British anti-ISIS fighter sentenced in Turkey for “terrorism”

UK citizens protested in London in solidarity with former soldier that joined Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State.

September 17, 2018 19:01
2 minute read.
Destroyed buildings are seen in the city of Sinjar, Iraq November 24, 2017. Picture taken November 2

Destroyed buildings are seen in the city of Sinjar, Iraq November 24, 2017. Picture taken November 24, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/RAYA JALABI)


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On Monday protesters gathered outside the Turkish embassy in London to support the case of a British citizen arrested in Turkey on “terrorism” charges. Joe Robinson, a former soldier who volunteered with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in 2015 to fight against Islamic State in Syria, was arrested in Turkey in 2017 while on holiday. He was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison over the weekend because Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist organization linked with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

“Fighting against ISIS is not a crime. Free Joe Robinson!” read signs held by the handful of protesters who answered a call to protest in London. “Today’s protest in support of Joe Robinson was a success, there is a growing movement to get him home,” tweeted Macer Gifford, an activist and anti-ISIS campaigner who also fought against ISIS in Syria. "He went to Syria as a medic. He wanted to help innocent people wounded by the brutal Islamic State," Gifford said. "His prison sentence is a shock to us all. For a humanitarian that's uninterested in the politics of the region, to spend the best part of his life in jail for fighting ISIS is a real miscarriage of justice." He linked it to Turkey's growing tensions with the West and said that the Kurdish Solidarity Campaign would continue to lobby to bring Robinson home.

Robinson was one of hundreds of western volunteers who went to Iraq and Syria after the August 2014 genocide ISIS committed against Yazidis and others in Iraq. Robinson, who is 25, was arrested in 2017 and says he was kept in solitary confinement for four months. “I’m at the point where I am literally begging the British government to do something,” he said, according to BBC. The UK Foreign Office has raised the case with Ankara. His fiancée, who was also arrested and charged with “terrorist propaganda,” said that UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt should do something.

In 2014 the YPG helped liberate hundreds of thousands of Yazidis stranded in Sinjar in Iraq and saved them from ISIS. It also helped push ISIS back from cities in eastern Syria, eventually allying with the US-led Coalition. In recent months, as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the YPG has continued to fight ISIS. However some of the western volunteers who helped fight ISIS have run into legal troubles upon returning home. Turkey especially began to crack down on the YPG after a ceasefire with the PKK fell apart in 2015. After the 2016 coup and amid rising tensions with the US, Ankara has increasingly asserted that the YPG are "terrorists" and accused the US of working with terrorists. In January 2017 Turkey launched an offensive into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria to push the YPG back from the border. Anna Campbell, a 26 year old British woman, was killed in Afrin in March. The Telegraph reported that she likely died from Turkish airstrikes.

On Saturday Italy also detained three Italians who were thought to have joined the YPG and were seeking to fight abroad, according to a report at Kurdistan24.

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