By Macer Gifford – The Telegraph
The brutal rise of the so-called Islamic State took everybody by surprise. I can remember sitting at my desk in London wondering who these people were and where they had come from. Isil forced themselves onto the world stage when they took Mosel and began their relentless march across Syria and Iraq. Britain and America were totally unprepared for the uncontained explosion of violence across the Middle East.
The British public watched in horror as the diverse peoples of Syria and Iraq were butchered in their tens of thousands. Every day the news was dominated by another massacre or execution video. The image of Yazidi women – some as young as 6 – being paraded in market places and then sold into sexual slavery plumbed new depths of depravity.
volunteer for the YPG (Kurdish Peoples Protection Units) and fight on the frontline against Isil.
“We should be supporting the YPG with airstrikes, military equipment and training.”
My background in the UK is politics and finance, rather than the military. I was under no illusion that my presence on the frontline was going to win the war against Isil. Apart from the solidarity that I could offer the Kurds, I really needed to understand exactly what they are going through. I could then draw attention to the conflict, the Kurds and the solutions that I saw on the ground. Even in those early days I knew British policy toward Isis was flawed and ripe for change. I had to find a solution that would expedite the destruction of the Islamic State.
For five and half months I fought in Rojava which is a region in North-Eastern Syria. The Kurdish people make up a majority in the area, but years of persecution from the Assad regime have kept them from asserting their democratic rights. The war against Isil has been devastating but amongst the trauma there is a glimmer of light that they finally have the chance to build a free and democratic region. They don’t want to break up Syria and they are prepared to forego independence. They just want the chance to have autonomy and universal suffrage.
Life on the front line is tough. The YPG and Isil are locked into a brutal war of attrition where battle grounds are reminiscent of the First World War. Entire towns and villages are reduced to rubble and the frontline consists of minefields and entrenched positions. Every day, I endured sniper fire and mortar attacks.
The YPG is a militia that doesn’t have the same resources or equipment as the west. This made our success over this past year even more remarkable. The YPG has taken back more land from Isis than all the other military groups combined. In my last operation we liberated 1300 sq km of land from Isil and killed 550 of their fighters.
My fight on the frontline was only half the battle. Since I’ve been home I’ve taken what I’ve learnt to directly to British government. Thankfully the timing of my campaign has been fortuitous. After all, the crisis has now reached biblical proportions. The image of young Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach and the sight of hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees flooding into Europe has reminded people that we can’t ignore the root cause of the problem.
I was having a meeting this week with the Head of the Isil taskforce at the Foreign Office. He said that one of the reasons Britain can’t operate in Syria as it does Iraq is because we don’t have an effective partner in the country. My new role in Britain is to counter that argument and show that the Kurds are the partner that we so desperately need.
I have taken the idea to the very heart of parliament where I’m creating a cross-party group called the “Friends of Rojava”, that will help promote understanding and push for greater support for regional parties capable of destroying Isil.
There is a solution to Isil that doesn’t involve British troops. In fact, if we really wanted it to happen we could defeat Isil within a year. It just involves some tough political decisions from Obama and David Cameron. At the moment the West is just slicing away at the problem. Bombing raids and SAS missions are great but if we really want to defeat Isis we need to smash them.
What we need to do is give full political support to the PYD. We need to build on Kurdish success and use their desire for a federalised democracy as an example of the country we hope to build. We should be supporting the YPG with airstrikes, military equipment and training. We can even build refugee camps in Rojava funded by the UN but protected by the YPG.
If we could unite the FSA into a democratic and secular group, then an FSA – YPG alliance could take the fight Isil and bring Assad to the negotiation table. The solution to the Middle East crisis already exists out in Syria. We need to remind ourselves that somethings are worth fighting for and that peace in Syria starts with the Kurds.
Source: The Telegraph