Kobani still a ghost town, months after freed from IS

Updated 01 May 2015

Kobani still a ghost town, months after freed from IS

SURUC, Turkey: The battle for the Syrian border town of Kobani was a watershed in the war against the Islamic State group — Syrian Kurdish forces fought the militants in rubble-strewn streets for months as US aircraft pounded the extremists until ultimately expelling them from the town earlier this year.
It was the Islamic State’s bloodiest defeat to date in Syria. But now, three months since Kobani was liberated, tens of thousands of its residents are still stranded in Turkey, reluctant to return to a wasteland of collapsed buildings and at a loss as to how and where to rebuild their lives.
The Kurdish town on the Turkish-Syrian border is still a haunting, apocalyptic vista of hollowed out facades and streets littered with unexploded ordnance — a testimony to the massive price that came with the victory over IS. There is no electricity or clean water, nor any immediate plans to restore basic services and start rebuilding.
While grateful for the US airstrikes that helped turn the tide in favor of the Kobani fighters and drive out IS militants, residents say their wretched situation underscores the lack of any serious follow-up by the international community in its war against IS.
“First, Islamic State fighters were holed up in our home and then the American planes bombed it,” said Sabah Khalil, pointing from across the border in Suruc, Turkey, to where her family house in Kobani is now a pile of crumpled cement.
“Who is going to help us rebuild? That’s what everyone is asking,” she added, sitting on a stone outside her tent, soaking in the spring sun as children in tattered shoes played nearby.
Today more than 70 percent of Kobani lies in ruins. More than 560 Kurdish fighters died in the battles.
About 70,000 of the refugees have returned to the town and surrounding areas, some only to pitch tents outside their destroyed homes, according to Aisha Afandi, co-chair of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD.
With no outside help, the Kurdish fighters use primitive tools to dismantle mines and booby traps left behind by IS militants. The rotting bodies of dead fighters are still trapped under the rubble, and as the weather gets warmer, there are concerns of spreading disease.
At the nearby Arin Mirxan camp in Suruc, named after a female Kurdish fighter in Kobani who is said to have carried out a suicide bombing against IS militants in October, the hopelessness is on full display.
Ali Hussein and his mother Zalikha Qader sit next to each other in the camp, eating roasted pumpkin seeds and wiling the time away.
In nearby “Tent Number 3,” Shahin Tamo, 21, takes care of his 7-year-old brother Sarwan, a skeletal child with large eyes who suffers from a serious neurological condition. They are here with their parents, two brothers and two sisters. Their Kobani home was looted and burnt.
“Everything is gone. Our house, my education, my future,” Tamo said. “Who will compensate that?”


Egypt churches reopen as new infections wane

Updated 1 min 39 sec ago

Egypt churches reopen as new infections wane

  • The Coptic Orthodox Church said it would receive the faithful in its churches with restrictions
  • Egypt on Sunday reported its lowest daily confirmed coronavirus cases in more than two months

CAIRO: Egypt’s churches are reopening their doors to the faithful on Monday for the first time in more than four months due to a coronavirus lockdown.
The Coptic Orthodox Church said in a statement that it would receive the faithful in its churches with restrictions that include social distancing and wearing masks.
Other churches are also reopening across the Arab World’s most populous county, which has seen a steady decline in coronavirus infections in the past two weeks.
Christians constitute around 10% of Egypt’s predominantly Muslim 100 million people.
Egypt on Sunday reported its lowest daily confirmed cases of coronavirus in more than two months, with 167 infections and 31 deaths.
Overall, Egypt has reported around 94,450 confirmed cases including 4,865 fatalities.