Kobane

Key facts

► Kobane has been a battleground between Islamic State (IS) militants and Kurdish fighters since September 2014, when IS fighters overran the small northern Syrian town, forcing almost all of its civilians to flee into Turkey.

► International air strikes led by the US helped to push back IS fighters, allowing Kurdish fighters to regain control of the town at the start of 2015.

► Kobanî Canton unilaterally declared autonomy in January 2014 and since de facto is under direct democratic government in line with the polyethnic Constitution of Rojava. Thsi new government is beginning the reconstruction process.

130.000
Syrians who fled the Turkish Border
during the siege of Kobane

Kobane has been a battleground between Islamic State (IS) militants and Kurdish fighters since September 2014, when IS fighters overran the small northern Syrian town, forcing almost all of its civilians to flee into Turkey. International air strikes led by the US helped to push back IS fighters, allowing Kurdish fighters to eventually regain control of the town at the start of 2015. But the victory, heralded by some as a symbolic defeat for IS, was not to last, with IS militants launching a fresh attack on 25 June.

18 - 22 September 2014 - Fleeing civilians

In just four days, the UN says over 130,000 people have fled across the border into Turkey as IS forces advance through the countryside and surround Kobane. As Kurdish fighters battle IS inside Syria, refugees clash with security forces on the Turkish side of the border.

27 September - Coalition air strikes begin

The US-led aerial coalition, which has been conducting strikes against IS targets in Iraq since August, launches its first attacks on the group near Kobane. The strikes come as IS continues to close in on the town, which at this point has become a focus of dogged resistance on a stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border that IS otherwise controls.

6 - 11 October - IS advances, rising death toll

Despite US air strikes and Kurdish resistance, IS fighters break through into Kobane in early October and take districts in the east and south of the town. Their black flag can be seen from inside Turkey, where refugees can only stand and watch. At least 533 people are reported to have died in almost a month of fighting, including 298 IS fighters.

14 - 30 October - Kurdish fighters push back, retake hill

The US-led coalition steps up strikes on militants in the town, and a counter-offensive by Kurdish fighters sees them take back an important hilltop overlooking Kobane which was captured by IS 10 days previously. On 20 October, the US military air drop much-needed weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to anti-IS fighters.

6 - 19 January 2015 - Major Kurdish advances

Kurdish fighters manage to seize a key district and activists say they now control 80% of the town. Two weeks later, the Kurds regain control of another strategic hill top, putting key IS re-supply routes within the line of fire. Analysts say the recapture of Mishtenur hill could prove to be a defining moment for the fate of Kobane.

26 January - IS driven out

Officials say IS militants have been driven out, ending a four-month battle for the northern Syrian town. Activists say the fighting left at least 1,600 people dead, among them 1,196 jihadists.

February - Assessing the destruction

An analysis of satellite imagery by the UN shows more than 3,200 buildings were destroyed or damaged during the four months of fighting.

25 June - IS re-enter Kobane

Following a string of defeats to Kurdish forces, IS launch a two-pronged offensive in the north, including a fresh attack on the border town of Kobane. Turkish officials say between 30,000 and 35,000 people from a population of about 400,000 have returned to Kobane since January.

Text from: BBC News Battle for Kobane: Key events – 25 June 2015.
Text from: BBC News Battle for Kobane: Key events – 25 June 2015.

3247
Highly damaged buildings

70%
Of the city destrioyed

By May 2015 more than 50,000 people have 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 is 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.

Kobane offers just a glimpse of the wider devastation being inflicted around Syria. The war here was brief by comparison to some of the battles still raging elsewhere, but it was fierce. The Islamic State attacked in September last year, surged into the town, then by January had been driven out by local Kurdish forces aided by U.S. strikes.But in those four short months, much of the town was reduced to rubble. Barely a street or a building was untouched. Whole neighborhoods lie in ruins, their streets a ghostly echo of the life they once contained. Four months of fighting between Kurdish forces — backed by U.S. air power — and the Islamic State has left much of the town of Kobane in rubble. At least 3,247 structures were damaged. With the Islamic State now driven back by more than 40 miles, Kobane offers a rare instance of a community in Syria that is already starting to rebuild. But it is a daunting task, and little in the way of help has arrived.

35.000
Persons that returned to Kobane
after the end of the siege

A little more than half of the prewar residents have returned, and the town is coming back to life. Some shops have opened, seven schools are working and 70 percent of the water supply has been restored. But there is still no electricity, and families who have come back to broken homes they can’t afford to repair face a grim winter without proper shelter.

Herculean efforts have cleared the streets, but water and power have yet to be restored. Although commerce is trickling back to life (some businesses even have glass storefront windows once again), 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.

Propaganda and indoctrination are everywhere. Images of medieval beheadings and hand chopping, characteristic of Isis’s law enforcement and which evoke such outrage abroad, are so commonplace in Raqqa that locals have been desensitised. When every minor infraction engenders a few dozen lashes in a public square, there is little that shocks people.Worse, they have infused their ideology into school curricula, and recruited youngsters into their feared police apparatus, sending many as suicide bombers and appointing teenagers to run security within the city. “In school, the books don’t have math problems that ask you what two plus two is; the math problem is always two guns plus two guns equals what”.