Kurds and their supporters demand that the Kurdish Peshmerga, YPG (People’s Protection Units) and other militia be armed with heavy weapons, armour-piercing bullets and tanks in order to resist the ISIS ultra-Islamists who threaten them with massacre in Kobane (near Syria's border with Turkey) and elsewhere.
Masrour Barzani of the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq told the BBC: “We have not asked for any ground forces. Our Peshmergas are here, they are giving their lives, and all we need from the rest of the world is to help us with effective weapons to protect these people”.
Kobane remains under siege by ISIS (“Islamic State”). Undated video footage released by ISIS shows them fighting in the daylight, seemingly unfazed by US airstrikes.
ISIS has also recently tried to advance on Baghdad, and been driven back only with difficulty. ISIS is again surrounding the Shingal Mountain where thousands of Yazidi refugees remain trapped, with the only way out by air.
Kurds continue to come into Kobane to help defend the city, but they arrive unarmed and untrained. ISIS fighters have weaponry and military capability derived from seizing Iraqi and Syrian government arsenals and winning Iraqi and Syrian army defectors.
ISIS continues to shell Kobane and send in groups of suicide bombers.
The US and its allies have failed to persuade Turkey to open the so-called “humanitarian corridor” which would allow people, aid, and weapons to flow to Kobane. On 15 October the Turkish military intervened — to bomb Kurds (PKK, they said) in Hakkari, in the south-east of Turkey, near the borders with Iraq and Iran.
Turkey's government is happy to see the Syrian Kurds crushed, thinking Turkey can then sponsor compliant forces within Syria to counter ISIS, and reckoning a confident Kurdish movement a greater danger than ISIS. The Turkish government says it plans to train “moderate” Syrian rebels to fight ISIS.
Hundreds of thousands have demonstrated in Turkey and across Europe to condemn Turkey’s stance.
Many of the Syrian rebels whom Turkey favours are firmly anti ISIS, but they remain Arab chauvinists who have attempted to exclude Kurds from the fight against Bashar al-Assad from the beginning.
Turkey’s leaders say that there is no difference between ISIS and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) guerrillas who have fought a war with Turkey for Kurdish autonomy for the last 30 years.
On the basis of that attitude, they are ready to see Kobane fall to ISIS in a bloody massacre.
Who are the Kurds?
“Kurdistan” is a largely contiguous and predominantly mountainous area, stretching from eastern Turkey through Syria to Iraq, Iran, and Armenia, inhabited by around 30 million Kurds.
The area is not officially recognised as “Kurdish”, except the Kurdistan Regional Government area in Iraq.
For centuries it was part of the Ottoman Empire, ruled from Constantinople (today Istanbul). The Kurdish people were largely nomadic, and their mountain regions were not closely policed by the Ottomans.
After World War One, the Ottoman Empire collapsed. The Kurds were increased forced to abandon their nomadic way of life, but they never got the independent state they were promised in peace talks.
The Kurdish people are predominantly Sunni Muslims, with substantial religious minorities such as the Yazidis. They have faced hostility from Arab Sunni Muslim states, Turkey and the Shia-Muslim Iranian regime. Kurdish politics have generally been secular.
Each attempt at the establishment of an independent Kurdish state has been stopped, often with brutal repression. Kurdish identity, language, and culture have faced constant attack. Turkey outlawed the Kurdish language and denied a separate Kurdish people existed, calling them “mountain Turks”.
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was formed in 1978. It remains at war with Turkey over the demand for Kurdish autonomy. 30,000 people have died in this conflict. PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan remains in prison, but is currently in peace negotiations with the Turkish government.
The 1978-9 Iranian revolution allowed a brief moment of autonomy for Iran's Kurds, but that was soon crushed by the Khomeini regime.
The Kurds in northern Iraq rebelled several times in the 1920s against British rule over Iraq, and were poison-gassed in 1920 on the instruction of Winston Churchill.
Under Saddam Hussein they faced similar repression.