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Together in Kobane: Former Refugee Re...
Kobane
By Bedir
10 Feb 2015

Kobani, Syria
February 10, 2015

After leaving her hometown of Kobani and living in Turkey for several months, Siddiqa Barkal was happily reunited with her husband and two sons who remained in the city to fight against ISIS. Siddiqa’s three daughters and her youngest son were also rejoiced to return with her.
Siddiqa’s husband, Ismat Sheikh Hassan, is the head of the Defense Committee in the Kobani Canton, part of the autonomous district proclaimed by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, known by the Kurdish acronym PYD. He was widely quoted by Western media during the battle for Kobani.
Siddiqa says that she was very sad to leave her hometown and live in exile, despite the warm welcome she received in Turkey. She took the risk of returning to Kobani even before ISIS fighters were defeated because her young children could not bear living outside their city.
In Kobani, Siddiqa stood by her husband, sons and other fighters of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) during the battles and made them food until they won over the battle against ISIS.

SHOTLIST AND TRANSCRIPT

Various of family in living room

SOUNDBITE (Kurdish, Woman) Siddiqa Barkal, Refugee Who Returned to Kobani

01:01 - 09:45

“We left when ISIS attacked Kobani on [September] 20. We did not leave willingly. We wanted to stay in Kobani and live with the comrades and fighters. We wanted to be martyred with them. Seven days after I left Kobani with my children, they convinced me of returning. We returned but could not enter. My children and I stayed in Suruc. They did not tolerate to live outside Kobani. They kept saying that they wanted to return. I had three girls and a young boy with me. Even though my children could not live outside of Kobani, the situation there did not allow us to return. The father of my children and two of my children were fighting in the city. The rest of my children and I were very worried about them. My young son Hamza used to cry and say, ‘I cannot stand living outside Kobani because my friends are not here. I feel lonely when I am outside my city.’ In Suruc, my children and I were living in a house. My children never left the house during the day. On certain days, they used to sleep during the day and stay up at night watching television. On the 25th of the month, my older daughter went to Kobani. She called me, saying, ‘I cannot take it anymore. My father and two brothers are in Kobani and I need to go and see them. I want to stay in my city, Kobani.’
“I had many friends and acquaintances in northern Turkey who offered to let me live in their homes. I went near to Kobani on several occasions. My young son and I cried as smoke was rising from the buildings. The sound of explosions and gunshots was heard. Warplanes were bombing and the city was being destroyed. We were very worried about our friends who were fighting to defend the city. One day, I decided to return to Kobani while ISIS mercenaries were still there. I called my daughter then to tell her that we were coming and she told her father. My husband called me, saying: ‘Why did you not tell us that you were coming?’ I returned to Kobani and he was very happy. Some were worried that my children would be affected by the scenes of killing and destruction. There were also worried that ISIS was still there. “I used to make dinner for the fighters on the front and help them. We never thought that ISIS could have control over us. Many people used to ask me whether Kobani will fall or not. I used to say to them that Kobani will never fall and that it shall be victorious. 'We will fight until the last drop of our blood and the last stone in the city.’ I kept saying this to the women and mothers. The ideas of leader Abdullah Ocalan were behind the victory. Male and female fighters are fighting by relying on their own capabilities and conviction. They were not pushed by anyone; they were not forced to do this. They are fighting with their hearts, which is why they will achieve victory. For example, when you make a child carry something, he will carry it but he might fail. If he carries it with his own will and strength, he will succeed. The young men and women came from all parts of Kurdistan. We consider the member of the People’s Protection Units and the Women’s Protection Units our sons and daughters and parts of our bodies. They are sacrificing their lives for their land, which is why we will achieve victory. “I cannot describe the way I felt when we returned to Kobani. We felt so much joy. My little son Hamza was thrilled because he returned to his friends. I asked my son on our way back, ‘Who do you want to see first, your brothers or your father?’ He said: ‘I want to return to my friends.’ Friendship is more important for him. When I was in Kobani, I was very happy to see the comrade fighters. I did not believe that I was actually with them, and that I was embraced by Kobani. When the comrade fighters liberated Kobani from ISIS mercenaries, I was trembling. I was so happy that I did not understand what was happening. I asked a woman near me: ‘Am I in Kobani? Has it been liberated?’ “I cannot describe the joy I felt. When I left Kobani, I felt as if one of my sons or the father of my children was martyred. We all cried when we left. Even my young son went to the comrades and held their hands, saying: ‘I want to stay in Kobani and be martyred.’ When I left Kobani, I was told that I would return in seven days. My son was fighting on the eastern front, where battles were the fiercest. I did not tell anyone that I was leaving. When my son heard about it he said: ‘Mother, why are you leaving?’ I told him that I was not leaving willingly, and that I was leaving because the comrades wanted me to. When I left, I did not bid my sons farewell. It was a very painful moment. I cannot forget that moment. The moment I crossed the border was very painful. I cannot describe it. “Now that Kobani has been liberated, people will return to the city in the next few weeks. Those whose houses were destroyed will rebuild their houses. We have to help each other, take care of ourselves and return to our previous lives. We will live a happy life. Rojava [Syrian part of Kurdistan] will be fully liberated from ISIS mercenaries, especially that they were defeated in Kobani. The People’s Protection Units and the Women’s Protection Units have pledged to fight ISIS wherever they were. We, the people, should help the members of these forces who are sacrificing their lives for the homeland.”

Various of family inside the house
Various of young Hamza
Various of family and guests in front of the house

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Returning to Kobane
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After four months of war and siege, residents of the Syrian city of Kobani have begun returning to the city to see what is left of their homes. 

The fighting left %50 of the city destroyed and for many, there is little left to come home to. While residents salvage the remains of their homes, the battle continues in the surrounding villages between the Kurdish YPG and ISIS.

Syrian photographer Massoud Mohamad accompanied the returning residents to document their journey. 

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Argin, 18, at a checkpoint searching incoming cars in front of a military camp of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) in the predominantly Kurdish town of Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Two female combatants of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) walking to their outposts in the outskirts of the town of Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Viyan, 20, taking a rest after she received treatment for her wounded feet at the Women Protection Units (YPJ) emergency medical clinic in the town of Tirbespi northeast Syria. She was wounded in the battle for Serekaniye against various Islamic rebels, including the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), March 2014.

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Captain Janda Chya, 20, beside her is the poster of her comrade and renowned local female Kurdish leader ,"Warsin", killed last year in a battle against Islamic rebels. "She fell martyred in a battle and we named the YPJ brigade camp after her," Chya said while sat at reception of the YPJ "Sehit (Martyr) Warsin Brigade" military camp in Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Female Kurdish fighters of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) militia standing together at the "Sehit (Martyr) Warsin Brigade" military camp in the predominantly Kurdish town of Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Captian Dilce (Front left) and Captain Janda Chya (Front right) with two other female combatants at a military camp of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) in the town of Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Tirbespi
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"Zilan", a former school teacher, joined the YPJ in 2013 but mostly runs Kurdish language reading and writing classes for fellow female comrades at the YPJ camp in Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014. "I am now fighting for Kurdish rights and teaching a language the Syrian regime denied it existed for so many years. This is a great honor," she said.

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Captain "Dicle" (left) and former university graduate "Rojan" (right) discussing night security shiftd with fellow female fighters at the Women Protection Units (YPJ) military camp in the town of Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Tirbespi
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Launch break, the only time of the day these female fighters of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) lay down their guns in the town of Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Tirbespi
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Captain Janda Chya, 20, standing in front of female fighters of the company she is leading in the pro-Kurdish Women Protection Units, better known by its Kurdish acronym, YPJ, in the outskirts of the predominantly Kurdish town of Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014.

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YPJ female combatants at a checkpoint in Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Argin, 18, is an outspoken "anti-capitalist feminist" more than anything else. "Capitalist countries divided Kurdistan and capitalism enslaves women, it is common sense to understand that capitalism as a system has to go for a world without these two forms of oppression," she often argued while debating her political views at one of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) camps in the town of Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Argin, 18, sitting on a swing that she built with her female comrades at the back garden of a YPJ military camp in Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014. "It is a quite backyard, good to deeply think or read books whenever it is a sunny day and attacks ease a little," she said.

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Argin, 18, at one of the YPJ camps in Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014. "Kurdish rights means the immediate democratisation of four complicated states in the Middle East, which is why Kurdish freedom is key to regional peace. I am ready to live and die pursuing this paradigm because it is the most progressive and noble humanist cause to advocate amid this chaos in Syria," she said.

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Female Kurdish Fighters- 7
Tirbespi
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"Desine", 18, reads a book with her sniper rifle beside her. She is on a day off at the YPJ " Sehit (Martyr) Warsin Brigade" camp in the town of Tibespi northeast Syria, March 2014."We have four days leave each month, but I do not go home because incoming attacks are frequent these days, " she said.

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Female Kurdish Fighters-15
Tirbespi
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Shilan, unloading her rifle for a clean up. Guns used to frighten her in the past but now she cleans, prepares and carries one at all times unless otherwise on short breaks at a military camp of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) in Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Female Kurdish Fighters-17
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Sozda, 18, preparing and cleaning her Kalashnikov rifle while at a military camp of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) in the town of Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Shilan, 28, was about to get married before she decided to instead take up arms and join the ranks of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) in the town of Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014. "My family initially did not understand the desires of an independent woman wanting to be part of fateful events determining the future of her nation, but they are now proud of me" she said.

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Tirbespi
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Sozda (left) and Shilan (right), busy cleaning their Kalashnikov rifles at a military camp of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) in the town of Tirbespi northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Female Kurdish Fighters-34
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A Kurdish female combatant of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) during a public celebration for International Women's Day in central Al-Qamishli northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Female Kurdish Fighters-31
Al-Qamishli
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After months of fighting in the frontline, returning YPJ female fighter meets with her mother amid the International Women's Day celebrations in central Al-Qamishli northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Al-Qamishli
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Kurdish female fighters of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) during a military parade at a public event celebrating International Women's day in central Al-Qamishli, March 2014.

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Female Kurdish Fighters-29
Al-Qamishli
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YPJ female fighters from the frontline, parading through the streets amid cheering crowd celebrating International Women's Day in central Al-Qamishli northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Female Kurdish Fighters-27
Al-Qamishli
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Shilan (second left), reunites with her comrades returning from the the frontline to the International Women's Day public celebrations in central Al-Qamishli northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Female Kurdish Fighters-28
Al-Qamishli
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A Kurdish female fighter of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) parades through a cheering crowd celebrating International Women's Day in central Al-Qamishli northeast Syria, March 2014.

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A combat pickup truck of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) driving through the streets to attend International Women's Day celebrations in central Al-Qamishli northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Female Kurdish Fighters-24
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A crowd dressed in celebratory clothes for International Women's Day celebrations gather around and look amazed at a Women Protection Units (YPJ) fighter holding onto her machine gun on a pickup truck in central Al-Qamishli northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Al-Qamishli
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A Kurdish female fighter of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) militia on a combat pickup truck driving to International Women's Day celebrations in central Al-Qamishli northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Female Kurdish Fighters-35
Al-Qamishli
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A Kurdish female fighter of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) militia holds the barrel of her DShk machine gun on a combat vehicle driving through a crowds celebrating International Women's Day in central Al-Qamishli northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Former teacher, Zilan (left), with some of her comrades of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) during a public event celebrating International Women's Day in central Al-Qamishli northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Captain Janda Chya organising her company fighters of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) to parade through a crowd at a public event celebrating International Women's Day in central Al-Qamishli northeast Syria, March 2014.

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A Kurdish female fighter of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) celebrating International Women's Day in central Al-Qamishli northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Kurdish female fighters of the Women Protection Units (YPJ) at a public event celebrating International Women's Day in central Al-Qamishli northeast Syria, March 2014.

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A pickup truck carrying "Sehit (Martyr) Warsin Brigade" female fighters during a military parade for International Women's Day celebration in central Al-Qamishli, northeast Syria, March 2014.

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Female Kurdish Fighters-23
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A combat vehicle carrying Captain Janda Chya and female fighters of her company during a military parade for International Women's Day celebrations in central Al-Qamishli northeast Syria, March 2014.