Let’s start with the first attacks of ISIS. Why do you think that they started to attack Kobani?
E.M: Kurdish people have long been oppressed by the Syrian regime. The use of the Kurdish language, for example, was forbidden. When it started in 2011, the Rojava Revolution based itself on removing such infringements on people’s rights. We wanted to share the revolution with other peoples, not only with Kurds. So, our aim was not to construct yet another separate mono-ethnic state in the region but to build a new Syria based on democracy and peace. After the revolution started, the regime forces left Rojava peacefully. We wanted to keep Kobani a city where everybody would feel comfortable: not only Kurds but also Arabs, Assyrians, and so on. We wanted Kobani to be an example for all of Syria. ISIS didn’t like this political project and that’s why they attacked.
Do you think Turkey supports ISIS?
E.M: We and Turkey have been neighbors for years. But there are certain organizations in Turkey that support ISIS. Officially, the Turkish government denies any support for ISIS. The President of Turkey has declared his country’s opposition to ISIS. But why did so many people join ISIS and come to fight against us via Turkey, with significant support from inside Turkey? As far as we are concerned, there are some people and well-known organizations inside Turkey who support ISIS. As the government of Kobani, we are calling on the Turkish government to demonstrate its stated opposition to ISIS.
A question regarding the October events (46 people killed in Turkey during the Kurdish-led protests in support of Kobani). How did the deal about opening a corridor to Kobani start with the Turkish government? What happened to the process of “open corridor to Kobani”? Do you think it affects the peace process between the Turkish government and the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK)?
E.M: First of all, everything relates to everything else. The peace process” is a thorny issue in Turkey but the Kobani resistance means a lot to the world. Many countries supported the resistance of Kobani and the coalition airstrikes have helped us. The October demonstrations in Turkey were meant to expose the genocide being perpetrated against us. Much as it wanted to, the Turkish government could not simply say “we won’t open the corridor.” They have more than 14 million Kurds in the country watching this tragedy, and additionally, there is pressure from abroad put on them to help Kobani. So they are acting in a highly ambivalent way. They didn’t open the corridor fully: they only allowed some wounded to come out of Kobani and a limited contingent of Peshmerga forces from Iraqi Kurdistan to go in. Kurds from everywhere feel it their obligation to come to defend Kobani from the kind of genocide ISIS wants to perpetrate on Kurdish lands.
Before the Rojava Revolution there were clashes between the Peshmerga forces of the Iraqi Kurdistan government and the YPG, whose political wing, the PYD, is currently running Rojava. The PYD is affiliated with the PKK. We know that there are some political organizations in Rojava closer to the political parties of Iraqi Kurdistan and the Peshmerga. Why did the Peshmerga come so late and will they stay after the liberation?
E.M: They are supporting forces and also they are not involved in heavy clashes. The ones who fight are mainly the YPG and YPJ. After the liberation they will stay if there is need. And also in Şengal the YPG and the Peshmerga are fighting together.
E.M: We don’t want to be like the Syrian regime—a unitary state ruled by a single party. Our project is a democratic one. We want to share this project with other nationalities and religious sects inside Syria so that everybody could have the same freedom of speech or could exercise their own religion or culture, whatever it is, without fear of persecution. So we want to build a society on a democratic, confederate basis. We don’t want to be a government like the Syrian regime. We are ready to share this project in Syria.
E.M: We want to go step by step. Yes, we say we are democratic people; we have a democratic project, a peace project. Our project is not based on class divisions; we want to build a strong society. Government should offer people the fullest opportunity to realize their talents. That is what we want for our society’s living; we will try to offer everything for them in order to have equality.
Why is the equality of men and women so important for the Rojava Revolution?
E.M: We can’t really have a strong society without women’s active participation. Women’s struggle for their rights comes from within our own culture. Today, for example, the YPJ (women’s militia) are fighting ISIS alongside the YPG (men’s units). Women’s rights and equal place in society should be institutionalized through laws. If you want a strong society, there has to be equality between men and women.
E.M: We have a duty to implement those rights. When we get ISIS out of our region, which is the goal that has absorbed all of our energies at this moment, we will seek to legally institutionalize the equality between men and women. We have much left to do in this respect. As for homosexuals, maybe there will be some laws protecting their rights as well. It is normal.
What is your plan for restructuring Kobani?
E.M: We will rebuild the entire city, which as you see has been flattened. We will call on all NGOs and states to help.
There is help beyond finance. What can we do?
E.M: What is important for us is to reach people all over the world to show the resistance of the YPG and YPJ. There are lots of people in ISIS from all over the world. In Kobani Canton, we have an internationalism of a different kind: we want peace for all countries and are very sad about the Charlie Hebdo tragedy.
E.M: Thank you.