KOBANI, SYRIA— As authorities in Western countries work to stop their citizens from joining the Islamic State group, men and women from some of those nations are going to Syria to fight against the militant group. They have joined the Syrian Kurdish YPG force.
In the recent months, dozens of fighters from North American and European countries have travelled to Syria to try to stop Islamic State, or Daesh, attacks both in the region and abroad. The woman who leads the Kurdish YPG team that trains foreign fighters says many reasons prompt the volunteers to join the battle.
"Daesh is not our enemy alone; it's the enemy of all humanity," she said. "They see things in their own country - [IS] explodes a car bomb and many people die. They kidnap people. Fighters are from Australia, United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium, the Czech Republic - I believe [people] from nearly all places are here."
One of the volunteers is Hanna Bohman, a former model and soldier, from Canada.
“Daesh is a danger for the world. But it is more of a danger psychologically than actually physically," said Bohmam. "Yes, they do attack in some parts of the world but if you look at the statistics, 35,000 Americans are killed every year in gun violence. The biggest threat to Americans are other Americans. But politically and psychologically, Daesh is a much bigger threat.”
Some foreign fighters joined the YPG not only to fight IS, but to support what they say is the multi-ethnic model of co-existence in the Kurdish-held areas known as Rojava.
“I came in Rojava to be with my Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian friends who are fighting Daesh here for democracy," says young volunteer Robert, who is from France. "And I hope, after I did my duty here as much as I can, I will be able to go back to my country France with ideas and all those things that I have learned.”
YPG forces are backed by the U.S.-led coalition in their fight against IS, both from the air and, to a lesser but growing extent, on the ground. These new ground forces may find some of their countrymen, and women, already there.
Report narrated by Marcus Harton.