The advancement of the Islamic State group (IS) militants on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani near the Syria-Turkey border has alarmed many Iranian citizens, resulting in protests and even an op-ed by an Iranian news site asking the head of Iran’s Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, to take action.
Protests broke out in several Kurdish cities in western Iran, as well as other cities across country including Tabriz, Mashhad and Tehran itself in front of the Turkish Embassy to express their support for Kobani. Human rights and dissident activists were also in attendance at some of the protests. Iranian Kurdish musicians Shahram Nazeri and Sedigh Tarif have also gone on hunger strike to bring attention to the plight of Kurds in Kobani.
As Kurdish fighters currently engaged in the battle await more air strikes by the United States against IS positions or assistance from Turkey in opening the border to reinforcements, a complicated relationship between Turkey, Kurdish groups in Turkey and Syria and the anti-IS coalition seems to be delaying the more serious action that was seen when IS advanced toward Kurds in Iraq in the summer.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marzieh Afkham warned yesterday, Oct. 7 of a humanitarian catastrophe in Kobani. She said, “Iran will soon send humanitarian aid for the residents and refugees in this area through the Syrian government.”
It is not clear how this arrangement would work. Iran has been one of the strongest supporters of the Syrian government, which retreated from Syrian Kurdish towns when the civil war began to stretch the resources of the army. And Kobani, which is called Ayn al-Arab in Arabic and situated in the middle of three separate Kurdish-ruled cantons in northern Syria, is completely surrounded by IS fighters on the Syrian side of the border and Turkish troops on the Turkish side.
One op-ed by conservative Iranian news website Khabar Online has asked Soleimani to help defend Kobani. As commander of the Quds Force, Soleimani has been heavily involved in advising the Iraqi forces and militias since IS took over large parts of western Iraq this summer. Pictures of him alongside Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish forces in various Iraqi cities have become common as Iran has not hidden its presence there.
The op-ed cited reports that Soleimani and Iran were involved in liberating the Iraqi town of Amerli and had supplied arms to Kurdish forces in Iraq to fight IS. It read that “the weight of resistance in the region” was on his shoulders.
The op-ed continued, “But I have one urgent request. These days, bad news is coming from the city of Kobani. Everyone knows if the siege on Amerli was not broken what would have happened to the people of Amerli. Now everyone is assuming that will happen to Kobani.” The article said that the United States and its coalition were not taking a serious stance toward IS in Kobani and asked Soleimani “to prevent a genocide” in that city.