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Inside Kobani: Rubble Litters Streets of City Besieged by ISIS

Rubble is strewn across the central marketplace in Kobani.

Iraqi-Kurdish journalist Shirwan Qasim spent three days inside the besieged Syrian city last week after making a perilous journey across the border from Turkey. A fierce battle has raged for the strategically-important city over the past 40 days, with Kurdish fighters backed by U.S.-led airstrikes attempting to slow the advance of ISIS.

Shirwan Qasim

A Kurdish fighter monitors the city's western front line.

“We accessed Kobani with the assistance of smugglers," Qasim says. "On the Turkish side, there were many armored cars blocking the road and preventing people from entering or exiting Syria. When we approached the border, we had to crouch while walking for about 100 meters. We then had to sprint for an additional 80 meters. If we hadn't done this, an armored car would have spotted us and fired at us. Finally, we had to jump over a barbed wire fence to actually enter Syria."

Shirwan Qasim

An abandoned shop in Kobani's central market. While most of the population has fled, several hundred mostly elderly people remain in the city, U.N. envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said earlier this month. Over 10,000 civilians are stuck nearby on the Syrian side of the border, trapped in the danger zone and at risk from stray bullets.

Shirwan Qasim

A field commander from the Kurdish People's Protection Unit (YPG) in Kobani.

No part of the city is safe, Qasim says. "There were lots of explosions and fighting where I was, and the battles are very violent. In one minute you can go from complete quiet to all guns firing. At some points on the front line, we were only 50 meters from ISIS fighters."

Shirwan Qasim

An unexploded mortar shell lies amidst rubble on a street in Kobani. In the western side of the city, people hide in their homes when clashes occur and only venture outside when the situation calms down, Qasim says. Kurdish YPG fighters distribute food.

Shirwan Qasim

A young YPG fighter on her way to the front line. Thousands of Kurdish women have taken up arms to protect their people against attacks from Bashar Assad’s government, ISIS militants and the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in Syria's three-and-a-half-year-old conflict, said on Sunday it had confirmed that 815 people had been killed in the fighting for Kobani over the last 40 days - more than half of them ISIS fighters.

Shirwan Qasim

Kurdish fighters return from the front line. The Kurdish fighters are in great spirits, Qasim says. Kurds from Turkey, Iraq, and Iran are participating alongside Syrian Kurds in the battle for Kobani.

Shirwan Qasim

A scene of devastation in Al-Salam Square, where ISIS carried out an attack using a truck rigged with explosives.

"When we wanted to leave Kobani, we were stuck for an hour because we were under attack from ISIS fighters. We had to hide under trucks," Qasim says. "At the border, the Turkish authorities fired tear gas and kept the fleeing civilians away from the border fence. Later on, we were able to make a run for it and cross the border when it was time for the Turkish police to change shifts."

Shirwan Qasim