Raqqa and beyond – our greatest battle will be peace

Its in the interest of the Israeli state to see a swift and peaceful end to the Syrian conflict.

By MACER GIFFORD
June 5, 2017 22:24
3 minute read.
SYRIAN DEMOCRATIC Forces fighters hold up their weapons north of Raqqa city.

SYRIAN DEMOCRATIC Forces fighters hold up their weapons north of Raqqa city.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The day of judgment for thousands of Islamic State (ISIS) fighters is coming.

Raqqa – the military capital of their fanatical state – is surrounded. All over northern Syria tens of thousands of Kurds, Arabs and Assyrians are mobilizing for the push into the city. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has grown enormously over the past year; the renewed commitment from the United States to provide weapons is transforming the only democratic and multi-ethnic force in Syria into the country’s most powerful military group.

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Its not just the Syrian people that will be fighting for their freedom. Within the ranks of the SDF there are hundreds of international volunteers battling alongside them. Much like the brave volunteers of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, we came to Syria to fight fascism. We came because our countries have done so little to defeat ISIS and restore lasting peace to the region.

As a British man, my own government is particularly guilty. ISIS and the warped fundamentalism that underpins its cause is the mortal enemy of Western civilization.

Yet both former British prime minister David Cameron and Teresa May, the current prime minister, have failed to commit significant resources to the fight. Instead its been left to France and the United States to lead the Coalition’s efforts in Syria.

I decided to join the fight against ISIS toward the end of 2014, shortly after David Hayes was murdered by our fellow Brit – “Jihadi John.” I went to join the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a militia that rose to protect the Syrian Kurds after they were abandoned by Syrian President Bashar Assad. The YPG and its sister group the YPJ impressed the world with their heroic defense of Kobane. They then went on to found the SDF with the support of the US.

I’ve changed a lot in the nearly three years I’ve been fighting ISIS. I’ve fought all over Northern Syria, in some of the most violent encounters of the war. In that time, I’ve seen the disintegration of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the rise of the SDF.



Where I once despaired over Syria’s future, I now have a huge amount of hope and optimism.

Syria and Iraq have been left devastated by sectarianism and extremism. Keeping the patchwork of faiths and ethnicities together is almost impossible for an American- style democracy. It’s no wonder that the Arab world is blighted by dictatorship and authoritarianism. What we have been waiting for is a “third way.” A chance to ditch the failed policies of the past and implement a plan for Syria that will ease tension between communities and build lasting peace.

The Kurds have created a system of “government” called Democratic Confederalism.

It’s where power is taken away from the state and given to communities. It’s secular, it’s democratic and it particularly focuses on the liberation of women from the patriarchal society. This new idea is ground-breaking and revolutionary. It has helped unite Syrian society like never before – thousands of Arabs, Kurds, Christians and Yazidis are joining the SDF. They are swiftly becoming the new democratic opposition in Syria.

The battle for Raqqa is about to begin.

It will be long and brutal fight, a vicious battle that will leave thousands dead. ISIS has had years to prepare the city’s defense.

Every street will become a fortress and every house a bunker. After seeing terrible fighting in Manbij and Til Tamar, I’m experienced enough to fear the worst. However, what’s never changed is my determination to see this war out and my commitment to the Rojava Revolution. The cause is just and the goals of the revolution are admirable – a secular, democratic awakening in the heart of the Middle East.

As ISIS falls apart we can’t ignore the Syrian Kurds anymore. We can no longer justify not allowing them to attend the Geneva peace talks. Their power and the ideology that underpins their cause has the unique ability to build a sustainable peace process in Syria.

Its in the interest of the Israeli state to see a swift and peaceful end to the Syrian conflict. Assad is no friend of Israel, nor are the toxic elements of the FSA. The only political movement that will defeat the extremists and secure Israel’s borders is the SDF. It’s time Israel sent them the support they need to do their job.

The author is a human rights activist and volunteer with the YPG. He is a strong advocate for positive intervention in the Middle East crisis, secular democracy and Kurdish rights. He has travelled extensively in the Middle East and Africa.

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