The Rojava Report

News from the Revolution in Rojava and Wider Kurdistan

ISIS Pushed Back In Rojava Despite Gains In Iraq And Syria


The following article “Kizwan, Kewkeb” was written by M. Ali Çelebi for Özgür Gündem. It has been translated into English below.

The United States, the KRG and others members of the international coalition had been  planning an operation to liberate Mosul during the months of April and May. Then ISIS captured the city of Ramadi, the capital of the largest province in Iraq, in just two days (May 17th and 18th). Following the fall of Ramadi ISIS captured the ancient city of Palmyra – ‘the Bride of the Desert’ on May 21st. Palmyra and the modern city of Tedmur which lies adjacent to it are located in the province of Homs and are located in one of Syria’s important oil and natural gas regions. Following this victory ISIS captured the border crossings of al-Tanf on May 22nd and al-Walid, just across the border, on May 24th. The knife is now against Baghdad’s throat. The Iraqi Prime Minister Ibadi, who is losing prestige by the day and who has done what he can not to oppose the United States has gone to Russia and requested weapons from Putin. While expectations for further US airstrikes is increasing, there will be no US ground troops while Obama – whose playbook is ‘take the weapons and do it yourself’ – remains in office.

ISIS had also previously captured the al-Qa’im border crossing across from the Abu Kemal (al-Bukamal) crossing in the Syrian province of Deyr Zor close to the Euphrates River and have opened a supply corridor which runs from Anbar to Tabqa, Rakka, Hama, Homs and as far as Aleppo. The al-Tanf border crossing controls the highway between Baghdad and Damascus. Just think what the situation would be if the YPG had not already taken the Til Koçer (al-Yarubiye) and Semalka crossings under their own control.

As ISIS has continued to rout the Syrian and Iraqi armies and have forced them from Ramadi and Palmyra they have been pushed back by the fighters of Rojava. Most recently they liberated the Çiyaye Kizwan (Evdilaziz Mountain) close to Haseke (Al-Hasakah) which will serve as a defensive barrier for the Kurdish and Syriac peoples. The liberation of Kizwan – which ISIS had transformed into a logistics center and a training ground and on which it had built extensive defensive fortifications – was accomplished by the YPG-YPJ, Syriac Units and the Martyr Lawrence Battalion (which is largely composed of Arabs from the Shamar tribe and which was put together under the auspices of the YPG).

The rout in Ramadi and Palmyra and the shining victory on Kizwan mountain have shown the importance of the human factor – hope and a love of freedom as well as tactics and strategy. Because the peoples of the Rojava cantons are struggling for freedom and equality they have gained a strategic advantage against both ISIS and the Syrian regime.

Derweşe Evdî And The Syriacs

Around Kizwan are level fields. Although there are sporadic stands of trees most of the ground is bare. The mountain is also bare despite pine cover on certain peaks. The surrounding area is full of agricultural fields. The mountain, which is cooled by the Xabur river, is important for Rojava both in terms of its prosperity and its military defense. I spoke with İshoc (Eghoue) Gewriya, the leader of the Syriac Union Party in Syria. Gewriya drew attention to how ISIS had attacked Syriac civilians in Til Temir from their positions on this mountain, saying “[Kizwan] functions as the border between the Cizîrê Canton and Deyr Zor. It is a strategically important place. It is between 40-50 km long and because it is close the Xabur river it is strategically important for the Syriac-Assyrian people. For example it is about 3 km from our village of Til Şamiran. The Syriac villages in the region of Til Temir and Xabur are all located on the foot of the mountain. When one captures the Cebl Evdilaziz  (Kizwan) they have Haseke, the Xabur region, and Til Tamir in their sights. If [Kizwan] is entirely captured then ISIS will be cut off and Til Temir will also be cleared. It is all connected to this mountain.”

When I asked Nasir Haci, a political leader in the Cizîrê Canton, about the mountain he said “in the past Kizwan was a pasture land for the Kurds. It was the land of Derweşe Evdi (a Kurdish folk hero). Once while Derweşe Evdi was fighting he took up residence there. Kizwan is a long mountain. It is to the south-east of Serekaniye and the south-west of Til Temir and Haseke.” He stressed that that the mountain was a military defensible area and a cross roads covering the region in all four directions.

Is Kewkeb Mountain Next?

Now ISIS is hold up in the Hol plane to the south and south-west of Hasekê and in the city of Shaddadi, located in an oil-producing region around 30-40 km from Hasekê. Although it is not that high the Baath regime is attempting to hold the Kewkeb mountain to the east of Hasekê. The Baath army is attempting to protect the area around the mountain as an important military base.

It is possible that Kewkeb can be liberated before ISIS captures it. However it is a reality that if the responsibility for stopping the monstrosity that is ISIS – which is carrying out genocide and attacking the spirit of humanity – falls only to the Kurds and if not the embargo is not lifted and the the system of autonomy does not continue to be implemented across the region then neither not even Istanbul, Izmir, or Rize, New York or Brussels will be safe. Turkey and Saudia Arabia must stop their support for ISIS.

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