Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Other Jihadis

"While Western intelligence agencies struggle to stop their citizens joining Islamic State, a small, yet growing, band of men and women have joined the other side. The cause has attracted a bizarre array of former soldiers, surfers, bikers, adventure-seekers, arms dealers and a handful of evangelical Christians who believe they are waging a crusade. Their motives are equally eclectic: revulsion at Islamic State's beheading of hostages, the collapse of the Iraqi army, boredom or the chance of combat after years in the army. Others liken their struggle to that of the British and US volunteers who fought fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

"Duncan, who joined the Royal Irish Regiment aged 16, says he was horrified as he watched reports last year of how Islamic State gradually took over parts of Syria before butchering its way across the border into Iraq. 'I was kind of getting restless,' said Duncan... 'It was going away from a so-called people's revolution in Syria to it becoming about Islamic extremism. And we were still throwing them arms. We were basically arming extremists.'

"Late last year, after contacting Jordan Matson, a US fundamentalist Christian fighting in Syria, he joined Syrian Kurds fighting for the YPG, or people's defence units... However, Duncan quickly realised that the YPG fighters he was with were 'as socialist as hell', an ideology that clashed with his right-wing views - so he went home to his fiancee. Undaunted he returned, joining up with a newly formed Assyrian Christian militia... in northern Iraq... Duncan is one of just seven foreign fighters with the [Assyrian] militia... a fraction of the 50 to 100 foreign fighters with the YPG...

"Tensions have flared. Duncan has especially been riled by one volunteer, a young American evangelical called Brett. 'He had long hair and this lip piercing, stalking about as if he's some sort of gangster, using Facebook as a dating agency,' Duncan said with disgust. 'He was calling himself 'soldier of Christ' and saying he sees it as a crusade. The Assyrians hated it. This fight isn't about religion. This is about everyone - Muslims, Christians, everyone - working together against one common enemy. This is about humanity.'

"Duncan is equally dismissive of other volunteers, many of whom he refers to as 'clowns and Muppets' seeking 'Facebook likes and five minutes of fame'. Others he calls 'Xbox warriors. They're young kids from the UK and US. They don't realise in war you don't get three lives. It's not this comfy game. You're sitting freezing your arse off. You're not getting fed properly, you're tired, you're on guard duty. They are a waste of time and dangerous.' (Crowd-funded idealists join 'defenders of humanity', Miles Amoore, The Sunday Times/The Australian, 24/3/15)

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