Sorxwîn Mako: How Kobanê was liberated - Part One

Sorxwîn Mako was front commander of Kaniya Kurda during the defense of Kobanê against the Islamic State in 2014 and lost an eye there.

1 November marked World Kobanê Day. Sorxwîn Mako was front commander of Kaniya Kurda during the defense of Kobanê against the Islamic State in 2014 and lost an eye there. Sorxwîn Mako told ANF how she came from the mountains of Botan across the border to Rojava and what happened next.

“We were in the mountains of Kurdistan in 2014. With the most limited resources, just a radio, we followed the war in Kobanê. As Kurdish fighters, we felt the violence of the war deeply. There was a cruel attack on the population, on women, children and the elderly. As soon as the severity of the attacks was exposed, many revolutionary people wanted to go to Kobanê immediately. Many went and simply left their units, others suggested going to Kobanê. Because we are the fighters of our people. Hearing about the destruction of a people through massacres gave all revolutionary people the right to intervene. It was a revolutionary task to go to Kobanê. We set off. The enemy arrested many of us on the way. Many comrades were injured before they reached Kobanê, but some made it to Kobanê. When we crossed the border, Rûken from Silopi was also there. She had been seriously wounded in the abdomen in the battle in Kobanê and had come to the other side of the border to receive treatment. Her wounds hadn't healed yet, but she really wanted to go back across the border with us. Dilpak from Amed was also hit by bullets in the back and head. He also returned to Kobanê. They were very badly wounded, but they returned to Kobanê. They really caught my eye. Their wounds were visible, they needed treatment, they needed rest, but they went back to fighting. This strengthened our morale, it became a source of morale. Erdoğan's sentence 'Kobanê has fallen, it will fall' caused anger among all revolutionary people.

Across the Turkish-Syrian border to Kobanê

We crossed the border to Kobanê. I'll never forget how a father jumped at me at the border and said: 'Don't go, you'll die! Everyone is leaving Kobanê!' My answer to the father was: 'What's the point of living if our country is gone?' The father remained silent. When we reached the border fence, Turkish soldiers attacked with about 30 tanks. There were a lot of us. Not only revolutionary people crossed the border, but also ordinary people. By the time we reached Kobanê, 28 of us had been injured by bullets and gas bombs. About 300 people reached Kobanê. We paid a high price at the border, but we still arrived in Kobanê with great aspirations. We reached the city at three in the morning. In Kobanê, all that was visible was dust, smoke and fire. We encountered burning and exploding cars and destroyed houses; we were greeted by houses whose fire had not yet been put out. Kobanê was in flames. There was no place where the sound of bullets could not be heard. Howitzers, mortars and tanks could be heard constantly. After passing through the Mürşit Pınar Gate, we went to a house and were shot at by ISIS's inferno cannons. More than half of the friends grabbed the weapons they were given and got into position. I went to headquarters and reported on the newly arrived group. At headquarters I understood the dimensions of the war.

I went to the front of Kaniya Kurda

I went to the Kaniya Kurda front and Heval Gelhat was there. The first thing that both the friends at the headquarters and Heval Gelhat told me was: 'Try not to fall in the first three days. After three days you will understand the method of war.'

When I reached Kaniya Kurda, I received news of dead and wounded. They were people who had come to Kobanê with me and were part of my group. One of them was Heval Mîran from Şirnex. Another friend was wounded. We had arrived in the evening, and in the morning one of them had fallen and the other had been wounded. This situation fueled my feelings of revenge and victory.

Afterwards, we made a hasty battle plan while standing. Before us was a neighbourhood that we absolutely had to take. And when I say neighbourhood, it was only two buildings away. Moving two doors down meant getting one step closer to the liberation of Kobanê. The victory of Kobanê was enclosed in two houses. We started in the evening and cleared both houses by morning. We had a few wounded. Our war tactics were good, but our ammunition was not enough. It was not a war with heavy weapons or a battle fought using various tactics. It was a chest to chest battle. We fought with hand grenades and Qilêş [Kalashnikov]. Our hand grenades and ammunition were not enough. That's why we had wounded people. It was a gigantic war fought with small resources. There is hardly a troop or revolutionary in history who fought against a tank with a bomb or a Qilêş. It's never been seen before that you can reach under the tank with two bombs, explode them and stop the tank. In Kobanê we fought with this spirit. With a will of steel, they stood up to the ISIS gangs and fought.

After taking two houses, we advanced further each day. Our tactics and methods continued to improve. Mountain and city wars are very different from each other. We were looking for new tactics every day. Our experiences with urban warfare developed during the Kobanê War. Otherwise we had never taken part in a war in the city. We had to develop new methods of warfare from one moment to the next.

They slaughtered children, women and old people

It was a clash of two ideologies. One was an ideology of extermination, denial and massacre against the values of the people, and the other was the apoist ideology of the people who sacrificed everything they had for their people. It was the ideology of those who sacrificed their lives to save a woman and a child. The opposing force looted, pillaged, raped and massacred. They burned people alive. I saw with my own eyes how they poured gasoline on people and burned them alive. When they realized they were being repulsed, they increased the use of these methods. With the entry of our group from Aleppo into the war, the positions in Kobanê became like a fortress. ISIS was broken and they were fighting desperately. When the foundations of freedom were laid, the enemy was broken. There was a bazaar in Kaniya Kurda. We had seven or eight positions there. They burned a person to death in this bazaar. They engaged in psychological warfare. I can still hear those noises. But at this moment, the units needed to be morally strengthened. After all, we were human and we had feelings. The burning of a person before our eyes inevitably touched us. One person was waiting for us to come to his aid and was screaming at the top of his lungs. At that moment, I called out to all the emergency services on the radio because they had seen the image through the binoculars. 'Keep your morale high, ISIS will be defeated. If it wasn't exhausted, it wouldn't use psychological warfare. Pull your positions together, we will make a new advance in the evening,' I said. This was a necessary morale boost and we then carried out successful operations. They often used these brutal tactics. I am an eyewitness to these practices. The method they used most often was psychological warfare.

The sun was just about to rise. A call came over the radio and I was told to look around. There were three yellow, red and green chairs and three severed heads. We thought which of us had been captured, but none was. Through the radio connection we established, it became clear to us that the three severed heads belonged to citizens. The message was: 'We will cut off your heads too.' It became clear to us that ISIS was facing defeat.

I grew up in an Islamic environment until adulthood. Islam meant culture and morals, that's how we learned it. I'll never forget: A three-month-old baby had a stick passed through his anus and taken out of his mouth. When we opened our eyes in the morning, we saw the eyes of a baby with its tiny hands hanging on a stick. In Islam, infants are angels. According to Islam, a baby can never be an instrument of war. But that happened in Kobanê. ISIS's understanding of Islam was an understanding that slaughtered angels. As much as each atrocity we experienced affected us, we ultimately converted them into strength for the victory of Kobanê.