Passport

Kurdish Fighters: We’d Really Appreciate if you Came to Syria to Help Fight ISIS

Kurdish fighters answer questions from the general public, and make the case for foreign volunteers to join their group.

KOBANE, SYRIA - JUNE 20: (TURKEY OUT) A Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG women fighters pose as they stand near a check point in the outskirts of the destroyed Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, Syria. June 20, 2015. Kurdish fighters with the YPG took full control of Kobane and strategic city of Tal Abyad, dealing a major blow to the Islamic State group's ability to wage war in Syria. Mopping up operations have started to make the town safe for the return of residents from Turkey, after more than a year of Islamic State militants holding control of the town. (Photo by Ahmet Sik/Getty Images)
KOBANE, SYRIA - JUNE 20: (TURKEY OUT) A Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG women fighters pose as they stand near a check point in the outskirts of the destroyed Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, Syria. June 20, 2015. Kurdish fighters with the YPG took full control of Kobane and strategic city of Tal Abyad, dealing a major blow to the Islamic State group's ability to wage war in Syria. Mopping up operations have started to make the town safe for the return of residents from Turkey, after more than a year of Islamic State militants holding control of the town. (Photo by Ahmet Sik/Getty Images)

Self-proclaimed Kurdish fighters made a public appearance Thursday on the social media site Reddit, calling upon sympathizers to donate money or, better yet, come to Syria to help them fight militants from the Islamic State.

The fighters, whose identities couldn’t be independently confirmed, replied to questions from Reddit users in an “Ask Me Anything” thread. Those conversations are typically moderated by unpaid volunteers, not full-time Reddit employees, and the company declined to discuss the matter with FP. But a moderator for the AMA thread, who asked not to be named, said that he had been presented with proof of the fighters’ identities. He declined to offer FP any details about that evidence. A spokesperson for the Kurdish organization affiliated with the fighters confirmed their identities to FP.

In their Reddit AMA, the fighters said they were members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, one of the most effective of the loose alliance of Arab and Kurdish militias fighting the Islamic State. The YPG has already taken in some 56 Americans, more than any other group involved in the fight against the Islamic State, according to a report by FP contributor Adam Rawnsley. A social media offshoot of the YPG, the Lions of Rojava, was responsible for organizing the AMA. The Lions of Rojava actively seeks foreign recruits via its Facebook page and a dedicated website.

The fighters said their group could use even more foreign volunteers. They also chimed in on questions such as whether they’d consider a political solution involving Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad remaining in power. The fighters said the Kurds would accept Assad if he grants them full autonomy.

Asked whether members of the YPG treat their female counterparts with respect and dignity, the fighters replied:

“Women’s struggle is at the heart of the revolution and treated as the number 1 issue…. In civilian society, there is [sic] still the traditional families where women are usually stuck in gender roles but there’s big progress made there. Before women could not even smoke, now women are getting jobs and participating in the revolution.”

One user, interested in going to Syria “to help repair the electrical grid,” wanted to know how westerners would be treated in areas controlled by the militia and asked if there is a minimum length of time for tours of volunteer duty. Electrical engineers, the fighters replied, are in high demand, and the YPG would be willing to provide significant assistance to facilitate their travel to Syria:

“They really need experts on the aging electrical grid! This is a big problem here, and if you contact the Lions through our website we will assist you to come here, and give you instruction in language and connect you with the right groups here. To properly make full effect of your time here, you should aim for 6 months here, although we say 3 months minimum.”

The fighters also asked for help from those able to serve as advisors in technology, industry, and media relations.

The YPG, they added, was interested in taking non-skilled recruits as well. One reddit user, who introduced himself as “an American anarchist” and didn’t offer any marketable skills, asked whether he might be able to join the fight as a single parent and father of three “small children.”

The answer? “If you want to bring your family, email us and maybe that can be arranged. A house here costs 10k-20k $ (to buy) but even that can be arranged if you have something to offer.”

The YPG’s openness to foreign recruits has not always led to fruitful results. British actor Michael Enright, who reportedly went to Syria and joined the YPG without any military experience, was kicked out for his incompetence and erratic behavior, according to a U.S. veteran now fighting with the group.

Foreigners drawn to the YPG’s revolutionary rhetoric or its active role in combatting the Islamic State are far from guaranteed a ticket home. Keith Broomfield, a U.S. citizen, made this tragically clear when he was killed earlier this year fighting alongside the YPG.

AHMET SIK/Getty Images

This story has been updated to reflect that the fighters’ identities were confirmed by the official Lions of Rojava organization

Henry Johnson is a fellow at Foreign Policy. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a degree in history and previously wrote for LobeLog. Twitter: @HenryJohnsoon

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola