German YPG fighter: ‘I joined the Kurds in war on ISIS to change the world’

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Cihan Kendal, 26, from a local German anarchist into a fighter with the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Photo: ARA News

ARA News

DERIK – Cihan Kendal, 26, is a German fighter from Saarland, Germany, who has turned from a local German anarchist, into a fighter in the ranks of Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG). In an exclusive interview with ARA News, Kendal shared his perspectives on the guerilla warfare the YPG is waging against the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria. 

Kendal was first part of the leftist anarchist groups that fought against rightwing movements in Germany, but he then realized he could do more by joining the Kurdish movement, especially after reading more about the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and it’s leader Abdullah Ocalan. 

His anarchist group joined a campaign to free a Kurd who was captured by the German police, and this is how he got to know the Kurds. He called on Germany to stop criminalizing the Kurdish PKK group, that is still a banned organization in Europe.

“In 2011, I started to know some people from the Kurdish freedom movement. In the spring of 2012, I went with a group of friends to the northern part of Kurdistan [Southeast of Turkey] to celebrate Newroz,” he told ARA News. “There I saw the connection between the Kurdish people and the Kurdish freedom movement, it was like a religion,” he said. 

“I felt I was part of this movement, and believed that this movement could change the world,” he said. “We are not just fighting for a free Kurdistan, we fight for an equal world, and I am an internationalist,” he added.

This is one of the reasons why Kendal (Kurdish nickname) doesn’t want to go back to Germany. “The centre of revolution is now Kurdistan. It is the most important region in the Middle East, if you look to other revolutionary movements, in the world, there is no other one in the world that can give such perspectives and revolutionary practices as the Kurdish movement.”

When asked about the Islamic State’s jihadis, he said they are strong in their ideology but have some contradictions. “They have ideological power, and because of this they can carry out suicide attacks, some of them are really fearless.” 

But he says it is difficult for ISIS militants to resist the YPG guerilla tactics when backed by US-led coalition’s airstrikes in the countryside in Rojava–Syria’s Kurdish region. “If you combine guerilla tactics with airstrikes, this is effective in the villages, but in the cities it’s different,” he told ARA News. “In the city [like Raqqa] there are snipers, and it is a war of the city and war of mines, and ISIS militants are experts in the use of mines. It would be a very heavy fight if we would do it [attack Raqqa]”, he said.

In reality, the YPG doesn’t want to take Raqqa, but they are recruiting more Arabs to support the YPG in the fight against ISIS in Raqqa–the group’s de facto capital in Syria . “We don’t want to take Raqqa; once we have cleared up Raqqa, we will hand it over to an Arab force. We have to build up strong Arab forces, to manage the social life of the Arab society; there is no Arab force now that is capable of managing the society’s affairs. There is no other movement [apart from the YPG] that can do this,” he said.

Nevertheless, he says there is distrust between the US-led coalition and the YPG over territories. While the YPG wants to take the ISIS-controlled Jarabulus, to connect the Kurdish controlled territories from Kobane until Efrin, the US wants the YPG to take the city of Raqqa, the de-facto capital of the Islamic State.

“The United States does not trust us, and fear if we take Jarabulus we won’t take Raqqah. But on the other hand if the YPG takes Raqqa, we think the US will not support us in Jarabulus,” Kenal said in an interview with ARA News. 

Although some experts say the ISIS radical group is strong in urban fighting, the German fighter disagrees, arguing that ISIS jihadis are relying themselves on their expertise with IEDs and mines. “Daesh [ISIS] is not so strong; after the liberation of Kobane, most of [YPG] martyrs were not killed in attacks, but by mines. A lot of YPG fighters are not disciplined, and open the doors of houses,” he added.

But he says that ISIS is easy to defeat, if they are attacked. “Daesh is a force for attacking, but in defending they are not very good. To attack is easier than to defend, and in such a conflict, psychological warfare is very difficult,” he said.

As an example, he gave an operation in which YPG took a local headquarters of ISIS, although ISIS had more than thirty fighters, with a car full of weapons, ammunition and mines. “If you have such a strategic point, you can resist a lot,” he said. Nevertheless, the YPG took it in three days, and the ISIS fighters fled. “We couldn’t understand why they didn’t resist, they even had a Doskha [Soviet heavy machine gun],” he said.

“Later we understood their psychology: they cannot fight the combination of airstrikes and the style of guerilla attacking. You have to strike hard, and very fast. This is making psychological pressure, and then they panic,” he told ARA News.

Nevertheless, the German fighter suspects ISIS militants are also using stimulating drugs to keep fighting. When the YPG attacked one ISIS point, and overran it, one ISIS boy of 16-years-old thought the YPG fighters were members of ISIS, and asked them for food and water. “He did not show any emotions,” Kendal said. When the boy realized they were YPG, the ISIS fighter attacked the YPG and was killed after bullets hit his suicide belt.

“The ISIS fighters were two days in the areas without food and water, maybe they used drugs. It was very strange, some of them are like this,” he said.

Although the YPG is accused of destroying Arab villages by Amnesty International, the German fighter says this is propaganda. “Now in Tal Abyad, a lot of villages are full with members of ISIS, we know this. But we cannot do anything if there is no evidence, we can’t grab and kill them, we can only take security measures,” he said.

“Our big standard is our morals and ethics, despite war. We know villagers around us spy, but we cannot kill them or send them to prisons. But sometimes, we know there is a possibility that civilians get killed,” he added.

Kendal therefore also denied that the YPG forces are carrying out ethnic cleansing. “If you look to the villages behind the frontlines, you see no blown houses,” he said. “There is a line between Rojava [Syrian Kurdish areas] and ISIS. If you want to defend this line, you have the clear the area,” he said. “If you leave it, the enemy will use it against you,” he said. As a result, the YPG forces both Kurdish and Arab civilians to leave the frontlines, and blow up some houses of both Kurds and Arabs on the frontlines.

“We don’t want to force them to leave, we want to agree, we want to build up a brotherhood between Arabs and Kurds. But sometimes there is a military necessity; if we don’t see a military necessity, we can’t fight this war. This is a contradiction.”

“Nobody asked if this house is of a Kurd, or a house of an Arab. If this house is dangerous, we have to destroy it. We need to have a point, and we need to see 100 meters in front of our point. It is not ethnic cleansing. This is a propaganda. You can go to all YPG points, and you can see a lot of Arabs with the YPG. It’s not a Kurdish force only,” he said.

Nevertheless, it is impossible for civilians not to get hurt in the fight. “Before, heval Dilsoz (Kevin Jochim) was martyred [on 6th July, 2015, in the countryside of Tel Abyad]. There was a truck full with civilians, it looked like civilians that were fleeing with their belongings, with furniture, and blankets,” he said.

“We looked through our scope, and saw one child, one woman and a ma,” he added. “But after this the truck came closer, and the man blew himself up,” Kendal said. “After this we will be more careful, but this doesn’t mean we will shoot on civilians,” he said. 

The German fighter says the YPG fights for ethics and morals. “We fight for the same mentality of all parts of Kurdistan, we know that by the way of violence, you cannot defeat your enemy, the people will stand up against you, and punish you,” he concluded. 

Interview by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Source: ARA News

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