Steffan Misurtra, the United Nations-appointed envoy for Syria, on Wednesday released a video message calling on the world to take swifter action to prevent the downfall of the Kurdish city of Kobani in northern Syria.
"The world has seen with its own eyes the images of what happens when a city in Syria or in Iraq is overtaken by the terrorist group called ISIS or Daesh," he said. "Massacres, humanitarian tragedies, rapes, horrific violence."
The city, also called Ayn al-Arab, once housed 400,000 Kurdish residents, the majority of whom have now fled as ISIS advances.
Misurta said he believed the inhabitants have been defending themselves admirably, but soon they would be unable to continue to do so. "They are fighting with normal weapons, whereas the ISIS has got tanks and mortars," he said. "The international community needs to defend them. The international community cannot sustain another city falling under ISIS."
It is rare for a U.N. official to speak so bluntly about the use of force, even when it comes to defending citizens. A spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Monday called for "all those with the means to do so to take immediate action to protect the beleaguered civilian population of Ayn al-Arab."
Over the past three years, Turkey has taken in more than 200,000 refugees from Kobani — on top of the one million Syrians it has already accepted. Turkey has so far prevented Kurds from within its borders crossing into Syria to aid in defending Kobani. Misurta said the people of Kobani now need concrete action.
The United States is already bracing itself for the loss of Kobani,with officials arguing that it isn't a key U.S. interest. Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby on Wednesday also prodded Turkey and other countries into taking more direct action, saying that airstrikes alone "are not going to save" the city.
"The world, all of us, will regret deeply if ISIS is able to take over a city which has defended itself with courage but is close to being unable to do so," Misurta concluded. "We need to act now."
Watch Mistura's full statement here:
Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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