BREAKING NEWS : Silver Alert issued for Trent D. Thomas of Fort Wayne Full Story

In a Syrian cemetery, Kurds contemplate war without their US allies

Every Friday, they come to the cemetery in Kobani, Syria, to hand out sweets and remember their loved ones, ...

Posted: Jan 14, 2019 7:19 PM
Updated: Jan 14, 2019 7:19 PM

Every Friday, they come to the cemetery in Kobani, Syria, to hand out sweets and remember their loved ones, killed in the fight against ISIS.

Toward the back are the fresh graves. On a recent visit, a group of mourning women stand by the grave of 27-year-old Mahmoud Rassoul, killed in an ISIS ambush near the town of Deir Ezzor less than two weeks ago.

Continents and regions

ISIS

Middle East

Middle East and North Africa

Minority and ethnic groups

Misc organizations

North America

Society

Syria

The Americas

The Kurds

United States

His mother, Najma, slumps down into the churned up earth and kisses the photograph on his headstone.

"My son, my son, please get up, please," she wails.

A family member steps in to lift her up from the mud.

Around 8,000 Syrian Kurds have been killed in the fight against ISIS. They have been the United States' strongest and most steadfast ally on the ground. While ISIS is close to defeat, the fighting continues in the east, near the border with Iraq. It's a battle the Kurds may soon be fighting alone, as the United States begins to withdraw its forces from Syria.

Najma is bitter as she considers the American announcement and its impact on their future.

"They got what they wanted," she says. "They used the Kurds to get rid of ISIS and now they're leaving us. America was supposed to have our back. They're going to leave us to [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan. They sacrificed us and now they're leaving."

Driving through Kurdish parts of Northern Syria, we were told time and time again: The Americans made promises, promises that now sound hollow.

The Syrian Kurds are now in a precarious position. Just across the border is Turkey, which considers them to be terrorists. To the west is the regime of Bashar al-Assad and its Iranian and Russian backers.

In the town of Arimah, we meet Kurdish military commander and spokesman Sharfan Darwish. He tells us the Americans provided the Kurds with a much-needed buffer. In return, the Kurds took the fight to ISIS.

"After all those years that we fought terrorism together it is their minimum duty to help guarantee our security," he says. "No one expected them to stick around forever, but the timing was strange and the way it was announced was very strange."

He drives us to the Kurdish front lines with the Assad regime, where the intricate patchwork of different powers can be seen up close. A joint Russian/regime base squats by the road.

The Kurds and the regime have opened channels for dialogue through the Russians and there is speculation a deal will be made between them once the Americans pull out.

Less than five minutes away, the Americans are still flying their flag but it likely won't be there for long. US military hardware is already beginning to move out.

No one knows what comes next for the Kurds. On the road from Arimah, we happen upon a funeral. Two Kurdish security officers were killed by a roadside bomb, a reminder of the daily dangers faced here.

As people wait for the coffins to be brought out for burial, a hush falls over the crowd and it is quiet except for the sound of people weeping softly.

Back in the cemetery in Kobani, Adel Qassim tells us proudly about his daughter, Peyman Tolhildan. The 19-year-old was a fighter with the Kurdish YPG militia. She was killed when ISIS attacked the school where she was based.

Tolhildan's mother lovingly strokes the photograph on her daughter's headstone as he speaks.

"She was so brave. She was the commander of her unit," Qassim says. "She fought them off for 13 hours. When they ran out of ammunition, they blew themselves up, to avoid being captured."

There was nothing left but some bones and her boots.

Asked what he thinks about the US withdrawal, he pauses before answering.

"It's a mistake, it's a mistake. They have left us in the middle of the road."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 36578

Reported Deaths: 2258
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion10188604
Lake3876207
Allen181071
Cass15919
Elkhart158528
St. Joseph135838
Hendricks120478
Hamilton119194
Johnson1125113
Madison60061
Porter56233
Clark53942
Bartholomew53139
LaPorte44824
Howard44236
Tippecanoe4344
Jackson4012
Delaware39741
Shelby39722
Hancock35427
Boone32436
Floyd31941
Vanderburgh2913
Morgan28626
Noble27821
Montgomery24917
Clinton2471
White2399
Decatur23132
Grant22923
Dubois2113
Kosciusko2052
Harrison19622
Marshall1872
Henry18512
Vigo1828
Greene17226
Dearborn17122
Monroe17113
Lawrence17124
Warrick16729
Miami1461
Putnam1427
Jennings1324
Orange13122
LaGrange1282
Scott1263
Franklin1168
Ripley1086
Daviess10416
Carroll952
Wayne906
Steuben902
Wabash812
Newton8010
Fayette797
Jasper741
Jay580
Clay533
Randolph523
Rush513
Fulton511
Washington501
Pulaski500
Jefferson491
Whitley453
DeKalb451
Starke423
Perry390
Huntington382
Sullivan371
Wells350
Owen341
Brown331
Benton320
Knox310
Blackford272
Tipton261
Crawford250
Adams231
Switzerland220
Spencer221
Fountain222
Gibson202
Parke180
Posey160
Martin140
Warren131
Ohio130
Vermillion100
Union100
Pike60
Unassigned0180

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 37758

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin6323295
Cuyahoga4789265
Hamilton2811171
Marion268832
Lucas2329263
Pickaway209938
Summit1529181
Mahoning1486191
Butler97532
Columbiana89453
Stark803102
Montgomery73417
Lorain73061
Trumbull60052
Belmont44915
Warren40721
Medina37624
Tuscarawas3714
Ashtabula36938
Miami36730
Delaware36014
Portage33557
Lake32512
Clark3237
Fairfield3188
Wood30649
Geauga30334
Wayne29651
Licking27110
Mercer2278
Richland2224
Allen22133
Clermont2195
Darke19023
Erie18416
Madison1647
Washington11819
Crawford1184
Morrow1081
Ottawa10717
Greene1065
Putnam9514
Sandusky9112
Monroe8015
Auglaize773
Hardin730
Ross732
Hocking705
Jefferson672
Huron611
Williams581
Holmes573
Union561
Muskingum561
Hancock531
Coshocton480
Wyandot482
Clinton471
Shelby473
Fulton450
Logan430
Fayette410
Preble391
Guernsey382
Carroll353
Defiance342
Brown311
Lawrence301
Highland291
Champaign281
Seneca262
Knox251
Ashland230
Vinton212
Perry191
Athens181
Scioto180
Henry170
Jackson150
Paulding140
Adams111
Harrison100
Pike90
Gallia81
Van Wert70
Meigs60
Noble60
Morgan50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Few Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 79°
Angola
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 73°
Huntington
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 75°
Decatur
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 79°
Van Wert
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 79°
Sunny & Pleasant Weekend
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events