“No Friends But The Mountains”: The Kurdish People’s Protection Units

Featured guest author Dr. Sevin Ibrahim, MD.

For the past 3,000 years the Kurdish people have resided within the area of what are now four existing contemporary nations; Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran. Both predating Islam, and vastly nonpareil culturally to Islam, the Kurdish people strongly seek global diplomatic recognition protection of, and regnant control of their ancestral lands. The Kurds are not motivated to fight by money, or religion, they fight for an idea of a united sovereignty via cultural, ethnic, and historical exclusivity.

This article will focus on the Kurdish, Yekîneyên Parastina Gel or (YPG).

The YPG is an armed forced aligned with the PYD (Democratic Unity Party). The PYD is aligned with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party. (Field Comment – Since 1997 the PKK has been listed as a terrorist organization by the United States Department of State (DOS). The PKK is actively fighting against the Islamic State (Daesh). Efforts are underway to remove the PKK from the DOS Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.)

The YPG is the main armed forces (defenders) of the Kurdish Supreme Committee the government of Rojava (Syrian-Kurdistan.) Many people throughout the world believe the YPG are antagonists. The YPG has been mentioned in a derogatory fashion via several biased  (mostly Turkish) media sources. This is the reason I will highlight benevolent YPG activities within and in vicinity of Rojava as I observed first hand YPG operational experience in Rojava. Without bias, readers must be informed of the people who comprise the YPG .

Recently we visited Efrin, the Kurdish district in Northern West of Syria which is part of the city of Aleppo. In November 2015 many changes were observed in Rojava proper. Most of the local citizenry are aware the YPG fought against the tyrannical cruelty and fascism of groups like ISIS (Daesh), Jabhet al Nusra in Syria and Shingal, Iraq. The YPG continues to fight, often absent outside aid of any kind. The YPG exist in Syria to protect ethnic Kurdish areas, to fight against terrorism, to protect women, and to preserve life, religious rights, and property .

Syria as a Middle Eastern nation maintains the tradition that Men possess vastly more rights than women. Ethnic Arab Women are oppressed. This has changed since the YPG began controlling the Kurdish areas. Women received equal rights as Men in most parts of YPG held areas. In the city of Rojava, YPG checkpoints both men and women maintain sentry duties together. Equally shouldering weapons, inspecting vehicles, identification cards and controlling the security situation.

The YPG assigns women to stand as sentry. Women standing post as armed sentries in Middle Eastern Nations is absolutely unheard of. Culture is subordinate to security. The Kurdish people must fight, endure, be protected, ISIS must be destroyed, this is the primary objective of the YPG.

It is common in ethnic Arab Middle Eastern nations for Men to assault women. In the city of Rojava as it was populated by mostly Kurdish even before the arrival assaults against women were uncommon. Under YPG control, assaults against Women are an impossible thing. If a man strikes his wife he will be transported to prison by the “Havals”. “Haval” is a Kurdish noun which means ‘friend’. Years ago Men in Rojava could marry up to three Women. The Man could divorce one and the others would be prevented from divorcing him too. This policy has changed via the YPG. Now if the Man divorces one, all must divorce him, freeing the Women.

In addition to standard standing Army duties, Female YPG fighters (Havals) fight for their own homes and lands. Conditions are often poor as the land has been ravaged by fighting. Artillery, air strikes, and crew served weaponry has destroyed prominent structures and infrastructures. Living conditions are poor, improvisations are made by field expedient repair improvements and construction via whichever means available. Female YPG fighters weaponry include standard Kalashnikov rifles and similar Eastern Block derivatives. The YPG has NOT received any significant foreign assistance in the form of weapons and military equipment, many of them do not have military experience yet still, they fight.

YPG Female fighters are very kind and professional people, unless you challenge their authority on post. They are especially respectful of Abdullah Öcalan, known as “Apo.” Öcalan is one of the founding members of the PKK militant organization in 1978 in Turkey. The conflict between the PKK and Turkey since it’s inception has resulted in over 40,000 deaths. The PKK maintains the position they are fighting for an independent Kurdish state and it the war is one of independence, versus a mired insurgency against Turkey itself.

YPG refers to males and female fighters while “YPJ” is reserved for females. Both fought against ISIS for control of Kobane, Sere Kaniye, and Shingal.  Innumerable Yizidi families which escaped ISIS in Shigal in August 2014 were assisted by YPG and Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Peshmerga. I met a Yizidi displaced man in Erbil, Kurdistan and he told me how the YPG helped them when they first fled from ISIS. The YPG provided them places to live, food to eat and clothes to wear.

YPG Fighter Haval Berivan committed suicide in Kobane after she was surrounded by ISIS . Berivan was a YPJ fighting against ISIS until she found herself surrounded. She preferred to shoot herself than being killed by ISIS. There have been others. In 2014, Ceylan Ozalp, 19, was reportedly surrounded by ISIS fighters near Kobane. After she run out of ammunition Ozalp said “goodbye” over the radio and spent her last bullet on killing herself.

Not all Men and Women are fleeing to Europe, Kurds are staying, and joining the YPG to fight ISIS, to obtain their rights and land, possible a nation. There were 45,000 YPG fighters in 2013, now there are more than 65,000 YPG and YPJ fighters, their love for Kurdistan is stronger than everything.
w Beji YPG
w Beji Kurd w Kurdistan.

-Dr. Sevin Ibrahim, MD
Doctor Ibrahim studied at the University Of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Syria.




Eric graduated with honors in 2004 from the The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA. He was then commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps the same year, completed multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as a Counterintelligence / Human Source Intelligence Officer and later as a Case Officer and Active Duty Special Agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Eric honorably discharged as a Captain after 8 years’ service in 2012.

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