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The battle for Kobani has been raging since Sept. 16
The battle for Kobani has been raging since Sept. 16
Yasser Allawi

KOBANI — Sardar is a 26-year-old fighter in the ranks of the Kurdish People's Protection Units, known by its Kurdish acronym, the YPG. A former blacksmith, he has taken up arms for the past five years, since he first became involved with the militant group. In his eyes, it is the core of a Kurdish army that will someday represent the future state of Kurdistan.

His priority now is to defend the city of Ain al-Arab, also known by its Kurdish name Kobani. The city has been under attack by ISIS since September.

"Compared with the weapons used by ISIS, our weapons are primitive," says Mohammad Amine, a Kurdish commander. "They are using heavy artillery and mortars, while we are tackling them with individual arms and medium-sized machine guns."

He says the arrival of Peshmerga forces — Kurdish fighters from northern Iraq — have given Kobani's Kurds a boost in moral support.

"They are professional fighters, and what they brought with them in terms of weapons helps to balance us against ISIS in Kobani," he says.

Kurdish fighters have reportedly managed to retake key villages around Kobani, but Reuters reported that "the front lines in the town itself appeared little changed, with the insurgents still controlling its eastern part."

Sardar, the young soldier, agreed to speak with Syria Deeply about the state of the battle and his experience within it, and his comments follow:

"This city was relatively safe since the uprising. Our forces were not targeted with the destruction that the regime applied in other Syrian cities. So the people of this city were living a normal life until recently.

The YPG has been preparing for such times. The situation that Kobani is facing was expected. Kobani is now defending itself against the terrorism that has swept Syria, which is represented by ISIS trying to impose its control to establish their state.

The Kurds in Syria have long suffered from the regime, and now they are suffering at the hand of ISIS. The tragedies that faced the Kurds during the reign of the regime are back today, only harsher than ever. All the villages that are under ISIS control have faced horrific massacres.

I fear for the people who sought refuge in Turkey because the Turkish government is hostile towards Kurds. We are urging the Turkish government to secure better conditions for refugees. So many fighters are away from their children, and their concerns are split between fighting ISIS in Kobani and worrying about their families, who face the bitterness of seeking asylum in Turkey.

My mother, brother and two sisters are in Turkey now. I know that they are now staying in a mosque along with a large number of people from Kobani. I think of them all the time, as well as being preoccupied with everything that is going on around me. I fear they may be harmed, and I fear that I may be harmed as well.

The situation is not going well, despite our success in preventing ISIS from taking control of Kobani. ISIS has tried to advance from more than one direction, but our defense forces were prepared and have held out well so far. The U.S.-led coalition launched airstrikes against ISIS, but it didn't achieve an effective result: ISIS had the opportunity to reorganize their ranks and attack again.

Until now, no one has lent the YPG a helping hand. Instead, they have watched the violations committed by ISIS against the Kurds, as we struggle to protect ourselves and manage our own defenses. Everyone knows that if it falls, there will be huge massacres like the ones ISIS committed in Deir Ezzor against factions of the Free Syrian Army.

We are trying to drive ISIS away, but we call on the international community to intervene because we will not be able to resist forever. So many of our soldiers fell, and many injured people were transferred to Turkey for treatment, which means that our numbers are decreasing, until someone fills this void.

There are many battalions and brigades belonging to the Free Syrian Army that are fighting in Kobani along with the YPG. Arabs and Kurds are cooperating to fight ISIS. This shows that the ordeal is not in Kobani alone, but is being faced by both Arab and Kurdish areas, which makes it every fighter's duty to battle against the terrorism.

If Kobani falls, it would be a turning point for ISIS expanding its hold on the Turkish border. It would merge their access from Jarabulus in Aleppo's countryside to Tell Abyad near Raqqa. This merger would give ISIS new power and greater control, allowing them to advance to other Arab or Kurdish cities.

But a victory for Kurds in Kobani would be a starting point in working against ISIS, regaining the territories they seized and allowing the displaced people who have fled the Kurdish regions to return."

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Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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