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