In September 2014, ISIS attacked Ayn-el Arab - also known as Kobanî - on three fronts.
Before the civil war in Syria, the city was under the regime's power and was a part of Rojova, a territory being ruled by the Kurds of the Democratic Union Party (YPG). Kobanî carried great political significance for Kurds in Iraq, Iran and Turkey.
Before attacking Kobanî, ISIS blockaded the city on three fronts by occupying Tel-Abyad in the East, Jarablus in the West and Sarrin in the Southern region. People living in those territories were refugees who had already risked their lives to escape from ISIS.
The attack on Kobanî was unexpected, and the YPG was the only armed force to defend the city against ISIS. They were scarce in numbers and only had light weapons, with minimal backing from the Turkish army.
During those days, Turkey’s government saw the YPG as a terrorist organisation, and refused to help them. However they opened a gate in the Yumurtalik region, and let civilians pass through to Turkey.
Approximately 7,000 - 10,000 civilians entered Turkey through that gate. It took 1 month for ISIS to arrive in Kobanî and during that time nearly 200,000 civilians had already passed into Turkey.
The city was emptied, and by October ISIS had enclosed the city on 3 sides within 5km. Civilian war lasted for months and resulted in the victory of the YPG.
But the city has become a ghost town which is impossible to dwell in. Now, over 200,000 people no longer have a home.
The white helmets
"Barrel bombs - sometimes filled with chlorine - are the biggest killer of civilians in Syria today. Our unarmed and neutral rescue workers have saved more than 62,000 people from the attacks in Syria, but there are many we cannot reach. There are children trapped in rubble we cannot hear. For them, the UN Security Council must follow through on its demand to stop the barrel bombs, by introducing a 'no-fly zone' if necessary." - Raed Saleh, head of the White Helmets, the Syrian Civil Defence.
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