Why are the Kurds fighting with ISIS

Qantara.de - Dialogue with the Islamic World

"The War of the Others" - German fighters among the Kurds in Syria


In the fight against the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS), some Germans have also joined the Kurdish militias in Syria and Iraq. With Turkey's invasion of northern Syria, the Kurds are fighting a new struggle. But what will happen to the Germans? From Simon Kremer

When Robin was not yet Robin, but a young man with a blond side parting and a poor graduation certificate who had just opened his own therapy practice in Tübingen, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Bagdadi climbed into the pulpit of a mosque in Mosul 3,000 kilometers away and shouted the Islamic State. Five years later, IS has lost its territory. Al-Baghdadi was killed by US soldiers. And the young man from Tübingen, who in the meantime hunted down IS fighters in Syria with a Dragunov sniper rifle, is sitting in a favela in Brazil and is hiding from the authorities.

There are worlds between Robin's Instagram posts and Sven (name changed) earlier online activities. In online forums you can read how “shy” Sven was, with “low self-esteem”. He had problems at school. Under his pseudonym Robin, he shows pictures from a war that is actually not his: The fight of the Kurds against IS in Syria.

Robin lying on a roof, sniper rifle at the ready. Robin storming a tunnel in the light of a flashlight. Robin crouching lonely in the ruins of the Al-Raqqa football stadium, which the Islamists had converted into a torture prison in their de facto capital. Robin in the ruins of bombed-out streets. An influencer of the war proud to be fighting for a good cause.

Two years later he is sitting in a favela in Rio de Janeiro, from outside the noise of a party penetrates the apartment and over the phone. “I'm not doing so well right now,” he says. Does he regret going to war?

Like Robin, several Germans have joined the armed struggle against the IS terrorist militia in recent years. According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI), there have been travel movements in the lower three-digit range since 2013. Around half of the people who left Germany have a German passport, and most of them are Turkish, Syrian or Iraqi citizens. A year ago, the federal government responded to a request from the Left Party from around 250 supporters who had left Germany. About 20 people were killed.

In mid-October it met Konstantin G. from Kiel. The Kurdish People's Defense Units (YPG) announced that he had fought in Syria and was killed in an attack in Turkey. The fight against IS is over, but Germans are still fighting alongside the Kurdish militias - now against Turkey.

"There are still a few people waiting to be picked up," says a young man who calls himself Martin Klamper on the phone. He says he is based in Shingal, a small town in the Kurdish part of northern Iraq, around 50 kilometers from the Syrian border. He heads a small unit of international fighters there. Some time ago he sent two fighters to support northern Syria. Among them Konstantin G. from Kiel.

He himself will stay in Iraq for the time being, says Klamper. They were preparing everything for an attack on Turkey, building tunnels and underground networks. "Turkey won't stop when it's finished in northern Syria." After the fight against IS and the withdrawal of the USA, which were close allies of the Kurdish militia YPG in Syria, the question arises for the German fighters as to what will happen next. On the one hand, there is the dream of a socialist self-government for the Kurds. On the other hand, there are the impending investigations in Germany.

Although the YPG militias themselves are not regarded as a terrorist group, on the other hand their political arm, the PYD, maintains close ties to the Kurdish Workers' Party PKK, which is very much on the terrorist list in Germany.

When Martin Klamper returned to Bielefeld in the meantime, he was interrogated. The authorities investigated him because of Section 129 b of the Criminal Code: Support / membership of a foreign terrorist organization. At the end of December 2018, the proceedings were discontinued by the Attorney General, and Klamper should get his passport back. But by that time he was back in Iraq. "I am aware of the consequences, but I could no longer stay in Germany," explains Klamper. "That felt wrong."

Robin from Tübingen packed the bags in April 2017. Old work colleagues and acquaintances remember that he suddenly just disappeared. Patients in the therapy practice would have been waiting for him. Shortly afterwards, the first photos appear on Instagram. In a video with the Russian television channel Russia Today in 2017, he said that after every terrorist attack everyone was upset about the IS, but no one had done anything against the evil. He found his calling with the Kurdish militia.

The following are pictures of Robin on the roof of a house at night. He hits the mark. Then another interview with him: "I hate killing people." But every time he sees the ruin IS brings, he tells himself that with every IS fighter killed he is saving the lives of many other people.

The authorities in Germany have registered in recent years that Germans with military training have also joined the fight against the terrorist militia Islamic State. Five cases of former soldiers are known, says a spokesman for the defense ministry of the German press agency.

It is also a dilemma for the German authorities. The Federal Ministry of the Interior replied to a request that after their return, the YPG fighters would be able to use “the entire range of security instruments”. But there were only investigations in around 30 cases, around ten investigative proceedings were discontinued.

Robin says there is an arrest warrant against him in Germany. This cannot be verified. But when the fight against IS was over, it left Syria. He first appeared in Colombia, and in Medellín - formerly one of the most dangerous cities in the world under drug lord Escobar - among other things, he offered weapons training for 2,000 euros a day. Then he disappeared from there too.

In the meantime Robin has become Sven again, who poses under his real name in photos on the beach in Rio de Janeiro in the summer. He wants to leave Syria and the war behind. But is that possible on the run? (dpa)