Commentary: New Orleans and Kobani
I find myself obsessed by the siege of Kobani. For weeks I’ve been following the battles involving this heretofore unknown and non-descript Syrian city of 45,000 situated on the Turkish border.
Since September, I’ve been incessantly typing “Kobani news” or “Turkey news” into Google search, and I’ve pulled up virtually every article ever penned about Kobani. I have kept a vigil of every online or on-air or onscreen mention of the Kurdish men and women (including female commanders) who are valiantly defending their city and its environs against ISIS, the militant Islamic psychopaths.
So what does the siege of Kobani have to do with New Orleans? Or its culture, to which this website is dedicated?
The answer is: Katrina.
In 2005, we feared our city was lost due to the gross negligence of the Corps of Engineers. Our city teetered on the brink of ruin.
We fought back.
Turkey maintains that Kobani is unimportant. Early in the siege, the U.S. agreed that the city had no strategic significance.
Nine years ago, in certain quarters of Congress, politicians said that New Orleans should not be rebuilt. Some pundits opined that we should abandon a place built below sea level.
Kobani has been a political pawn in world geopolitics. Turkey has refused to allow any assistance to be given to those in the city fighting ISIS.
We know what it means to be a political pawn. Especially in those months following Katrina. But more importantly, we know what it takes to have the grit and determination to fight for and save a place that we love – against all odds and hardships.
No, we were not subjected to armed conflict or the indescribable violence unfolding in Kobani. It would be fanciful – even delusional – to argue otherwise. But we can feel empathy and admiration for the Syrian Kurds as they battle such tremendous odds.
Two weeks ago, military strategists as well as the Turkish president predicted that Kobani would fall. The barbarians were not only at the gates, but through the gates, having captured half the city.
But someone forgot to tell the Syrian Kurds that their city was doomed. With incredible heroism and the help of coalition-led forces headed by the U.S. A. and its air power, as well as the air drop of supplies and arms, the Kurds, male and female, are holding. At least for now.
We New Orleanians and citizens of the Gulf Coast know what it feels like to fight for a place that we love. We need only draw upon the emotional experiences of Katrina and its aftermath to feel an affinity for and bond with the citizens of Kobani. We can admire the resilience of those citizens and warriors. Our feelings, shaped by Katrina, are personal and specific to our culture. So, I imagine, are theirs.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the siege of Kobani is a thing of myth and legend. Not only for them, but for those of us who step in. There is nothing more gratifying to an American than to see the U.S.A. step forward – and take on risk – to support freedom-loving people who are willing to sacrifice their lives to avoid subjugation.
I don’t know any Kurds. They don’t speak like me, or look like me, or share my culture.
But I feel that I know them. In a deep and personal way. And I will read about them and root for them, just as citizens around the world once did for me.
Stewart Peck is a local lawyer (who is married to the editor, but he doesn't get special privileges, really). Email him at [email protected]