It is like old times. Kurdish protestors clashing with Turkish riot police in towns across southeastern Turkey and ultranationalists taking to the streets, too, flashing the symbol of the Grey Wolves, a violent far-right group that was responsible for more than 700 murders in the vicious political violence that engulfed the country in the 1970s.
But the events provoking this madness are absolutely current. Just across the border in Syria, the city of Kobani, once home to more than 50,000 people – most of them Kurds – is about to fall to the forces of the so-called Islamic State, better known as ISIS or ISIL. Kurdish militias – men and women – have held off the savage jihadists for weeks now despite being outnumbered and outgunned. In the last few days U.S. airstrikes have slowed the ISIS advances, but not enough. ISIS has taken more than half the town, including major government buildings.
All the while the Turkish government, with its tanks, its air force, and its 300,000 soldiers on active duty has done nothing but watch from a mile or two away across the border. Nothing but watch, that is, and prevent Kurdish reinforcements from crossing the frontier to help defend Kobani.
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