Earlier this month, it was announced that an LGBT military unit had been formed to fight the Islamic State (IS) in its Syrian “capital”, Raqqa city. There does appear to be such a unit in existence, though it is militarily inconsequential and likely has fewer than a dozen members, all of them foreign. The unit’s primary intention was to bolster the ongoing media-political campaign of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is selling itself to Western audiences as a “progressive” ideological ally in the Middle East. This is the latest chapter in a conflict where the significance of the media war has few precedents. Continue reading
The Kurdish People’s Protection Forces (YPG), the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has been in receipt of a flow of non-Kurdish, mostly-Western foreign fighters for approximately a year. These volunteers had gathered in informal groupings such as the “Lions of Rojava,” a primarily English-speaking unit of non-ideological ex-military men. The recruitment pattern of the YPG has begun to shift, however, and the stream of foreign fighters to “Rojava,” as the YPG calls the areas it rules, has become increasingly ideological. In January, a process was begun to create a unified structure—or at least a brand—for the disparate foreign groups and individuals in Rojava. This effort concluded two days ago with the formation of the International Freedom Battalion (EOT).