At least nine foreign volunteers, who had joined the ranks of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to combat ISIS in Rojava-Northern Syria, were arrested by the Asayish security force in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, media sources reported on Thursday.
Foreign volunteers are increasingly becoming victim of the problems between the Kurdish parties.
“Internationalists Callum Ross (Rizgar Çiya), Ozgan Ozdil (Dêrsim Agir), Anthonî Degatto (Rustem Fist), Justin Schnepp (Şervan Agir), Mirko Bruna (Mirko Cûdî) from Italy, Paola Andolina (Azadî Raperîn) from Italy, Damien Rodriguez (Şêrzad Azad) from the US, Fernando Sanches Grassa (Çiya Azadî) from Spain have been fighting ISIS in the ranks of the YPG [People’s Protection Forces] in Rojava for a while,” the pro-PKK Firat News Agency (ANF) reported.
“The foreign volunteers crossed into Southern Kurdistan to go back home from Rojava but they were arrested by KDP forces at an Asayish (public security) checkpoint 1,5 km to Hewler [Erbil],” the agency said.
Macer Gifford, a British volunteer with the YPG, told ARA News that there are dozens of foreign fighters that participate in the Kurdish-led operation to take Raqqa.
“Maybe there are 30 [Western] volunteers, or more,” he said.
However, this is not without risk for foreign volunteers. “In Manbij the casualty rate [among foreign fighters] was very high. Many were wounded, and some badly injured,” Gifford said.
Since 3 March, when clashes broke out between the Kurdistan Workers Party (KDP) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Sinjar (Shingal) district in northern Iraq, tensions have increased between both sides in Syria and Iraq and both have arrested each other’s supporters. Last week, the local Asayish in Rojava affiliated to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) arrested 13 supporters of the pro-Barzani Kurdish National Council (KNC) in Syria.
Now foreign volunteers are also victim of the intra-Kurdish conflict.
Steve Kerr, a foreign volunteer with the YPG, told ARA News that the Kurds should work together “instead of fighting each other.”
“Talabani, Barzani, Ocalan, we are all Kurds and let’s get in there and fight ISIS all together. The Kurds should forget their differences, get rid of ISIS, and then solve all the problems and politics later. Get the fighting done first, that’s my philosophy, but sadly it never works that way,” he said.
In late March, a Swedish foreign volunteer was allegedly held against his will by a PKK-affiliated force in Sinjar. But he was eventually allowed to return to Sweden. He however denied he was held hostage.