Tom Anderson and Eliza Egret write: “We have cleared 1.5 million tonnes of rubble,” Abdo Rrahman Hemo (known as Heval Dostar), head of the Kobanê Reconstruction Board, tells us humbly as we sit in his office in Kobanê city in November 2015. But as we walk through the bombed streets, with collapsed buildings all around us and dust filling our lungs, it’s hard to believe that Kobanê could have been any worse. “We have estimated that 3.5 billion dollars of damage has been caused,” he continues.
It’s been one year since the US bombing of Kobanê – then partly occupied by Daesh – and most of the buildings are still in tatters. Kobanê is in Rojava (meaning ‘west’ in Kurdish), a Kurdish majority region in the north of Syria that declared autonomy from the Assad regime in 2012.
When Daesh approached, the majority of those who were not involved in defending the city left, most to neighbouring Turkey. The People’s Protection Units of the YPG and YPJ remained to defend the city, and were eventually given air support by the US. Most of the refugees have now returned, only to find a city almost entirely destroyed and littered with mines and booby traps, planted by Daesh before they were defeated. As we walk around, a family waves at us from the wreckage of their home, which no longer has three of its walls. Washing lines are hung up and clothes are dried amongst the wrecked houses as people continue their daily lives.
So why is Kobanê still in ruins one year on? Unsurprisingly, the US – whose bombs caused the majority of destruction in Kobanê – has not provided any support for the reconstruction. This is a mixed blessing, as US reconstruction efforts are aimed at creating markets for US companies and generating allies for US foreign policy. But it leaves a vacuum that grassroots solidarity movements need to fill. [Continue reading…]