IamAn international volunteer in Rojava (North-East Syria) currently resisting the invasion by Turkey, AMA
You can find a recent interview with me here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odJIo078ZoE in which I describe a bit about the situation and my work in Syria.
At the moment I am working mostly for a campaign called #riseup4rojava which aims to drum up grassroots international support for Rojava and unite people across the world in opposing the invasion by the Turkish armed forces and their islamist proxies.
In between interviews, videos, and writing articles we are also working on civil defences to prepare the city for ground invasion. We are stocking up on food, fuel and water, repairing equipment, building barricades and training people in first aid.
We have been under intermittent artillery bombardment and are regularly watched by drones but so far the ground attack in my city has been contained at the border by local Kurdish and Arabic units of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). While we hope a peaceful solution can be found soon, we are expecting and preparing for urban warfare in our home town.
Edit: Proof: https://twitter.com/lapinesque/status/1183001722639306757
Edit 2: Sorry our internet and power cut most of the night I am back now for a short time to answer as many as I can.
Thanks for your solidarity heval.
The thing I always wonder about a no-fly zone is how will it be enforced? Coalition aircraft are not going to shoot down the jets of a NATO partner, so what's to stop Turkey from flying regardless?
I've re-posted your advice where some more people who can appreciate the scope of what's happening might see it. We're a bunch of online pretenders next to you out there, living the real thing, but hopefully it can focus what efforts we can muster. Stay strong.
Wow this is really good thank you so much
Are there any independent monitors on the ground? People from the ICRC or UN who could provide evidence in the future to the ICC?
Precious few unfortunately. A lot of NGOs have evacuated.
What is everyday life like there? Are the bakeries running? Transport? Schools?
Many parts of everyday life have come to a halt, but many shops are still open as well as gas stations and the bakeries. Roads are a mix of totally empty in some places and totally clogged from the extra checkpoints Asyish are putting on to deal with ISIS sleep cells that have been activated. Schools are now shutdown across the whole region.
What is your opinion of the PKK?
The guy is pro PKK and that's why he won't answer this.
For people that don't know PKK has been killing innocent lives in Eastern Turkey for about 30 years. They aim mostly at civilians, teachers, and police officers and have blood on their hands for about 30,000 Turks and Kurds living in East Turkey. Don't take my word on it and search PKK kills or kurdish rebels kill or PKK strikes in google and you'll see thousands and thousands of news articles on PKK brutality. Again I'm not saying its Kurd Brutaility because these lowlives are pretend Kurds that trained and armed for 1 mission and that is to kill Turks.
Resist all you want, but anyone who supports a Terrorist group such as PKK should be eradicated from the world. Kurds are Turks are brothers. PKK supporters are people who call themselves Kurds that want to get in the way of this brotherhood.
Here's a few news articles that list PKK caused Turkish deaths in the last 30 years.
I did answer this here after we got our internet back up and running:
I posted a bit more in detail about this here since many were asking:
Are there still US special forces present in the city?
Not that we are aware of. Some came 4 days ago and took some ISIS members held in a prison here and within an hour of the helicopters leaving we started getting shelled, so I presume all the Americans are out.
I was linked this AMA by someone from the region who is not a native English speaker. Your title confused them as it is a bit ambiguous and implies you are combatant or directly involved in the resistance. It makes it seem you are a foreign volunteer soldier.
For the sake of clarity, you are a non-combatant foreign civilian volunteer that is actively assisting the resistance efforts? Or would you consider yourself a soldier in a non-combat role? Are you a candidate to be captured? If so, what kind of treatment do you expect (I pray any and all taken into custody are treated humanely).
Stay safe and hopefully diplomacy and non-violent solutions will prevail over warfare.
She is a non combatant who helps to build support and understanding of what is happening via advocation, interviews, etc. Everyone there is helping to build barricades and stuff. Turkey and their islamic jihadist extremists don't care whether or not you are a combatant, they will kill you all the same. They have been executing combatants and non combatants on the sides of roads today, they killed an important democratic leader in her vehicle. The airstrikes and shelling have been indiscriminate, targeting civilian areas.
Turkish forces will brutalize you and torture you, they have beheaded people (on film) before. They have raped people. Most people who are there as combatants carry a suicide grenade or extra rounds to avoid that fate. Think of a warcrime, and Turkey has done it and will continue to do it.
You have to keep in mind that Turkey arms, funds, and trains jihadists to act as their ground force and it was the main staging point for ISIS to enter N Syria.
For instance today they filmed themselves laughing and riddling prisoners dead bodies with bullets, video taken on their phone cameras. They just don't give a shit, their shill army will deny it regardless (as you can see in this very thread).
Turkish state media literally bragging about executing the politician.
Non Turkish shill source, NSFW: actual video of the SUV and death of politician Hefreen Khalaf by the Turkish backed jihadists of Ahrar al-Sharqiya.
NYT reports on Warcrimes, execution of prisoners (2 of which were NOT combatants, but civilians)
Turkish backed jihadists filming themselves pulling over civilian vehicles before execution, I believe this is also Ahrar al-Sharqiya IIRC.
NSFW: Video of said warcrime, Ahrar al-Sharqiya
NSFW: Video of prior warcrime, TFSA (Turkish backed Free Syrian Army, hodgepodge of diff Islamist groups and previous ISIS fighters who are the primary force Turkey is using on the ground) on video executing Kurdish envoys
Thanks this describes the situation for me fairly well. The proxies that Turkey are using will not give a shit what my status is, I will be a target just as anyone else is regardless of unitform or weapon.
I am a civilian volunteer. Until last week I was involved primarily with civilian engineering efforts. I have been on the frontlines here before but as a member of the press.
If the front lines come to us I will join the civil defence forces and defend my home. I don't know and don't care about the legal implications of this. The islamists we will be fighting do not care either and as a young white woman I have no intention of being captured alive.
As an American what is the best thing we can do to support the victims of Turkish crimes here?
Separately are there charities that focus on supporting these groups?
Absolutely the most important: Spread the message. I don't just mean retweeting or liking facebook posts. I mean actually speaking in person to you friends, your parents, co-workers, everyone about what is going on. People should be fucking livid even if they have no personal connection to the cause: A NATO state of 100 million people is literally using an army of former ISIS and Al-Qaeda militants to commit ethnic cleansing on the very people who defeated ISIS militarily. This isn't propaganda: Turkey's use of jihadist forces and gross human rights abuses are well documented and have been going on for years now with zero condemnation from the intl community.
Fight the social media fight. Look at any post on twitter, reddit or facebook about this war and you will see an army of Turkish nerds and their bots commenting, downvoting and generally stirring shit. We have an amazing campaign running called #RiseUp4Rojava as well as #WomenDefendRojava but we need all the help we can get. Sharing our content is great, but even better is contributing: if you get photos from demos or actions send them to us, if you know how to edit videos, offer your services, if you can translate, let us add you to our list of translators.
Organise. If you are not a member of a local solidarity group, join now. Having said that, while these groups are present in most cities in the EU, not many cities in the US have large Kurdish populations but other leftist groups are likely to be making solidarity actions.
Act! Whenever you can, go to a demo. Whenever there is a meeting and you can go, go. Generally these are being organised under the umbrella of #RiseUp4Rojava but there will be others too.
Even better is direct action, but to save myself another line on my arrest warrant when I get back I won't make any suggestions exactly what.
Contact your state and federal representatives, celebrities, your trade union. Ask them to use their platform to support this cause. Explain to them passionately the the international catastrophe that is happening here and how we can stop it.
Prepare to come to Rojava. Seriously. If you were in YPG/YPJ/IFB before, if you're a doctor, nurse or EMT, or someone with skills useful in these times (engineers, technicians, linguists, whatever), get ready. At some point there will be open call by the movement for people to flood the region like there was in the time of Kobanê. They will be preparing the legal and logistical framework to get large numbers of volunteers across from Başur (Iraqi Kurdistan) now and will make the call in the near future. [please don't contact me about this as I am not involved at all and can't help, and obviously check the laws in your state or country about this before getting me in loads of trouble...]
Are there Assyrians/Syriacs in your town?
I don't believe so. In my town the christian community is fairly strong but are mostly orthodox.
Hey man!! I wanted to ask you. How is it over there? (General overview). Also what are you and the people that you're with doing right now to ensure that you're as safe as you can be?
Keep up the good work over there ame please be careful and stay safe. I don't mean to sound political but it's total bullshit and this entire conflict right now is all because of a giant orange, tiny handed fuck face!!
It's pretty intense. We are working hard all day and don't get much sleep. I'm mostly working on social media campaigning, doing TV interviews and going out into the city to find out what people are doing to prepare.
Some of others of us are putting up barracades, building defensive positions and gathering tyres to burn to obscure the sky from drones and jets, things like that.
Do you have war photographers / journalist in the area or are you the only voice?
At the moment I don't think there are many, but many will for sure come. It's only day 4 so far of attacks from Turkey and it will take journalists a little longer to deal with the travel and visa situation
I live right under Syria in Jordan, is there a way to help you people out?
Same as the advice I'm giving to most people:
I think number one on that list I posted is the most important. Just generating interest in the cause where you are. Link it to local movements and struggles, give people an understanding of what is really going on in this region and why it matters for the rest of the world.
Did you guys see the withdrawal of US "support " coming?
Absolutely. Everyone knew it would happen at some point, but most here expected it to be done in an orderly and peaceful fashion along the lines of a peace treaty that included all interested parties, such as the security mechanism that was being put in place.
So what is surprising is the speed in which it happened? That they pretty much left Rojava in a couple days?
Absolutely. To illustrate it: the last group of vehicles to cross back into Iraqi Kurdistan before the first artillery battery opened up were contracted by the Americans to drop off over a 100 trucks of military and reconstruction aid to the SDF. It was only minutes between us receiving aid and the attack starting.
You've mentioned that, along with drs, nurses, etc. that engineers are useful. Why is this the case? How can an engineer provide value in a situation like this? And is there a lot of resentment against the US? Also thanks for doing this
Some of the first targets of the shelling in our region appeared to be infrastructure: a dam and electricity substation were hit by either targeted artillery fire or a drone strike (couldn't tell from the sound). Having engineers on the ground who can at least assess the situation and potentially fix critical infrastructure is extremely important for maintaining quality of life and so resistance.
Do you think there will be a peaceful way to settle this down? Why is the overall Turkish sentiment so harsh about Kurdish people? How high are the chances for the IS to rise again?
Nope. Erdogan has bet his presidency on this. The whole country is whipped up into a lust for war with the SDF and has an entire nation seemingly believing we are all hardcore PKK militants intent on the eradication of the Turkish race. I cannot see how he could ever back down other than being forced militarily on the ground or by international action.
I can't explain the entire history of the Kurdish struggle in an IAmA post! But to try and sum up, it's very similar to how Turkish nationalism has approached other peoples such as Armenians and Cypriots, an assimilation under a Turkish identity and a total suppression of any identity that deviates from it. The extreme oppression of peaceful Kurdish activists in the late 1970s led to the creation of a group dedicated to violent armed struggle, the PKK, and ever since they and the Turkish armed forces have been engaged in an unending war.
As much as the Turkish state likes to make out that the PKK and PYD/YPG are one and the same thing, the truth is that they are more like cousins, borne of the same philosophy but very much separate organisations. The last thing anyone on the ground here wants is a military confrontation with Turkey or any form of armed struggle outside of Syrian borders, but it is this link that the Turkish government have exploited as an excuse to resettle millions of refugees in Northern Syria, to take some of the most fertile land in the Middle East and some of the most productive oilfields in the region, all while surpressing Kurdish aspirations of self-determination.
god it feels like the whole world is falling apart, with this conflict between Turkey and the Kurds, with what's happening in Ecuador, the recent events in Venezuela, North/South Korea, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, civil war in Syria, tensions in the South and East China sea, confrontation between the US and Iran, the conflict in Ukraine... like how much more can the world take?
It is extremely depressing, but then I see the huge numbers of people around the world who are coming out in support of us and the dozens who have already messaged me asking how they can come and sometimes my morale couldn't be higher. If I die here it will be knowing I have fought for something worthwhile.
the truth is that they are more like cousins, born of the same philosophy but very much separate organisations.
born of the same philosophy.
I'm not Turkish, but this is a really pathetic excuse to try to justify they are different. saying they have the same philosophy as a terrorist group condemns them.
The Provisional IRA and the Defence Forces of Ireland have exactly the same roots in the Irish Volunteers that fought the Easter Rising, but no-one would accuse them of being an terrorist organisation.
You can call it whatever you want, but it's a fact that they are different organisations. The SDF is a multiethnic umbrella of different militias each with differing philosophies united in defence of their own land.
While we argue about this, the Turkish army is literally funding, training, equiping and sending into battle known members of Al-Qaeda and ISIS and no-one bats an eyelid, yet Turkey's false assertion that the SDF literally are the PKK is enough apparently to warrant ethnic cleansing in a region of millions of people.
I watched the interview, it was very moving!
How did you become a volunteer? (You said you were not very political to begin with.)
Thanks for the message of solidarity. I'm glad you liked the video.
I ended up volunteering after the best friend of one of my friends was killed by a Turkish air strike while evacuating civilians in Afrin last year, a British woman called Anna Campbell. Her story and experiences with the Kurds and other peoples in the region really moved me and after speaking to a few activists in my home city realised that engineers were sorely needed so decided to travel here.
Do you think your comrades and other people living in the area will blame the US itself, rather than the current administration? I'm scared that this fiasco will create a bunch of new enemies for the US.
People here always new the US would pull out at some point and have been trying to work towards a federal Syria in partnership with the regime. People are certainly angry and frustrated that the US pulled out in such a terrible way – opening the doors to this invasion – but always wanted foreign troops to leave eventually once a peace could be negotiated.
does turkey have no reason to apply force against PKK?
Turkey are already applying force against the PKK from their many bases in Iraqi Kurdistan. This lie that the SDF are indistinguishable from the PKK is one told to enable ethnic cleansing and annexation.
Do the Kurds have no reason to desire self determination?
I really wanna know how is your opinnion on the pkk. its the main think turkey is attacking syria and its not a secret that the pkk killed a lot of civilians
There were mortar and rocket attacks in turkey near the border. Wich killed some civilians there so whats your oppinion on that?
This op supports the PKK from the lack of responses to questions that mention it.
I'm afraid given the fact that Turkey has turned my home into a warzone I don't have 24/7 power or internet so can't reply immediately to the hundreds of Turkish supporters accusing me of being PKK militant.
The Kurd said the America's sold them out. What is the general attitude towards US troops and US in Syria now?
Frustration that they chose this way to leave. People here always wanted all foreign powers to leave, including the US, but with a proper negotiated settlement and peace treaty with Syria that is guaranteed by the international community. Not just pulling out on the whim of a President after a single phone call.
For those wondering how and who can they contact to join the IFB/EÖT to help the YPG/YPJ? Not just as soldiers but as medics, teachers, engineers, scientists ect.
I can't personally help with this because I don't have anything to do with people travelling here. The movement will put out a call for a general mobilisation soon and will make the necessary arrangements for people to get here. Hopefully we will get more information soon and I will be able to pass it on.
You should check the laws in your country regarding these as many have rules againt joining foreign militias.
That was my question actually. Aren’t you afraid the political winds will change and your citizenship will be stripped and/or someone will have you up on terrorism charges?
This movement, this revolution, is bigger and more important than my worries or fears about legal issues. I have a great support network in the UK and at every point in my time here I have worked towards and fought for what I believe to be right and just so I will absolutely relish the opportunity to defend my actions in court.
Is it still possible to volunteer? If so, how can I?
There will soon be a mass mobilisation and word will be put out about how to join.
What are your thoughts on the situation of Assyrians and the Assyrian villages in Northeastern Syria?
I went to mass this morning with some Syriac neighbours and had a coffee with them after. Those I spoke to seemed relatively unconcerned about the local situation and did not think the war will badly affect them. I was disappointed given that the proxy forces Turkey are using will come down hardest on christians.
Some MFS and Sutoro members I have spoken to in the past have quite a more forceful opinion and declared they would head to the front lines in the event of an attack, and I believe many of them are there now.
Are you still safe?
No unfortunately nowhere in the region is really safe or peaceful now despite this apparently becoming a 'safe zone' through 'springs of peace'
I'm from Mexico and have been doing my best to inform my friends in the US about helping out the people of Rojava, but I feel like I could do so much more. How can people that aren't from America or Europe help out?
I think number one on that list I posted in the most important. Just generating interest in the cause where you are. Link it to local movements and struggles, give people an understanding of what is really going on in this region and why it matters for the rest of the world.
Whilst I admire what the Rojava are trying to do I am concerned about previous claims of Kurds ethnicity cleansing Assyrians and others from areas they claim for a future state. Are these claims true? I worry your noble cause is at the detriment of other natives, do they get a chance to join you in the new future you are fighting for?
I don't know a huge amount about this, but I know there have been abuses by constituent groups of the SDF documented in the past and as with any armed group I expect there will be in future. The important thing to look for is how these abuses are dealt with by the command and what their guiding philosophy says. In the case of the SDF from my perspective it is clear that they are by far the most moral force present in the Syrian civil war and the most sensitive to the needs of minorities in the region.
What's the most difficult thing you had to see?
The reactions of parents saying goodbye to their fallen sons at the first military funeral of the war this morning: https://twitter.com/lapinesque/status/1183026183790907392
Dani, what do you see about arab league's meeting ? Will they intervine ? EU also become silent, what future do you see right now ?
To be honest, right now it is hard to take into consideration what is happening in the international community. For us here on the ground we are having to deal with the reality of wartime and imminent invasion. People here are not expecting anyone else to swoop in and save them - they know they must defend themselves or be displaced like the residents of Afrin were last year, replaced by jihadists and their families.
If the Arab league can unite behind us and members can provide real, substantial support or the kind of sanctions the US are talking about then it will be an enormous help, but I am not holding out much hope.
1) Have you been an international volunteer with the YPJ or with an NGO or independent humanitarian cause? It's not clear from your post or interview whether you are civilian or if you have been military affiliated.
2) Is there a particular reason your campaign refers to Rojava rather than North East Syria? As you probably know many NGOs and international groups tend to avoid using this name as it has significant political connotations. I have noticed many people now moving to use Rojava more often since the invasion by Turkey.
3) There are unconfirmed rumours that a US solider was injured or killed in/near Kobane in the last 24 hours. Have you heard any similar reports? I'm aware of the confirmed attack near a US military post.
1) I am (was...) a civilian volunteer with Make Rojava Green Again until the war started. 5 days ago I was in Jinwar, a women-built and run village sizing up a solar power system. 4 days ago the war started and all our work ended so I joined RiseUp4Rojava and the civil works here in my local city.
2) Well we're not an NGO or charity. We are unashamedly revolutionaries who came here to support the revolution. Most of us left everything behind to move here. Rojava is a political term, yes, because it asserts the existance of Kurdistan as a self-governing region. We use the word Rojava because we believe that such a self-governing region is the best solution for humanity (not just the Kurds) from a democratic and ecological perspective and want to work towards it.
3) Yes we heard these reports from many sources but the US has now officially denied that anyone was killed.
Thanks for clarifying. That makes sense. I'm familiar with the context although I never managed to set foot in Jinwar. I personally avoid the term Rojava because of those connotations but then I've come from the humanitarian/health side and am not a revolutionary. I'm also concerned that it's polarising and alienates some communites who don't affiliate with that view point.
One last question - have you got a plan for return to the UK in the future? With the changes to the counterterrorism act made in May of this year you're likely to be prosecuted. I left before this came into effect but will likely face issues even if I return affiliated with an INGO.
We generally try to be accurate with the term. Places like Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor are outside of Rojava and so we tend to say NE Syria. Right now I am living in Rojava proper so called it that.
No plan to return right now. I hope to some day but that depends how the city war goes. I will undoubtedly have big legal problems and face jailtime but I believe in this revolution enough that I am willing to face that risk.
Are you unbiased, do you try to be objective if not why should we believe you?
There is no such thing as 'objective' or 'unbiased' here. I am unashamedly biased in favour of a revolution that has put women, grassroots democracy and ecology at its very centre. I am not going to try to convince you here that you should be a supporter, because I am convinced that any compassionate person with a good understanding of this region, of the history of the Kurds and their brutal oppression would take the side of the revolution here.
The dudette is a volunteer supporting Rojava. The fact you’re asking if she’s “unbiased” makes you a goddamned idiot.
Edited for gender/activity.
She. And no, I'm not fighting with the YPG.
How this different from foreign ISIS fighters ? You are not a professional soldier under a legit country recognized by UN.
I suppose you're right, there's no real difference between a Islamist cult that applies the death penalty for homosexuality, affords zero rights to women, beheads disbelievers and destroys priceless historical sites and a feminst, democratic, ecological and pluralistic federation that guarantees women's rights and has banned execution.
Do you plan an armed conflict?
There is already armed conflict. We will prepare to defend ourselves if necessary but hope it will not come to that.
- David Graeber, 2017
Solidarity from libertarian socialists all over the world. Rojava's example has given people some hope for the future, which is in short supply.
The white house backstabbing you like this has been deeply unpopular, across the board, pissing off even the DoD and tons of veterans who see you as close allies – people who are not radical leftists, by any stretch. Do you think it may be feasible to pressure the US or other NATO countries into establishing a no-fly zone?
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