Writing exclusively for Londra Gazete, Tottenham MP David Lammy says the defence of Kobane is not just for the sake of a town, but for freedom, secularism and tolerance
The Battle of Kobane continues unabated. With nearly 1,000 fighters already killed, and the town under sustained attack, questions continue to be raised about when, and how, this battle will end.
The advance of IS towards Kobane has, if reports are to be believed, been halted – for now. But this is a long fight. We should not be satisfied until the world is rid of the scourge of IS. And small victories should only strengthen our resolve to eradicate IS and its evil practices.
This will require commitment from a range of actors. As a NATO member, Turkey must commit fully to joining the NATO fight against IS and its attempt to spread its brutal and barbaric creed of extremism across the Middle East. The photos of Turkish tanks sitting idly just miles away from Kobane as IS forces attack the town and battle rages do not reflect well on the Erdoğan government. Turkey is uniquely placed to help suppress IS and President Erdoğan needs to commit his country to supporting its NATO allies in this fight.
This is in everyone’s interests: Turkey should be as concerned as the rest of us about the jihadist group sweeping ever closer to its borders.
The Turkish government has, rightly, started to change tack and is now allowing some Kurdish peshmerga reinforcements to cross the border into Syria, but only Kurds from Iraq and not those from Turkey. There is still much more that President Erdoğan’s administration could be doing to help in the fight against IS. We must continue urge it to do so.
As the fighting continues, the United States has stepped up its air strikes on IS, which Kurdish forces credit with helping them turn the tide against the advance of IS. This is the reason that I and most of my parliamentary colleagues supported intervention against IS in Iraq: a pressing need and a clear sense of how the West could help. The UK Parliament has not, at this stage, authorised air strikes against IS in Syria. If the time comes that the Prime Minister feels such action is necessary, he must make the case to Parliament and demonstrate how it will help the situation on the ground, while providing reassurances that such strikes will be careful, targeted and precise, as they have been in Iraq. It will then be up to Parliament to make a decision based on these arguments. In the meantime, we should continue to deliver the weaponry that will enable the peshmerga to match the military might that IS is developing.
The Battle of Kobane has been described as a fight for territory, but it is more than that. For IS, this is an ideological war. Their spokesmen have made clear that in Kobane they are not just fighting for control of the town but against what they see as abominable Kurdish secularism. In that context, the response of the Kurdish forces and those who stand with them is not a defence of a town but a defence of freedom, secularism and tolerance. As such, it is a fight that we cannot contemplate losing.
This is not just a military crisis but a humanitarian one too. The international community must ensure that the civilian population of Kobane and other towns under attack continue to be supplied with food, medicine and other necessary aid. I will continue to lobby the Foreign Secretary to ensure that the UK plays a full role in this.
My constituents watch with deep concern as news reports detail sustained fighting and further bloodshed in Kobane. The brutal battle for this border town shows how important it is that we stand strong and united in the fight against IS wherever it rears its head.
David Lammy is the member of parliament for Tottenham.