Kurdish issue related articles, news etc.
Dailymail: From IT workers to ex-soldiers, the men from the West teaming up with Kurdish forces to fight ISIS
A legion of foreign fighters who bravely joined the Kurdish forces battling militants loyal to the Islamic State have posed for photographs in Syria.
Showing off their tattoos, play fighting with one another and relaxing in a camp, the international fighting force appear incredibly relaxed – despite fighting on the frontline against the terror group.
Dozens of fighters – many of them ex-soldiers in the British and America armies – have volunteered to join Kurdish troops battling ISIS in Iraq and Syria in recent months. As many of the Kurdish fighters do not speak English, the foreign soldiers usually form new English-language regiments.
Scroll down for video
The majority of the Western fighters travelling to Middle East to battle ISIS have joined the YPG, or People’s Protection Units, a Kurdish militia who are based in northern Syria.
Perhaps the most famous of the YPG-affiliated foreign legions are the so-called ‘Lions of Rojava’, whose flag Western soldiers such as Britons Jamie Read and James Hughes, and Americans Jordan Matson and Joshua Bell, are believed to have fought under.
The men in the most recent pictures are all members of the YPG, although other Westerners are known to have joined the Peshmerga forces fighting ISIS over the border in northern Iraq.
These pseudonyms typically include the word ‘Heval’ which means friend in the Kurdish langauge.
There is often confusion in the West about the Kurdish fighters battling ISIS, not least because the Kurdish word for a military force is ‘peshmerga’, which translates as ‘those who confront death’.
While the YPG in Syria are therefore technically peshmerga, the Kurdish military in neighbouring Iraq are actually called Peshmerga and led by the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Masoud Barzani.
In the latest photos released by the foreign fighters who have joined the YPG, dozens of men from all manner of background are seen going about their daily business and posing for photographs.
In one shot a 67-year-old Canadian fighter who goes by the name Heval Zinar and a 40-year-old British man nicknamed Heval Cudi are seen sparring and play fighting with one another under the blazing northern Syrian sun.
The men practice the kind of hand-to-hand combat that will be vital should they face an ISIS militant without a weapon to defend themselves.
Despite being 67, Heval Zinar appears incredibly fit and as he stands in full combat gear with an assault rifle in his hands, it is clear the Canadian national boasts the kind of physique a man a third of his age would be proud of.
In another shot reminiscent of something from the First World War, a 21-year old from the UK known as Hewal Sores and a American calling himself Hewal Agir are seen sitting in a muddy trench with their rifles in the hands as they guard a military checkpoint.
Another photograph shows a 38-year-old American national calling himself Hewal Cekdar wearing a khaki T-shirt emblazoned with the word ‘Infidel’ in both English and Arabic, in a show of defiance in the face of ISIS’ brand of Islamic extremism.
The images emerged as it was revealed that Iraq security forces have recaptured areas lost last week to ISIS in and around the battleground city of Ramadi.
According to police Major Omar al-Alawni, government forces regained control of the city’s Pediatric and Maternity Hospital and the surrounding neighborhood late Monday night after fierce clashes with IS militants. The hospital is located about 500 meters from a complex of government offices.
The Western fighters joining Kurdish forces in the battle to defeat the Islamic State have been compared to international soldiers who took up arms during the Spanish Civil War.
The so-called International Brigades were military units, made up of volunteers, who travelled to Spain to fight for the Second Spanish Republic between 1936 and 1939.
The number of volunteer fighters is thought to have been as many as 35,000, although only about 20,000 were active at any one time.
A further 10,000 foreigners are thought to have taken part in non-combatant roles during the conflict and up to 5,000 more became members of affiliated groups.
The foreign fighters are said to have come from 53 different nations to fight against the Spanish nationalist forces led by General Franco during the three-year civil war.
No surrender: A 38-year-old American national calling himself Hewal Cekdar is seen wearing a khaki T-shirt emblazoned with the word ‘Infidel’ in both English and Arabic, in a show of defiance in the face of ISIS’ brand of Islamic extremism
A 28-year old foreign fighter from the Netherlands, nick-named Hewal Serdar, poses for a photo near the Syrian town of Tal Tamr
This morning, Iraqi troops were engaged in intense clashes in an offensive to regain control of Soufiya, one of three villages that fell into the hands of ISIS last week, said police Col. Mahdi Abbas.
Both officials said the battles turned in favor of government forces after the arrival of reinforcements and weapons from Baghdad. At least 12 militants were killed in the clashes overnight, they said.
Footage showed military black Humvees advancing in a residential area in Ramadi and Iraqi soldiers firing their rifles while taking shelter behind a wall.
The security situation in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, sharply deteriorated after ISIS seized Soufiya and the two other villages, Sjariyah and Albu-Ghanim, forcing thousands of civilians to flee their homes.
Elsewhere in Iraq, police said a bomb exploded Tuesday in a commercial street in the town of Madain, just south of Baghdad, killing three people and wounding four. Later in the day, a roadside bomb hit a police patrol in the capital’s western suburbs, killing two policemen and also wounding four.
Medics in nearby hospitals confirmed the casualties. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Fierce clashes between Syrian government forces and opposition fighters in the country’s south killed dozens on both sides over the past two days as rebel factions regained much of the ground they lost earlier, activists said this morning.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting, which began yesterday in the southern province of Daraa, killed 37 rebels as well as 22 government troops. This morning, the Syrian air force struck several areas in Daraa province, the Observatory said.
The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group that tracks the Syrian civil war, said the violence in Daraa left at least 27 people dead yesterday.
Opposition fighters and members of Syria’s al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front have made major gains in southern Syria in recent weeks, capturing large swaths of territory and a border crossing point with Jordan.
Yesterday, the Syrian army said government troops captured several villages in Daraa and cut a major supply line to Jordan for opposition fighters.
On Tuesday, Daraa-based activist Ahmad al-Masalmeh and the Observatory said that a counter-offensive by opposition fighters has clawed back most of the territory lost the previous day. He also said the rebels were able to capture several soldiers and pro-government gunmen.
Syria’s civil war, now in its fifth year, has killed more than 220,000 people.
A former soldier has told of his fight against the so-called Islamic State and warned there are more than 2,000 jihadis from the UK.
Alan Duncan has been in Kurdistani Iraq for the last seven weeks after feeling a responsibility to ‘do the right thing’ and help combat the insurgency.
The 46-year-old Gulf War veteran is fighting alongside the Peshmerga, the Iraqi Kurdistan forces, and is due to become an official member.
He said he had been ‘moved to tears’ after seeing families being wiped out during the conflict.
Mr Duncan, who served with the Royal Irish and Queen’s Own Highlanders regiments, said local commanders estimate more than 2,000 jihadis have travelled to the region from the UK.
He said many of them are numbing themselves with drugs before they go into battle.
Speaking from the Middle East, he today said: ‘The foreign fighters are the ones who fight to the death. They pump themselves up with drugs before they go to fight. They end up doing a lot of the suicides too. The ones driving the suicide bomb trucks tend to be the foreign guys.
‘Some of the local commanders estimate there to be up to 2,000 ISIS fighters from the UK, but you shouldn’t be surprised if there are more…The people we’re fighting against are coming here to rape and murder women and children. That’s why they joined ISIS.’
Mr Duncan said he had been ‘moved to tears’ after seeing thousands homeless refugees following an ISIS slaughter last year. The attack on Shingal Mountain displaced 40,000 Yazidis who had been living in their camps before fleeing the onslaught.
Mr Duncan said the sight of children struggling to survive after the attack on the Yazidi people had encouraged him to fight the jihadis.
He said: ‘I’m looking at women and kids who are being beheaded 50 to 60km away from where I am right now… I am looking at all these kids and they could be any of our kids. I was moved to tears. I am not PC and I am pretty tough, but this got me.
‘The Kurds are basically fighting the war for the West. They will fight it for them but Britain must give them the weapons to do it. It’s not boots they need, it’s decent weapons. I’m not a mouth piece for their government, I’m just saying what I have seen myself.
‘The Muslims are fighting and dying to save Christians, they don’t care about the religion though. They will fight and die to save the people here.’
But despite the dangers of fighting as a civilian partisan, Mr Duncan said his partner understands because he missed his former life as a soldier.
He said: ‘To be honest, my partner understands. She knew I missed soldiering and my family understand that I didn’t just jump into this. My family, the more they learn about how it is here, the more they understand it.
‘The vast majority of people who come don’t last here and only come because they want some extra likes on Facebook and get their 15 minutes of fame. To join the Peshmerga is like applying for any job. You have to have a skill. You can’t just be an Xbox warrior.’
Mr Duncan said ISIS troops are becoming better armed as they reclaim weapons and equipment supplied to the Iraqi army from the US.
He said: ‘You’ve got no idea how much stuff they are getting from the Iraqis when they are fighting. ISIS have been armed by the abandoned weapons given to the Iraqi army by the Americans.
‘They’ve got some of the best equipment and tech, Humvees, you name it, but the Peshmerga are fighting with old AK47s, it’s ridiculous. Where we are, you can go 10 minutes in any direction and you’re on the front line.
‘I haven’t come across any British ISIS members myself, but the Peshmerga are coming across them quite a lot. They’re found quite frequently on all the fronts here.’
Mr Duncan said ISIS troops are becoming better armed as they reclaim weapons and equipment supplied to the Iraqi army from the US
Mr Duncan has partially self-funded his trip to fight ISIS but has also raised extra money through an online campaign which he promotes on Facebook. And he now faces losing his car because he cannot keep up the payments for it.
Last week, the Kurdish Peshmerga reclaimed five villages from Islamic State after they launched an offensive in the southern region of Kirkuk.
Mr Duncan said he fully trusted his fellow fighters as they treated him as a ‘brother and fellow countryman’, but that he missed some aspects of home.
He said: ‘Personally, I trust the Kurds 100 per cent and I am 100 per cent safe. They would die to save us. You get a lot of respect as a westerner. They basically see you as a brother and fellow countryman. They know what you have given up.
‘Of course there are things I miss about home. The language, my family and friends and not having to look over my shoulder. And of course, a cup of tea.’