Hundreds of foreign fighters including Westerners have joined the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in Syria in recent months, according to a report Thursday, TeleSur reports. (Photo: YPG)
“Over 400 international fighters have flocked to the YPG’s ranks in recent months, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
The YPG aims to carve out political autonomy for regions in Syria’s predominantly ethnically Kurdish north.
“Sources confirmed to SOHR that those fighters come from Europe, Australia, North America and South America,” the observatory said.
SOHR uses a network of informers across Syria to collate information on the ground. According to the observatory, thousands more volunteers are fighting for the Kurdish militia from Iran and Turkey.
The monitor continued by stating the YPG established a new battalion in May comprised entirely of volunteers from the MLKP – a radical Turkish communist party. The MLKP has long stated it plans to create a volunteer force within the YPG modeled on the international brigades that fought in the Spanish Civil War. According to SOHR, that objective became a reality sometime in May.
Late last year, the YPG launched an international recruitment campaign, mostly via social networks. The militia’s progressive, left-wing ideology has long been its biggest asset in drawing foreign fighters willing to battle the Islamic State group.
Earlier this year, Greek volunteer and self described “democratic socialist” Kristopher Nicholaidis told the YourMiddleEast website, “I believe that the YPG is … leading the greatest anti-fascist struggle of our time by fighting against (Islamic State group) jihadists.”
The SOHR report suggests that campaign may be on track, after rumors earlier in the year that the YPG had been struggling to gain new fighters. Speaking to AFP earlier this year, a former YPG fighter and U.S. army veteran identified as “Scott” said he left the Kurdish group after determining they were a “bunch of Reds.”
Unlike most other militias in Syria’s civil war, the YPG claims to be fiercely democratic, and supports womens’ rights.
Officers are purportedly democratically elected, and its womens’ wing, the YPJ, has been hailed by Kurdish leaders as playing a central role in the defeat of the Islamic State group at Kobani earlier this year.”