'A martyr never dies': dead YPG fighters from every corner of the globe

Published September 1st, 2016 - 02:32 GMT

When a fighter in the People’s Protection Units (YPG)-the most prominent Kurdish armed group in Syria-dies, fellow fighters and their supporters say “shahid namrin.” This is Kurdish for “a martyr never dies.” Wanting to fight Daesh (ISIS), it is believed that hundreds have come from abroad to YPG territory in northeast Syria to join the group. They’ve primarily come from Western countries, but also Egypt, China and elsewhere. There has been controversy about how useful the volunteer fighters are, but numerous foreigners are currently fighting in the YPG, sometimes bringing relevant experience from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The YPG is no stranger to trouble, and has been accused dictatorial measures and several human rights abuses by Human Rights Watch and others. But the YPG is also one of the most successful Syrian groups fighting Daesh, and the primary contributor to the US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SFD). For foreign fighters and their supporters, the YPG provides a way to fight Daesh on the ground while their governments won’t. To date, 18 foreign fighters in the YPG have died in this struggle, including several in the battle for Manbij. The following pictures-some of them provided by a fighter himself as well as the pro-YPG International Brigades of Rojava Facebook page-take you inside the lives and deaths of foreign YPG fighters. A complete list of the foreign fighters who have died is below.

Badeen al-Imam, Jamie Bright, Keith Bromfield, Dean Carl Evans, John Gallagher, Martin Gruen, Reece Harding, Guenter Hellstein, Ivana Hoffman, Rifat Horoz, Kevin Joachim, Ashley Johnston, Mohammad Karimi, Jordan MacTaggart, Mario Nunes, William Savage, Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, Levi Shirley

 
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Jordan MacTaggart YPG Syri

American Jordan MacTaggart was killed on August 3 in Manbij. “He truly believed in the Rojavan revolution. He believes in women's rights and social equality,” Zagros, a former American fighter who uses a nom du guerre, told Al Bawaba.

William Savage YPG Syria

William “Bill” Savage, another American, was killed on August 10, also in Manbij. “There were incoming machine gun rounds and I headed to a hill for cover. Bill came over, without me even asking, and briefed me on the situation. He was cool as a cucumber,” said Zagros. Zagros fought with the YPG last summer.

Levi Jack Shirley YPG Syria

In total, 3 Americans died in the Manbij operation. Levi “Jack” Shirley died on July 14. Here, his body awaits to be transferred back to the US for a funeral service.

Manbjij SDF

The SDF's Manbij offensive against Daesh began in May 2016. Supported by US and coalition air power, the SDF took the city in the Aleppo governorate in August.

Jamie Bright YPG ISIS

Fighters have come all the way from Australia too, and 3 are known to have died. This pic shows a memorial held for Aussie Jamie Bright.

YPG foreign fighters Syria

Fighters come from Europe too. Dean Carl Evans (top, 3rd from right) is shown here. Evans was killed on July 21, again in the battle for Manbij. “When YPG volunteers join YPG, we don’t call them Westerners; they are part of us as well,” the administrator of the International Brigades of Rojava Facebook page told Al Bawaba.

YPG Kurds Syria

The vast majority of YPG deaths have been of local fighters, though. Well over a thousand YPG fighters are believed to have died fighting Daesh since 2013.

YPJ women Kurdistan Syria

And not all fighters are men. The Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) fights alongside the YPG.

Turkey Jarablus Syria ISIS

Most recently, the YPG was asked to pullback from west of the Euphrates by the US after Turkish forces (pictured here) and allied Syrian rebels took Jarablus, Syria from Daesh. “It felt like a slap in the face to all the guys who died, like US policy did an immediate turn around,” said Zagros. The US and Turkey are NATO allies.

YPG westerners Syria

The International Brigades of Rojava post a picture of each YPG foreign fighter who is killed to Facebook. “Sehid namrin”, said the administrator. “We hope to not put anymore pictures of Westerners on the page.”

Jordan MacTaggart YPG Syri
William Savage YPG Syria
Levi Jack Shirley YPG Syria
Manbjij SDF
Jamie Bright YPG ISIS
YPG foreign fighters Syria
YPG Kurds Syria
YPJ women Kurdistan Syria
Turkey Jarablus Syria ISIS
YPG westerners Syria
Jordan MacTaggart YPG Syri
American Jordan MacTaggart was killed on August 3 in Manbij. “He truly believed in the Rojavan revolution. He believes in women's rights and social equality,” Zagros, a former American fighter who uses a nom du guerre, told Al Bawaba.
William Savage YPG Syria
William “Bill” Savage, another American, was killed on August 10, also in Manbij. “There were incoming machine gun rounds and I headed to a hill for cover. Bill came over, without me even asking, and briefed me on the situation. He was cool as a cucumber,” said Zagros. Zagros fought with the YPG last summer.
Levi Jack Shirley YPG Syria
In total, 3 Americans died in the Manbij operation. Levi “Jack” Shirley died on July 14. Here, his body awaits to be transferred back to the US for a funeral service.
Manbjij SDF
The SDF's Manbij offensive against Daesh began in May 2016. Supported by US and coalition air power, the SDF took the city in the Aleppo governorate in August.
Jamie Bright YPG ISIS
Fighters have come all the way from Australia too, and 3 are known to have died. This pic shows a memorial held for Aussie Jamie Bright.
YPG foreign fighters Syria
Fighters come from Europe too. Dean Carl Evans (top, 3rd from right) is shown here. Evans was killed on July 21, again in the battle for Manbij. “When YPG volunteers join YPG, we don’t call them Westerners; they are part of us as well,” the administrator of the International Brigades of Rojava Facebook page told Al Bawaba.
YPG Kurds Syria
The vast majority of YPG deaths have been of local fighters, though. Well over a thousand YPG fighters are believed to have died fighting Daesh since 2013.
YPJ women Kurdistan Syria
And not all fighters are men. The Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) fights alongside the YPG.
Turkey Jarablus Syria ISIS
Most recently, the YPG was asked to pullback from west of the Euphrates by the US after Turkish forces (pictured here) and allied Syrian rebels took Jarablus, Syria from Daesh. “It felt like a slap in the face to all the guys who died, like US policy did an immediate turn around,” said Zagros. The US and Turkey are NATO allies.
YPG westerners Syria
The International Brigades of Rojava post a picture of each YPG foreign fighter who is killed to Facebook. “Sehid namrin”, said the administrator. “We hope to not put anymore pictures of Westerners on the page.”