from the west and the south of the city. On 6 January 2015, the Combined Joint Task Force targeted 8 airstrikes in the city, destroying 14 ISIL fighting positions and a building.
The Syrian authorities in Kobani and other Kurdish towns evacuated the government offices and centres without any fighting taking place between the Syrian and Kurdish forces. Contrary to the claims and fears that Turkish forces would enter the Kurdish regions inside Syria such an action did not take place to this date (4 September 2015).
Kobanî Canton had been under attack by ISIL militants for several months. In September 2014, militants occupied most of Kobanî region, seizing more than 100 Kurdish villages. As a consequence of the ISIL occupation, up to 200,000 Kurdish refugees fled from Kobanî Canton to Turkey. Turkish authorities did not allow the refugees to enter with any vehicles or livestock that they had.
In captured villages, militants committed massacres and kidnapped women. IS militants, however, were not able to occupy all of Kobani itself, as the YPG and YPJ forces managed to defend a part of Kobanî and later several nearby settlements. After weeks of isolation, as a result of Turkey blocking arms and fighters from entering the town, due to the general hostility of the Turkish establishment towards Kurds with any links to the PKK, the US-led coalition began to target ISIL with a larger number of airstrikes. As a result of US pressure Turkey allowed a force consisting of 150 peshmergas (Kurdish fighters) to enter from the Kurdistan region (Iraq) with heavier weapons and cross from Turkey into Kobani. This and the heavy bombardment of ISIS positions by US and allies planes aided the YPG/YPJ in forcing ISIL to retreat and gradually leave the town. However, according to a YPG official, Turkey was still blockading the town, rendering the position of the YPG/YPJ in Kobanî as vulnerable. Nonetheless, on 20 October there were reports that Turkey, under significant US pressure, would allow Kurdish fighters from Iraqi Kurdistan to cross into Kobanî. About 150 Kurdish troops were admitted on 29 October, which then began to turn the tide of the siege in favor of the Kurds. The YPG reportedly forced ISIL to retreat from most of Kobanî on 26 January 2015, thus lifting the siege apart from mopping-up operations in areas where YPG forces believed ISIL leaders might be hiding. The city is currently under YPG control.
The humanitarian response to the people from Kobani who were displaced to Suruc, Turkey, was highly polarized, with actors associated with Turkish state on the one hand, and the pro-Kurdish movement on the other. In September 2014, Defend International launched a worldwide campaign aimed at, among other things, to raise awareness about Kobane, and the brutal attacks its residents were subjected to; and to build a bridge between potential partners and communities whose work is relevant to the campaign, including individuals, groups, communities, and NGOs
In October 2014, President of Defend International, Dr. Widad Akrawi, dedicated her 2014 International Pfeffer Peace Award to, among others, all residents of Kobane because, she said, facts on the ground demonstrate that these peaceful people are not safe in their enclaves, partly because of their ethnic origin and/or religion and they are therefore in urgent need for immediate attention from the global community. She asked the international community to make sure that the victims are not forgotten; they should be rescued, protected, fully assisted and compensated fairly.
On 4 November 2014, Dr. Akrawi, said that "a massacre can be avoided, if there is a well-organized and well-defined plan on how to deal with IS – a plan that sets out the strategic and tactical activities to be undertaken at the international, regional and local levels," adding that journalists, humanitarian- and human rights organizations are not allowed to pass through Turkish checkpoints near the border.
June 2015 massacre
On 25 June 2015, fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant detonated three car bombs in Kobani, close to the Turkish border crossing and launched a surprise assault on the town. At least 220 Kurdish civilians were massacred in mass killings by ISIL fighters in their homes or killed by the group's rockets or snipers and many more were injured by the attack on the town, making it one of the worst massacres carried out by ISIL in Syria. In another report Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and spokesman for the Kurdish People's Protection Units said that more than 200 Kurdish civilians were massacred. Women and children were among the bodies found inside houses and on the streets of Kobani as well as some of the villages. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that ISIL fired at everything that moved. Islamic State also committed a massacre in the village of Barkh Butan, about 20 kilometers south of Kobane, executed at least 23 Syrian Kurds, among them women and children. Kurdish forces and the Syrian government claimed the vehicles had entered the city from across the border, an action denied by Turkey. On 3 July 2015, Human Rights Watch published a report on the massacre that took place on 25 June 2015 revealing more details on what took place on this and the next day in Kobani and some of the Kurdish villages in the region.
Reconstruction and Development
After the ISIL siege was broken in early 2015, the Kobane Reconstruction Board asked for international assistance. According to a spokesman for the Syrian Kurds who control the town, Kobani had been 70% destroyed. There has been several attempts to support Kobane, especially from the Kurdish communities in Turkey and Iraq. Assistance was also offered from several European organisations. However, as of May 2015, Turkey has kept the border closed but allowed some materials to reach the city. The international community, including the USA, did not seem interested in rebuilding the town, nor to pressure Turkey on the matter. By May 2015 more than 50,000 people had returned to the destroyed town. Also by May the Kobane authorities with the help of the municipality of Diyarbakır, managed after 8 months of no running water, to restore the water pump and supply for the urban area, repaired the pipelines and cleaned the main water tank. By the beginning of September 2015 most of Kobani was still in ruins. No major rebuilding projects were to be seen. Most of the town's inhabitants were still outside Syria. By May 2016, despite the challenges of the blockade by Turkey, reconstruction and return of inhabitants was well on the way.
In September 2016, Kurdish Red Crescent opened a hospital in the city under the name of "Kobani Hospital", their first hospital in Kobanî Canton, after many international organizations had given a helping hand as well as sending them special medical equipment, UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders in particular.
In an October 2016 report from the city of Kobanî, U.S. academic Si Sheppard observed: "Since the siege of Kobani ended, reconstruction has barely begun to compensate for the havoc wrought on the city by both ISIS artillery and coalition airstrikes (...). Herculean efforts have cleared the streets, but water and power have yet to be restored. Although commerce is trickling back to life (...), more than half of the residential structures still standing are little more than blown out concrete shells. Yet the spirit of the people endures: Some now use defused ISIS rounds as ashtrays and flower pots."
The documentary "Radio Kobani" won the Award for Best Documentary at the International Documentary Festival – Amsterdam (IDFA) in November 2016.
- "General Census of Population and Housing 2004: Ain al-Arab nahiyah" (in Arabic). Syrian Central Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 15 October 2015. Also available in English: "Syria: 2004 census data". UN OCHA. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
- "40 thousand have returned to Kobanê so far". BestaNûçe. 17 March 2015. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
- "Syrian Kurds 'drive Islamic State out of Kobane'". BBC News. 26 January 2015. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
- according to a 2013 estimate, about 90% Kurds, close to 5% Arab and Turkmen, and 1% Armenians."The Second Report: Ayn al-Arab/Kobani, Etana Billetin-First issue". Etana Files. 1 December 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
- The district of Kobanî comprises about 170 villages: Gérard Chaliand, A People Without a Country: The Kurds and Kurdistan, 1993, p. 195. name of the station: Office International de Renseignements sur les Sauterelles de Damas, 1930, p. 43.
- Other sources that refer to this subject include Nedal Yousef, 'Interview with Hussein Amin Hussein about [his book] 'Ayn al-Arab – One Hundred Years "حسين أمين حسين"...يتحدث عن مدينة "عين العرب" في مئة عام.. (esyria.sy) 9 April 2009. Hussein Ali Hussein, "Ayn Al-Arab over a century" (عين العرب في مئة عام), Dar Al-Aqsa, Damascus (2007); the book is a history of the town compiled for its centennial from accounts in living memory (notably from one Mohamed Abdi, who according to Hussein died in 1998 aged 118, as well as "other centenarians from the region").
- Patrick Cockburn, Isis in Kobani: Turkey's act of abandonment may mark an 'irrevocable breach' with Kurds across the region Independent 7 October 2014.
- Kheder Khaddour, Kevin Mazur, The Struggle for Syria's Regions (MER269) "State policy Arabized this town's name in the 1980s to ‘Ayn al-‘Arab, meaning the "spring of the Arabs." The running joke among residents is that the town has neither Arabs nor a spring."
- Sociéte Impériale du Chemin de fer de Bagdad, founded on 13 April 1903 with 40% ownership of Deutsche Bank, 30% Banque Impériale Ottomane, 10% Anatolische Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft, 7.5% Wiener Bankverein, 7.5% Schweizerische Kreditanstalt, 5% Banca Commerciale Italiana.
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- Nedal Yousef, 'Interview with Hussein Amin Hussein about [his book] 'Ayn al-Arab – One Hundred Years "حسين أمين حسين"...يتحدث عن مدينة "عين العرب" في مئة عام.. (esyria.sy) 9 April 2009. Hussein Ali Hussein, "Ayn Al-Arab over a century" (عين العرب في مئة عام), Dar Al-Aqsa, Damascus (2007); the book is a history of the town compiled for its centennial from accounts in living memory (notably from one Mohamed Abdi, who according to Hussein died in 1998 aged 118, as well as "other centenarians from the region").
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- "Isis onslaught against Kurds in Syria brings 'man-made disaster' into Turkey". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
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