Last night, KOBANÊ, the newest film of the Rojava Film Commune, had its premiere in Kobani. It must have been amazing to see it right there in the city where the legendary battle against the siege of Daesh took place a couple of years ago. Having seen the film already, at home on my laptop screen, it completed the picture I had of the battle, which I followed from the other side of the border as a journalist. Ax Kobani…
Ax Kobani is the name of a song that often comes to mind when I read about the city or think of those months at the end of 2014 and the first weeks of 2015. I lived in Diyarbakır then, but I spent weeks on end in Suruç, Kobani’s sister city at the Turkish side of the border. From there, both the international press and the Kurdish solidarity movement followed the battle.
The journalists mostly grouped together on ‘press hill’, from where the sight on Kobani was good, while the latter gathered in villages alongside the border to organise solidarity actions. I was running around between the hill and the villages, writing stories and making radio items, and keeping several radio shows in Dutch and English updated on developments.
Of course, the journalists talked to refugees from Kobani too. I will never forget a small family I met who were staying in a house with, if I remember well, another family, wanting for the battle to end so they could return home. The little girl of the family, maybe seven years old, sang me a song that I used in one of the radio items. She had a soft and very clear voice, and she sang a song about the city that was so close but out of reach: ‘Ax Kobani’. A lament – she missed it.
We could only know to a certain extent what was going on in Kobani. We could see which flags were flying where, hated seeing the black one of Daesh on strategic Mistenur Hill, saw YPG and YPJ flags on other points, and when the US started bombing Daesh, we could see where they fell and get some idea of how things were developing. On the Suruç side of the border, people were singing loudly and shouting slogans, hoping the fighters would hear it. Would the fighters be aware of the support? Did they hear it?
I must admit that I was wondering if any of this would have made it into the film. Maybe in the background as a noise now and then, with somewhere a shot across the border showing what was going on there. A childish, too one-dimensional wish probably, because the film fully focussed on what was happening inside the city. Of course it did: that’s the part of the story we only imagined.
Now, we don’t have to imagine it anymore. KOBANÊ shows how fast the advance of Daesh was suddenly going, how quickly decisions had to be made about how to defend the city, how Turkey’s support for Daesh wasn’t superficial, but really impacted the battle. How brave individual fighters were and how that bravery strengthened the whole fighting force of the YPG and YPJ. The sacrifices, the destruction, the absolute determination not to give up against all odds. The decision to stop being in defence and start attacking, blowing Daesh off their feet.
For me, KOBANÊ helps to complete the picture of those months that still impact developments in Northeast-Syria today. The Kurds had been busy, since 2012, building their autonomous administration, which they rightly consider a revolution, and not losing Kobani to Daesh was of critical importance for the survival of the revolution. That the YPG and YPJ prevailed then, propelled the revolution further into the future. It is still under threat, mostly from Turkey, but standing strong nevertheless, and the confidence was built in Kobani.
The battle was, in other words, not just about a city or a territory, but about an ideology of humanity that absolutely had to prevail over the monstrous, genocidal ideology and practice of Daesh. A force that is female in its core, against one of the most brutal patriarchal forces ever. Femininity prevailed and the film helps to deeply understand that, and makes sure it is never forgotten.
The people in Kobani already know. But that’s exactly why it is so important that the film premiered there. I have talked to the members of the Rojava Film Commune, and know how important they consider it to tell the story from the perspective of the revolution for the people whom the revolution revolves around and who make the revolution. It must have been amazing and profoundly emotional to have been in the cinema hall last night.
Maybe, just maybe the little girl who sang the song to me back in 2014, was in the room – who knows? She must be around 14, 15 years old now. If she sees the film, either in Kobani or where ever she builds her life now, I hope she sees herself reflected in it and that she feels proud. That she feels inspired and knows that she, as a girl, is the future. Ax Kobani.
Fréderike Geerdink is an independent journalist. Follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her acclaimed weekly newsletter Expert Kurdistan.