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Op-Ed: Rebuild Kobani, Solve the Refugee Crisis

kobane children kurdish school

The piece below was written by Sarkawt Shamsulddin, Washington Bureau Chief for NRT TV. He submitted the following opinion piece to us, and you can too. Submit your story here, or reach out to us at [email protected] Photo courtesy of Washington Kurdish Institute.

Rebuild Kobani, Solve the Refugee Crisis

by Sarkawt Shamsulddin

The story of Kobani, a Kurdish town in Northern Syria, or Rojava, became the turning point to defeat the most powerful terrorist organization.

It doesn’t end; the struggle is still on. The city was under the siege by Islamic State, or ISIS, for 134 days, but the city is in complete rubble. The schools, hospitals, parks and homes were destroyed.

But, the success story of Kobani, became a key to defeating ISIS elsewhere. It inspired others to reject ISIS and act against it.

The story is not over. Thousands of hopeful families returned to their hometown. They want to rebuild their life; kids return to schools, volunteers around the world are joining the effort to rebuild the city, the local authority has resumed operation to provide services to the people, but they are suffering to sustain it.

How can Kobani be a key for refugee crisis?

The Syrian people are suffering from a destructive civil war. They are the main victims of the civil war between the oppositions and the Syrian Government forces on one side, and the global fight against ISIS on another side.

Their homes, hospitals, parks, mosques, churches, schools are destroyed. Therefore, millions of Syrian left their towns and other the country to find shelter and life elsewhere.

They Syrians preferred to stay close to home and they lived in camps in Turkey and Jordan, but when the war goes on they lost hope.

They don’t believe they can return to their country. Because first they don’t think the war is going to be over, and second even if the war over, they have no place to go to; Their cities are now rubble.

Syrians believe that international organizations will not come to help them, because liberated areas like Kobani, Tel Abyedh, and Hasakah have been left without enough support for the returned families.

State of Disrepair in Syria

The Syrians are getting better treatment in the camps in Turkey or even in Europe than inside Syria. For example families returned to Kobani are suffering from lack of medical assistant, kids are going back to school, but the schools are ruined, no food stamp, no nutrition.

Some families from Kobani, who still live outside of Syria, still hesitant to return to the city because they don’t see any improvement. The city of Kobani or the Canton of Kobani was originally home to 400,000 people, more than 200,000 inside the city.

According to the Kobani Canton officials, more than 180,000 people returned to Kobani. There six schools are destroyed. Inside the city, only two schools, which were 50% destroyed, are now being utilized for all students. In this severe weather, the students are suffering from lack of nutrition, winter clothes.

Kobani’s local authority has very limited access to resources to keep the city safe. The local officials are eager to welcome any initiative to make people’s life easier and encourage more people to go back to the city.

Rebuilding after ISIS

Kobani’s success in the fight against ISIS became a turning point for the world that ISIS can be defeated, now the international community and the people around the world can help the people in Kobani by providing them their basic needs.

Kobani’s stand against ISIS should serve as a powerful message to all Syrians abroad that once their cities are liberated, the help will come and they can rebuild their city.

Reducing Refugee Pressure

The world was once inspired by Kurdish fighters in Kobani when they defeated ISIS; now the Kurds in Syria are in a unique position to help the West by reducing the refugee pressure.

Rebuilding Kobani will give hope to thousands of Syrian Refugees that help is underway. But if the West focuses only on refugees in the camps and not doing enough to the families returned to their homes in Kobani and Tel Abyedh, it is more likely the refugee crisis to become a bigger issue.

When rebuilding Kobani becomes real, others will join to rebuild their cities. A better Syria starts from Kobani.

 

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