People’s Protection Units [YPG]
The People’s Protection Units which is also known as the YPG by the Kurds and Syrian rebels and PKK by the Jihadists, it defines itself as regional military force which is not affiliated with any political party and it serves regional interests of Rojava and defending it from any foreign or internal threats. This militia has been accused of acting as the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party [PYD], although they always deny this. This Independent group first started its militant wing known as the YPG during the early stages of the Syrian conflict in 2011.
YPG flag / Wikipedia
Turkey and some members of the Syrian Opposition have accused the PYD of being a front for the Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK] in Syria, the rebel group is currently at war with the Turkish government. The PYD say that while they share an ideology with the PKK based on the words of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, they are their own independent force and take orders from no one. Posters and flags bearing his image of Abdullah Ocalan are everywhere in Rojava [Syrian Kurdistan], Adults and children wear necklaces with his face on pendants, the group is strongly associated with the PKK.
YPG fighters in a parade in Qamishli / Twitter
The YPG is composed of men and women from communities across the Kurdish region of Rojava [Syrian Kurdistan]. Though mostly Kurdish, the group has attracted increasing numbers of Arabs fighters that are from local tribes that live in Rojava or defecting from the Syrian opposition forces as well as locals from mixed or Arab villages in YPG controlled territories who see the group as the best supporter of regional security also a number of Christians Assyrians also fight in YPG ranks, and the militia has close links to the Assyrian Sutoro and Syriac Military Council. YPG established a Chechen battalion that consists of 200 fighters to fight against Islamic State in northern Syria and it’s led by Chechen commander Xalit Çaviş.
Xalit Çaviş and his fighters / Twitter
The YPG has also helped arm and train ethnic minorities in both Syria and Iraq. One of these groups is the Yazidis in northern Iraq, who were evacuated following YPG fighters breaking the Islamic State siege of Sinjar Mountain alongside the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga and backed by US air support.
YPG fighter / Facebook
Throughout the Syrian conflict, the YPG have caused heavy casualties on forces of Nusra Front, Islamic State and the Syrian government forces. Despite being relatively unknown by many people, this group has 50,000 fighters which is the fourth largest non-government fighting group in Syria behind the Islamic State, Free Syrian Army and the Islamic front. YPG is commanded by Sipan Hemo, who is the main commander of this militia alongside other commanders in Aleppo, Qamishli, Ras al-Ayn, Efrin and Kobane.
YPG fighter in a Technical vehicle / Facebook
The People's Protection Units has three main bases that is located in Kobane, Efrin and al-Jazira, YPG has eight brigades which operates in Efrin, Qamishli, Kobane and Sere Kanye. In 2014, the YPG co-operated with the Free Syrian Army in order to fight against the Islamic State that was advancing in north of Syria. The YPG has also formed an operations room with multiple FSA brigades called Euphrates Volcano to stop the Offensive of the Islamic State.
FSA and YPG announcing the formation of Euphrates Volcano / Orient News
YPG is also responsible of committing massacres against many Arab civilians in Rojava where they have been accused of having links to Islamic State. They massacred 42 people including women and children in the villages of Til Khalil and Hajiya which is located in the suburbs of Qamishli. Also they massacred more than 50 people in the villages of Til Barak and also ethnic cleansed many Arab civilians from their homes and villages in the region of Rojava.
Since the PYD began to establish control in 2012 over `Afrin, Kobane and Jazira, some politically active individuals with non-PYD parties have gone missing or been killed in unclear circumstances. PYD authorities deny involvement in these crimes, and blame the Syrian government or other non-state armed groups. Opposition parties and relatives of some of the victims blame the PYD of using it’s armed wing YPG in arresting and killing.
Asayish and YPG have both used boys and girls under age 18 at checkpoints and on bases in Efrin, Kobane and Jazira. Some children have fought with the YPG. The Asayish serves as a police force, but its members are armed with automatic weapons and its checkpoints have been the target of car bombings and other attacks.
During the battle of Tal Abyad, Syrian Opposition have accused the country's Kurdish YPG militia of committing ethnic cleansing against Arabs and Turkmen in northern Syria. Since the clashes between Islamic State and YPG forced around 16,000 people to flee in just two weeks.
Women's Protection Unit (YPJ)
The YPJ is affiliated with the People's Protection Unit [YPG], it is a female militia group which is formed in 2013 and it’s an official part of the Kurdish Supreme Committee. The YPJ, the Kurdish female militia that is fighting alongside YPG against Islamic State offensives in Rojava.
YPJ flag / Wikipedia
There are around 7,000 women fighters under the ranks of YPJ voluntarily, around 40% of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters in Syria are women. Those women who fight for YPJ range in age from 18 to 24, but there are recruits as young as 12 who trains alongside their elders.
YPJ fighters celebrating victory / Facebook
YPJ fighters / NBC news
Westerners in YPG [Lions of Rojava]
There are around 60 Westerners fighting alongside the 50,000-strong Kurdish People’s Protection Units [YPG], the foreign fighter group is called the “Lions of Rojava” which is said to include Britons, Americans, Canadians, Australians and other nationalists and it’s led by Jordan Matson who served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army.
Jason Matson, a former U.S. Army soldier fighting in the Lions of Rojava, said he was drawn to the fight by a sense of duty towards the Kurds because of their loyalty to the U.S. during the Iraq war. "I'm not going back until the fight is finished and ISIS is crippled," Matson said to the Associated Press in early February 2015. "I decided that if my government wasn't going to do anything to help this country, especially Kurdish people who stood by us for 10 years and helped us out while we were in this country, then I was going to do something."
Jordan Matson / Facebook
YPG is carrying out a recruitment campaign via social media, targeting Western men and women who want to join the fight against Islamic State.
Their motto is “Send Terrorists to Hell and Save Humanity.”
Westerners who express an interest on social media in joining the YPG in Rojava [Syrian Kurdistan] are directed to a special recruitment page which is called “The Lions of Rojava” on Facebook. The Lions of Rojava page provides Information of other Westerners who have come to Syria to join them, along with motivational messages emphasizing the roles of the YPG in “Defending the civilized world against barbarism.”
Lions of Rojava Facebook page / Facebook
The Lions of Rojava page, Western supporters of the YPG have used Facebook to share detailed information in English for potential recruits about how to get to Syria and what they should expect when they arrive. They will recommend that you have at least military experience with some knowledge of the Kurdish language.
Western fighters / Facebook
Many Western fighters go to Rojava to fight and kill IS fighters but their prime motivation is being Islamophobic or anti-Islam. They don’t care about Kurdish cause and people. There are also Western fighters who came for ideological reasons since they were attracted by the long struggle for an Independent state that's become the cultural symbol of the Kurdish people, other recruits site an interest in the larger, Marxist-based philosophy the Kurds in Syria and Turkey take from Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the militant organization Kurdish Workers Party [PKK].
Asayish Emblem / Twitter
Asayish (Kurdish: Security) is the security organisation of the autonomous administration in Rojava or Syrian Kurdistan. It was created in 2012 during the Syrian Revolution to police the Kurdish areas which is controlled by the Kurdish Supreme Committee. Their duty is to maintain public order, civil peace, and social security and to provide protection for private and public properties in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan). Also this security force is combat arms and drugs smugglers. This Security force is commanded by Commander Hasim Muhammad who leads about 4,000 Security man and women to police the Kurdish areas in Syria.
Asayish fighters in a morning training / Facebook
Asayish vehicles in patrol / Facebook
Jabhat al-Akrad Emblem / Facebook
Jabhat al-Akrad [Arabic: Kurdish Front] is a Kurdish armed group which was part of the Free Syrian Army and formed to protect the Syrian People in Kurdish and mixed territories, this group is participating in the Syrian conflict combating Syrian government forces and Islamic State. The group was formed as a brigade of the Free Syrian Army by Kurdish and Arab defectors from the Syrian Army. It has also maintained close links to the PKK and Democratic Union Party [PYD] since its founding, including its military armed wing, the People's Protection Units [YPG].
Jabhat al-Akrad fighters / Facebook
Its estimated that Jabhat al-akrad has 2,000 fighters led by Hajji Ahmed Kurd and they mostly operates in Kurdish and ethnically-mixed areas in Syria's Aleppo and Raqqa provinces, mainly outside of Kurdish territories in Kurd Dagh, Jazira, and Kobane area which are controlled by the People's Protection Units [YPG]. These areas include the suburbs of north and east of Aleppo city, Aleppo city, the area of Tal Abyad in northern Raqqa province, and Raqqa city.
Jabhat al-Akrad mortar squad / Facebook
Jabhat al-Akrad was expelled from the FSA Aleppo Military Council on 16 August 2013 due to alleged PKK affiliations which has ties with Syrian government amid widespread clashes in northern Syria between Syrian rebel groups led by Nusra Front and Kurdish armed groups led by the YPG. In early 2014 Jabhat al-Akrad re-emerged to co-operate with the Free Syrian Army and other rebel factions and formed Euphrates Volcano operations room to launch attacks on the Islamic State of Iraq in northern Syria.
Jabhat al-Akrad fighters prepare for battle / Facebook
HRW, Syria: Abuses in Kurdish-run Enclaves (English) – [http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/06/18/syria-abuses-kurdish-run-enclaves]
Ibtimes, Syria: Kurdish YPG accused of 'ethnic cleansing' of Arabs in battle for Tel Abyad (English) – [http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/syria-kurdish-ypg-accused-ethnic-cleansing-arabs-battle-tel-abyad-1506198]
Albawaba, Why are Westerners flocking to join the Kurdish YPG? It's not all because of Daesh (English) – [http://www.albawaba.com/loop/why-are-westerners-flocking-join-kurdish-ypg-its-not-all-because-daesh-705160]
Ibtimes, At Least 100 Westerners Join The Kurdish Fight Against Islamic State (English) – [http://www.ibtimes.com/least-100-westerners-join-kurdish-fight-against-islamic-state-1837686]
Vice news, meet the YPG, the Kurdish militia that does not want help from anyone (English)
NBC News, Meet the Kurdish women fighting ISIS in Syria (English)
Orient news, YPG commits massacre in Suburbs of Qamishli (Arabic)
Rudaw, Kurdish Commander: Jihadi Groups in Syria Have Hijacked FSA (English)
Al-Monitor, Syrian Kurds, rebels find common enemy in ISIS (English)
Inter Press Service, Kurds Build Bridges At Last (English)
Time Turk, Chechens with YPG in Ocalan region [Turkish] – [http://www.timeturk.com/tr/2014/10/08/ypg-safinda-cecen-ocalan-kantonu.html]