By Tom Coghlan and Sara Elizabeth Williams
They are on a mission to “send terrorists to hell and save humanity” — but westerners wanting to fight for the Kurds against Islamic State (Isis) must bring thermal underwear and read up on Abdullah Ocalan, the head of the Kurdistan Workers’ party.
The group battling Isis in northern Syria has launched a macho online recruitment drive to sign wannabe war heroes from the West. The campaign uses the image of Jordan Matson, an American soldier who fights with them, as its main image and claims to have already recruited a number of former British and American soldiers.
A Facebook site for the “Lions of Rojava”, run by the Kurdish YPG movement, does not undersell itself. “JOIN People’s Defense Units/YPG in Rojava, Syria, SEND TERRORISTS TO HELL and SAVE HUMANITY,” it says.
Recruits are advised to be fit and have a grasp of Kurdish. One photograph shows three men with their faces blanked out — two in US-style military fatigues and one in British Army clothing. They are billed as US and British “Special Ops veterans”.
Two groups claiming to include former US soldiers are seeking funding to get to Kurdistan in Iraq and join the YPG in Syria.
Matson, who serves with the YPG and has been wounded, wrote that the group, which has fought Isis for two months to protect the town of Kobane, has received hundreds of approaches. Canadian newspapers have reported that Gill Rosenberg, 31, a Canadian-Israeli, with fraud convictions, has joined the YPG. She says on Facebook that she has served with the Israeli army. The Home Office warned that joining a conflict overseas can be an offence under criminal and terror laws.