"I want to fight ISIS. Whom do I reach out to?"

My firm and I have first hand experience of the “volunteer” process regarding, in particular, the fight against ISIS in Rojava (Western Kurdistan) and the other Kurdish cantons that stand between Syria (in theory) and Southern Turkey. 

In our case the groups fighting against ISIS in that area included the YPG (around Al Hasakah), YPJ (no direct involvement as we had no female volunteers), Dwekh Nawsha (Iraqi Assyrian Christian Militia) and elements of the Peshmerga along the border side of the The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) lands predominantly the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq referred to as Iraqi Kurdistan or Southern Kurdistan bordering Iraq and particularly the areas west of Mosul and Duhok and around Sinjar.

The Recruitment Process

This is fraught with danger as from your question it would seem that you have no current points of contact and therefore no independent method of verification of the person(s) with whom you would liaise with. 

There are myriad persons and Facebook pages claiming to be recruiters for various groups. Many are run by European based ex-pats who have little or no coordination skills and are driven by a blind desire to assist the cause of Kurdish independence across the cantons located currently in the sovereign territories of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran which they claim as Greater Kurdistan. 

Additionally, there are many bogus ISIS or ISIS sympathiser accounts masquerading as pro-Kurd recruiters and the fallout from travelling on the say so of one of those is obvious I would have thought. 

Travelling to the Region

In the last 8 months in particular using Turkey, Jordan or Qatar as waypoints to the region for the purposes of participating in the fight is highly risky. 

Bear in mind also that while most countries do not penalise their citizenry for travelling to support the fight against ISIS – countries like Australia make no differentiation and the penalties for doing so – on return – are severe.

The Benefit of Volunteers to Local Western Supported Groups

In mid to late 2014 the foreign volunteers were a valuable PR tool for the Kurdish cause and drawing attention to the issues – reference Jordan Matson, The Lions of Rojava, Gill Rosenberg, Samantha Jay and others. 

This PR angle is well and truly exhausted and as such many volunteers are more of a hindrance than a help to the Kurds in particular, who are the most viable opposition to ISIS in the region of Syria. But remember there are 35/40 million persons who claim Kurdish ethnicity in the region. They do not lack manpower – they lack heavy weapons. 

Joining the Peshmerga is an altogether more complicated matter and I have nothing to add regarding that here. 

Many of the other groups have suffered from fraud scams and media hungry foreign volunteers who have left without improving the situation of the groups they allegedly joined and in many cases having taken monies via GoFundMe campaigns have never handed same to the groups that they were allegedly fundraising for. 


I could write for 50 pages on background and risks and dangers and the naivety of foreigners heading out who have no previous military experience and the fraudsters and the inherent dangers and so on but there are many many articles and many hours of video – most recently BATTLING ISIS by Channel 4 Despatches which will do a much better job of covering those topics than I and which you will find with a simple Google search.   

My opinion: If you have no previous military experience, disaster relief expertise, militia training background, combat medic or other medical experience in a high risk area or conflict zone then do not go. 

If you wish to assist, consider the following options: 

  • Donate to the Kurdish Red Crescent or any other official and authorised charitable bodies helping the people in the region;  
  • Donate to official and authorised charitable bodies assisting the Syrian refugees – both those languishing in dreadful conditions in Turkish and Lebanese refugee camps or those who have transited to Europe and are attempting to cross hostile frontiers to reach Germany, Sweden or the United Kingdom; 
  • Assist those Syrian refugees who have reached your countries;   
  • Lobby your political representatives to change the attitude to formally arming the Western supported militias fighting ISIS in the region with the heavy weaponry they so badly need;  
  • Lobby your political representatives to have the PKK delisted as a proscribed organisation and recognised as a de-facto legitimate armed wing of the Kurdish people actively defending Kurdish civilians from state sponsored Turkish terror and Turkish death squads;  
  • Lobby your political representatives to insist that the nation of Kurdistan is recognised as a sovereign state and that the regions and territories of Bakur, Rojhilat, Basur & Rojava are consolidated under the flag of an independent Kurdistan and their lands returned by those in Turkey, Syria, Iraq & Iran who have for so long denied Kurdish nationhood and terrorised the indigenous populations; 
  • Or lend your time in any other positive ways – from a distance – but in a meaningful and consistent way; 
  • Also and of particular importance – remember that regardless of the wisdom of the decision – that the PKK is a proscribed terrorist organisation according to the powers that be and travelling to assist this group or donating to this group will be accompanied by the obvious repercussions. 

See the VICE NEWS journalists who were arrested and the Iraqi Turkish based journalist and translator Mohammed Ismael Rasool currently on week five in a Turkish prison facing terror charges for simply filming a story on the PKK. 



YPJ comment on explosion at HDP Amed (Diyarbakir) rally

Two explosions occurred today during the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) rally in Amed (Diyarbakir), the capital of North Kurdistan. Tens of thousands of people had gathered to listen to HDP Co-President speak at the rally as the explosions took place minutes before he was set to take the stage.

According to the first official reports tens of people were said to be wounded in what was described as an explosion from a power generator. However evidence at the scene of the incident shows that the explosions may have been caused by bombs as marbles and gunpowder were found in the area.

Following the explosions police attacked the people who had gathered with gas canisters and water, also impeding those who had to be rushed to hospital to get treatment.

HDP Co-President Selahattin Demirtas called for calm and asked supporters to convene at the HDP headquarters in Amed. Attacks on the HDP are on the increase after Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on a visit to Çewlig (Bingöl) that they had a plan B and C if plan A didn’t work. The general elections in Turkey are set to take place on Sunday 7th June.

The YPJ (Jurdish Female Fighters) commented:

Terrorist Turkish state detonated 2 bombs inside the Kurdish party’s rally in Amed, northern part of Kurdistan and 3 Kurds lost their lives, 402 wounded as 16 of them are in critical conditions!

Crisis Desk announces the death toll: 3 dead and 402 wounded According to the Crisis Desk report, 3 people died and 402 people got injured in Amed massacre. 16 of the wounded are still in critical condition.

Saturday, June 6, 2015 at 7:00 PM AMED – ANF Democratic Society Congress (DTK) Health Assembly, SES and Amed Chamber of Medicine formed a crisis desk after the attack on HDP rally in Amed and made public their report on the death toll and number of people injured during the blasts.

According to the report, 3 people died and 402 people got injured in Amed massacre. 16 of the wounded are still in critical condition. SES former Branch President Hülya Alökmen Uyanık shared the crisis desk report with the public and stated that the first blast happened at 17:55, which followed by the second explosion at

17:59. VOLUNTEER MEDICS AND CIVILIANS INTERVENED FIRST Uyanık stated that volunteer medics and civilians were the first ones to intervene and help the people who were injured. Majority of the injured were taken to hospitals in civilian cars because ambulances did not arrive at the crime scene for half an hour.

Uyanık emphasized that the police’s teargas attack also created panic, delayed the arrival of first aid, and increased the number of people who were injured. Uyanık said that 50 years-old Necati Kurul lost his life at the crime scene and Şeyhmus Kaçan died in the emergency unit of Dicle University Medical Faculty.

Ramazan Yıldız fell from an elevated platform near where the bomb exploded and lost his life in the hospital where he was treated. Uyanık stated that many disconnected limbs were found at the crime scene and 12 people were amputated after the explosions. 5 people are in critical condition and receive respiratory treatment at Dicle University Medical Faculty. 19 people are awaiting operations for their broken bones at the same institution.


Uyanık stated that 140 of the 402 people who were injured require hospitalization and 16 people are still in critical condition. 3 people lost their lives after the explosion and 259 received ambulatory treatment. Many people who were injured also suffered from second degree burns and steel marbles which functioned as shrapnels.

Uyanık criticized the decision taken by the police and 112 administrators to collect the disconnected limbs found at the crime scene despite their warnings because this rushed-decision still makes it difficult to identify which organ belongs to which individual.

Uyanık also criticized the lack of 112 ambulances at the rally area despite previous applications for this presence, and said that they will file a complaint about this negligence.

Additional Acknowledgements

Kurdish Question: http://kurdishquestion.com/index.php/kurdistan/north-kurdistan/breaking-explosion-at-hdp-amed-rally-many-wounded/934-breaking-explosion-at-hdp-amed-rally-many-wounded.html

RISKY TRAVELS: The realities of fighting against ISIS with the YPG in Syria and the Peshmerga in Iraq

The realities of fighting against #ISIS with the #YPG in #Syria and the #Peshmerga in #Iraq 

See http://theriskytraveller.com/2015/03/15/fighting-isis-in-syria-and-iraq/

Open Letter to "Kurdish Question" Blog Post

Dear Sirs, with respect to your article at Rojava Political Structure Obscured by Headlines, I am writing for two reasons. Firstly, to request that you make a correction to a material factual inaccuracy in the article and secondly, to comment on the observations which you make within the article.

In the first instance I refer to the statement in the article as follows (paragraph 11, final sentence) which ends “… a claim flatly denied by Graham Penrose who helped the men secure positions with the PYG.[sic]”.

Throughout the last several weeks my firm and I have been consistent with respect to our role in this matter and we have repeatedly stated that for matters relating to the YPG, YPJ, Peshmerga or other Kurdish groups, organisations or political parties in the region that neither my firm nor I are recruiters or spokespersons or facilitators nor are we mandated to speak on behalf of any of these groups or organisations. 

When asked about assisting these groups we have publicly stated: “We respect that many people wish to assist the Kurdish nation in their struggle against evil and oppression, however TMG Corporate Services are simply not the correct point of contact with whom to progress these noble intentions. We would suggest that you make contact with the local Kurdish charity or group in your region to discuss these matters. Our firm is focussed on our own efforts to assist the Kurdish nation but we are not in a position to assist any third parties with respect to offers of a financial nature, contributions of goods and services or offers of skills and expertise. Additionally our firm is not in a position to advise on or offer assistance regarding entry to Kurdistan, Syria or Iraq.” 

After being pitched, I personally agreed to assist James Hughes and Jamie Read with advice, monies for travel and support for their recent trip based on a belief that they were two informed young men who had an objective similar to my own with respect to developing informed commentary and reports from the region that elevated the debate regarding the Kurdish Question and which were based on first hand experience and informed by direct contact and conversation with qualified Kurdish commentators, activists and volunteers. 

I also acted in this matter in a personal capacity passing messages between James Hughes and Jamie Read and their families, at their request, as communications were a factor and I was in a position to assist. I provided this favour to the associated parties to give some peace of mind to people who would have otherwise been in an information vacuum and who are not accustomed to such situations. 

My role is now complete (effective 1st December 2014). I no longer have any role as a liaison with the families of James Hughes and Jamie Read as per mutual agreement. Please also see below a statement from TCRC who are affiliated with James Hughes and Jamie Read confirming this “The Terrorism & Conflict Research Centre is no longer associated with Graham Penrose or TMG Corporate Services so if you have and questions message The Terrorism & Conflict Research Centre or James Hughes and Jamie Read” See Original Statement on TPG Group (TCRC) Facebook Page 

Throughout the heightened media interest that occurred between 20th November 2014 to date regarding James Hughes and Jamie Read, our firm and myself personally have been offered and continue to be offered deals from print media – news and magazines, radio stations, TV stations, documentary makers, investigative journalists, film makers and a long list of miscellaneous types. We have universally declined them all. Others have not. That is their prerogative. 

I have no interest in playing a role with the media and only did so previously in this matter out of necessity and request in order to issue a denial of an untrue allegation (the “mercenary” allegation). 

Recent statements by James Hughes and Jamie Read are inconsistent with what was to have been the objective of this exercise in my view. I wish to distance myself from statements they have made including “vengeance” and “IS killers” and descriptions of motivations based on the tragic murder of Mr. Alan Henning. I would therefore be most obliged if you would correct within your article the incorrect description regarding the basis of my involvement in this matter. 

Secondly, I concur with your observations that the real issues in play with regard to the Kurdish Question are being obscured by a sensationalist and largely uninformed series of articles and comments which have tended to centre around individuals and their personal stories rather than the fundamental issues such as the right to self determination, autonomy and independence which are the cornerstone of the Kurdish struggle. 

As part of my profession I hold opinions on what I believe the various Kurdish groups need to address with respect to information dissemination to battle a superior IS media machine and implement a more sophisticated outbound messaging strategy. It was my view that the YPG / Peshmerga / Kurdish groups in general required up-skilling in the short term with respect to messaging, immediate PR wins focussed on the fundamental issues not the personalities involved, develop a structured and consistent media campaign going forward, increase the production values in general of what is released for public consumption in order to garner greater visibility for the issues and to shepherd and influence public opinion and support regarding the strategic objective of bolstering the legitimacy of the Kurdish claim to nationhood post conflict while establishing a solid and sound foundation from which to lobby for same based on professional, structured and compelling argument.

I have experience of these matters, please see an article I published in July 2014 titled “Precision Guided Message – Radical Islam, Social Media, and Building a Sleeper Army” where I asserted that one of the contributing factors in the forward momentum of the Islamic State (IS) [formerly and variously the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq & al-Sham; and the Islamic State of Iraq & the Levant (ISIL)] was the rapid and regimented dissemination of the organisation’s message.


I trust that you will oblige with respect to my request to make the correction within the body of your article and I wish you all the best for the future.

Graham Penrose.