Turkish Kurds look towards the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani from the top of a hill close to the border line between Turkey and Syria near Mursitpinar bordergate.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“We are a unit of international fighters from Rojava, we came to Afrin to fight the Turkish fascist state,” says a man with a French accent in a video posted online that allegedly shows international volunteers saying they have arrived in northwest Syria to oppose Turkey’s latest offensive.
For a week Turkey and Syrian rebels have been fighting the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the mountainous area of Afrin. Turkey says its campaign is aimed at eliminating “terrorists,” while the local Kurds say they are being bombarded by artillery and warplanes.
Uploaded on Friday to Facebook and YouTube by the YPG Press Office, the video shows a dozen men in camouflage and purports to show that they have “safely arrived” in Afrin. The man with the French accent says that Turkey has attacked Afrin and that his men had fought ISIS in eastern Syria. “Afrin will defend itself, we will never surrender, we will resist until the end,” he says.
A man with an American accent says his men recently moved into Afrin to fight “Turkish terrorists” and he was there to “defend the Kurdish people of Afrin.” He jokes that he has “reenlisted” after the battles against ISIS for this new mission.
Another member of the unit says on the video that he had fought ISIS in Raqqa last year alongside the YPG. A man speaking in Italian says that he has come to defend democracy and children.
A Facebook page associated with the YPG says that the international volunteers from all over the world who had come to fight ISIS over the last several years “announced they would respond to the call to mobilize by Afrin’s local administration.” It names the French volunteer as having the nickname or nom de guerre Said Tolhildan.
“The world has turned a blind eye to Afrin. Nobody knows what is really going on here. But we are determined to protect our soil, no matter if it is against ISIS terrorism or Turkey’s state terrorism,” Tolhildan says.
On Wednesday The Telegraph in the UK reported that Huang Lei, a 24-year-old from Manchester, had also gone to Afrin to serve with the YPG, “raising the prospect a NATO member army could open fire on British citizens.”
Many hundreds of foreign volunteers have served with the YPG fighting ISIS since 2014, and dozens of them have been killed in battles in eastern Syria.
Turkey views the YPG as linked to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and accuses it of being a terrorist organization. The British Foreign Office has advised against all travel to Syria. Western governments have questioned citizens who went to fight alongside the YPG, but most who returned have not been charged with any crimes. The presence of foreigners in Afrin could complicate the already complex battlefield in northwestern Syria.