If you’ve read stories about the 100 percent badass Kurdish militia fending off ISIS with limited arms and BA Baracus-type tanks, you’d also have heard of the hundreds of volunteers who’ve signed up to fight alongside them.
Ever wondered why your friends aren’t interesting enough to know a guy who knows a guy who can get you on the frontlines? How did the volunteers end up there? The fast-growing Fusion network—now home to Bassem Youssef—did the homework, and prepared a helpful how-to list on how to fight with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Fair warning, though: We are not suggesting you go to Syria. Because as slim as your chances are of getting there—reading this article has probably already put you on some MKN watch list—the chances of getting home probably slimmer.
Prospective volunteers begin by sending a message to the Lions of Rojava Facebook group. There is no guarantee of reply; as expected, the group receives thousands of requests every time ISIS rears their ugly head—which is often—and cannot possibly respond to each.
The lucky few who pass this stage will receive an online questionnaire, with questions on their political and religios leanings, motives for volunteering, and a knowledge of Syrian conflict. Which probably whittles down a vast majority of candidates.
Or maybe not, since the questionnaire is mostly designed to weed out Muslim-hating racists and criminals. Primarily the former: Deniz Sipan of the YPG told Fusion that many of those who sign up do so to kill Muslims—resourceful enough to fly to a war zone, but not enough to Google the fact that most Kurds are Muslims.
Volunteers who pass this stage will then be contacted through an encrypted messaging service. They will then have to fly to the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq at their own expense, call a secret number once there, and eventually make their own way to a safe house.
The few who make it past that stage will then be smuggled into Syria, by way of crossing a river in the dead of night and an eight-hour trek. Providing the volunteer doesn’t get caught, s/he will then be taken to the foreign volunteer training centre, to be provided with ideological (Marxist-Leninist) and military training.
Interestingly, Sipan also said that the militia actually has more than enough soldiers. Most volunteers will not be asked to kill ISIS fighters on the frontlines, but rather assist with nation-building, i.e., to help prepare locals in ‘Syrian Kurdistan’ transition into a normal, functioning society once the fighting is over.
If you’re not dissuaded by all of this (and you’ve ignored our warning above), Fusion has a final note of caution for would-be do-gooders. Whatever capacity volunteers are assisting with—whether on the battlefield or not—they will be serving the interests of YPG and the PYD exclusively, and not some abstract notion of the ‘greater good.’ With all that entails, because war is, ultimately, war.