"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. 

Summary

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. 

ENDS.

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Hippotherapy for Wounded Warrior Richard Jansen

I never endorse fund-raising campaigns – however, this is a ‪#‎noble‬ and worthwhile cause (like many ‪#‎gofundme‬ campaigns I am sure) – but in this case there is a ‪#‎personal‬ connection and there have been and continue to be tangible ‪#‎benefits‬ for Mr. Jansen over the last few weeks since the effort commenced ‪#‎Horses‬ ‪#‎Therapeutic‬ ‪#‎Injured‬ ‪#‎Warrior‬ ‪#‎WoundedWarrior‬ ‪#‎Rojava‬ ‪#‎YPG‬ ‪#‎Volunteer‬ ‪#‎Kurdistan‬ ‪#‎RichardJansen‬

Help Richard Jansen – Wounded Warrior

Richard Jansen is a young ‪#‎Dutchman‬ who suffered critical injuries on the front line battling ‪#‎ISIS‬. He was hit by an ‪#‎RPG‬ and still has a piece of shrapnel stuck in his brain which causes the paralysis in his left arm and leg.

He is responding greatly to being around horses and being outside. His first riding lesson on a 13-year old mare was amazing. He laughed for the first time in 4 months! He felt proud of being able to do something completely without any help, except for the help of “Leen” the willing mare, who listened to his body and soul amazingly!

We would love to give Richard his self-confidence, and his power back! ‪#‎Hippotherapy‬ works not only on his soul but also on strengthening his muscles.

Please help us to keep him in the saddle and out of that wheelchair!

Help Richard Jansen

The Siege of Kobanî by the Islamic State (ISIL / ISIS): Situation Report (Warning: Graphic Content)

The YPG and YPJ are engaged in a fierce fight today with ISIS who have opened up a fourth front in the battle by launching attacks from the previously “safe” Turkish side of the town. It is unclear how ISIS can have been facilitated in this new strategy by a “member” of NATO, seemingly allowing ISIS launch an attack on the beleaguered town from within Turkish territory. The town and its brave defenders have unbelievably been under international political and economic embargo for three years. 

ISIS use suicide bombers to commence attacks from Turkish territory

There have been in excess of 1000 mortars rounds launched at the YPG / YPJ forces and six suicide bomb attacks in a single day. The Islamic State group claimed three successful suicide attacks in Kobani’s border crossing point, the SITE Intelligence Group reported. The group, quoting Twitter accounts linked to the militants, said the suicide attacks were carried out by a Saudi and a Turkmen, adding that one of them was driving a Humvee.  

Figure 1: YPG fighters moving between the ruins of Kobane


Al-Qaeda affiliated groups have now joined ISIS in their genocide supported by hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal funding from external state terrorists and possess tens of thousands of weapons including tanks, heavy mortars and artillery captured by ISIS in the early stages of the most recent phase of the conflict. 

Despite all of this, the highly mobile and motivated but lightly armed forces of the YPG and the YPJ in Rojava have not only resisted and held out despite facing overwhelming odds and international collaboration with ISIS but they have not been intimidated, continue to resist and shall soon succeed in liberating Kobane.

ISIS “open” new front in siege from Turkey
“ISIS used to attack the town from three sides,” Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party, told the Associated Press. “Today, they are attacking from four sides.” Turkey, while previously backing the Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war, has been hesitant to aid the defenders of Kobane because it fears that could stoke Kurdish ambitions for an independent state.

Anger over Turkeys support of ISIS

Thousands of Kurds in Riha (Urfa) and Pirsus cities in Turkey are flooding across the Kobane border to support the resistance inside the beleaguered town. (SOURCE: Local TV Channels).

Figure 2: Kurds crossing the Turkish border to support Kobane 


Syria’s Foreign Minister said in a television interview aired Friday night that the U.S.-led coalition’s weeks of airstrikes against militants in Syria had not weakened the Islamic State group. Washington and the U.N. Security Council “should force Turkey to tighten control” of its border in order to help defeat militants, he added.

Video 1: YPG fighting ISIS in Turkey, today.

The assault began with a suicide bomb in an armoured vehicle on the border crossing between Kobanî and Turkey, said Khalil and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The video footage below (taken 29.11.2014) from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights purports to show ISIS militants firing from inside Turkish territory. Mustafa Bali, a Kobane-based activist, said by telephone that Islamic State group fighters have taken positions in grain silos on the Turkish side of the border and from there are launching attacks toward the border crossing point. 

See video below from point “01.18” point showing ISIS fighters in position firing from grain silo located inside Turkish territory. 
Video 2: ISIS firing on YPG from positions in Turkey

He added that the U.S. led coalition launched an airstrike Saturday morning on the eastern side of the town. “It is now clear that Turkey is openly cooperating with Daesh,” Bali said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. Later in the day, he said the situation was relatively calm on the border after a day of heavy clashes. 
Figure 3 & 4: Air strikes 29.11.14 at Kobane

On the 76th day of ISIS attacks on Kobanê, the YPG and YPJ fighters have gained control of 75-80% of the city. As the Kurdish forces advance, the ISIS gangs fire mortars at random and use snipers, but to no avail as their attacks are repulsed. Clashes are continuing on the eastern, southern and south western fronts. 

On the western front the YPG and YPJ fighters are being supported by Peshmerga and Burkan el Firat. The Islamic State group claimed to have carried out four further suicide attacks in Kobane to the south of the town. The Peshmerga are not on the front line, instead supporting the YPG/YPJ by firing mortars and katyusha rockets. 

Background on Burkan el Firat, membership & objectives

The Firat New Agency previously announced:

The Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and Free Syrian Army (FSA), including other armed opposition groups have formed a joint front against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the region around the Euphrates. It has been reported that that the YPG, FSA and other smaller opposition groups have come together to form a ‘joint operation room’ against the Islamic State threat in the Euphrates region. 
The name of this joint force is ‘Burkan El Firat,’ and its aim is to oust IS from the areas currently under its control. The ‘joint operation room’ declared itself in a military ceremony in Western Kurdistan, with the declaration being read by a FSA commander. 
It was declared that the forces joining the ‘Burkan El Firat’ against the gangs of El Bagdadi were as follows: Liva El Tevhid Eastern Wing, Liva El Siwar El Raka, the Shams El Shemal brigades of the Fecir El Huriya, YPG, YPJ, Seraya Cerablus, Liva Cephet El-Ekrad, Siwar Umunaa El Raka, El Kasas Army and Liva El Jihad Fi Sebilillah. 
The following was also listed in the declaration: 1. All the members who have joined ISIS under false pretences must leave the group. 2. The international community must do their part against the terrorist group ISIS. 3. All parties against ISIS must contribute physically and financially to the joint operation room. 
It was also declared that the objective of the joint operation room is to oust ISIS from all the areas currently under their control. The following areas were listed: Karakozak, Sirrin, Cerablus, Minbic and surrounding villages, Rakka and surrounding villages.Figure 5: Burkan el Firat announcement of joint front against ISIS in the Euphrates region
YPG/YPJ fighters who have repulsed attacks by ISIS gangs are continuing to advance step by step and are inflicting heavy losses on the ISIS gangs and seizing large amounts of ammunition and weapons. See below YPG and Burkan al-Firat joint forces of the FSA crossing into the Turkish side of via the Murshitpinar border gate in North Kobane, not to attack Turkish forces or occupy ‘Turkish’ soil, but to repel ISIS insurgents who were allowed by Turkey to carry out their attacks on Kobane from there. (DIHA)

Figure 6: Murshitpinar Turkish / Syria border gate in North Kobane
Statements from YPG/YPJ spokespersons

YPJ commander Zilan Kobanê said that in recent days on the eastern front in particular many points have been cleansed of ISIS gangs and large quantities of munitions seized. YPG commander Ciwan Kobanê added: “We are advancing step by step. This means that Kobanê is gradually being cleansed of the gangs.”  
Figure 7 & 8: YPG spokesman Ciwan Kobanê & YPJ Spokeswoman Zilan Kobanê
The most intense clashes on the eastern front around Municipality Street, which is now almost entirely under the control of YPG and YPJ fighters. ISIS have abandoned many positions YPJ commander Zilan Kobanê, who is fighting on the front line in the Municipality Street area, said the gangs have been run out of many areas on the eastern front in the last 3 days, adding that the enemy gangs have suffered heavy casualties. She said: “They are now resorting to sporadic sniper fire and indiscriminate mortar fire as we have broken the back of their attacks.”  
Comments from YPG commander Ciwan Kobanê
YPG commander Ciwan Kobanê added “Our comrades have demonstrated in the last 3 days that the gangs will not be able to stand up to our forces. In the last 3 weeks there have been fierce clashes around the Municipality Street area and we are advancing step by step.” He added that the liberation of the city would take time pointing out that “Urban warfare is an arduous, drawn out process. We have experience of this. Fighting is going on house to house, street to street. We are advancing steadily but slowly.”
Peshmerga call for regional unity against ISIS
In the wider debate Kurdish Peshmerga forces and their spokesman Khalil Jangi have called for unity amongst all groups and minorities battling the ISIS war criminals saying:
Figure 9: Khalil Jangi, Peshmerga Spokesman
“In this picture, you see an Assyrian mother and her three year old child. She fled from ISIS in Mosul to the city of Dohuk in the governorate of Iraq and part of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Assyrian nation must not accept the crimes committed against them by ISIS, and remain silent. All Assyrians have a duty to their people and nation to fight together against the criminal ISIS.”
 Figure 10: Assyrian mother and child fleeing from ISIS in Mosul (el-Mōṣul)
“Assyrians, Kadanians, Izadids, Syrians, Yazidis and Kurds only salvation from ISIS is to stand together. We have the same enemy. Kurdistan is the home for all nations and religions, we are all living together and look forward to peace and prosperity. We will defend our land and people against all enemies.” 
YPGH / YPJ Fighting for the future of all our children, Support Them
The Kurds of the ‪#‎YPG‬ and ‪#‎YPJ‬ are fighting for every child’s future – around the world – support them.


 
Figure 11: The tragedy of Kobane

The unspeakable tragedy of the ISIS barbarians aggression against innocence is shown above with pictures from a Syrian Kurdish refugee camp filled with children from the Kobane area in front of living quarters separated by plastic sheets at a camp in Suruc and receiving food rations, on the Turkey-Syria border.  
The realities of the conflict – ISIS dead
 
Figure 12: ISIS Dead

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: ANF / İBRAHİM ASLAN / ERSİN ÇAKSU / JAMES HUGHES / JAMIE READ / The Lions of Rojava Media Center