Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Inspired to Fight ISIL

"There was no one event that motivated me. Seeing evil beyond evil, the video of the Canadian guy (John Maguire) joining ISIL, the fact that governments weren't doing anything about it. And then I learned about what the Kurds were doing, and I flew to Iraq."
"It was really tranquil and beautiful [mountain camp] and it reminded me of the Okanagan. There were little caves and little huts, hidden in the trees in the hills. I could spend a lot of time there."
"I had considered joining the Canadian Army, but what I was looking for was exactly what I was doing in Rojava [Syria, with the YPJ, Kurdish women's defence forces]. I didn't want to sit around for years in Edmonton or Ottawa."
"About an hour later, [post night-time firefight] there was all kinds of cheering -- it was impressive. The next day, I found out the village we were in was in shooting distance of (enemy) snipers, only 500 metres from the enemy."
"The air strikes would hit their position [U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIL], and then we'd run in and capture or kill the Daesh [ISIL fighters]. Most of the time, they would run away."
"ISIL fighters would sneak up and we could hear them, but not see them. They had night vision [goggles], but we didn't. They could be just across the street. But it didn't bother me. I thought about why it didn't bother me, and that's just how I am."
"The air strikes are really the terrifying thing. I've seen what it does to bodies. Getting killed in an air strike wouldn't be so bad. But being caught in a collapsed building or buried alive, crushed or suffocated ....
"I saw bodies, and bits of bodies. I helped kill people. But I forget those things. What sticks in my mind are the Kurds. Canadians have a reputation for being friendly, but I don't think they are. They're just polite. But the Kurds are so unbelievably friendly and nice and egalitarian."
Hanna Bohman, Vancouver
Courtesy of Hanna Bohman
Courtesy of Hanna Bohman   Hanna Bohman, from Vancouver, spent five months fighting ISIS with the Kurdish women's defence forces, known as the YPJ, in northern Syria. She has returned to Canada.

Tough Islamic State fighters rushing off in panic rather than be confronted by fierce Kurdish women fighters of the Kurdish women's defence forces, the YPJ. After all, in ancient history and legend a race of women warriors became famous for their ferocious fighting skills. The Amazons were a fighting force to be reckoned with, said to have come out of Turkey, women whose endurance, strength and capability as fighters were second to none.

Achilles slaying Penthesileia | Athenian black-figure amphora C6th B.C. | British Museum, London Achilles slaying Penthesileia, Athenian black figure
amphora 6th B.C., British Museum, London

During the Trojan war, Achilles met the Amazon Queen Penthesileia in combat. He had almost met his match in combat strength and agile skill in that skirmish. Legend has it that her beauty dazzled him, but in the heat of battle he mastered her fighting capability by his own legendary skill, and killed her. And then mourned her death, returning her body from the battlefield to be buried with respect and honours as a valiant warrior and a women of outstanding physical appeal. Kurdish women carry on the tradition.

Vancouverite Hanna Bohman, who had once earned a living as a fashion model, persuaded herself that travelling to Syria to join the Kurdish women's fighting force was more suited to her temperament and system of values than more pedestrian occupations she viewed as having little value. She spent four months after crossing from Iraq into Northern Syria to fulfill a wish to be of assistance to people fighting a barbarous tide of jihadists.

She, and ten other Westerners were dispatched across a river in a rubber dinghy in the middle of the night, for basic training. Training consisted primarily of disassembling weapons and piecing them together, and before long she was taken to the front "which was a lot more fun", she said. One of several Canadians who decided to throw in their lot, however temporarily, with the courageous Kurdish defenders against Islamic State incursion into Kurdistan, she gave the dangers inherent in her decision short shrift.

Hanna Bohman became known as Hevi Piling to the Kurds. She spent the first month on sentry duty to look out for suicide trucks, a favourite tactic that Islamic State uses, sending in an explosives-laden truck to crash through barricades, driven by an Islamist fanatic prepared to become honourably martyred. She was uniformed as a fighter, in camouflage fatigues, with a Canadian flag sewn on the shoulder of the jacket.

At the front, the first night premiered a firefight outside the women's sleeping quarters. Despite the sound of gunfire nearby, none of the women were fazed and weren't roused by the duty guard. She soon became accustomed to tolerating the proximity of fighting to wherever she happened to be stationed. She saw a man shot twice in the leg, a temporary casualty that medical attention would normally soon remedy. But in Rojava, she said, no medevac exists.

She also witnessed a young boy she judged to be around 14, fighting alongside his father for ISIL, who was hit by an air strike and was killed by a head injury. She remembers things that would shake the mental equilibrium of most people, and it's primarily the reason that people come away from these experiences with post-traumatic stress syndrome, but she shrugs off these events; they happen and you move on. What does stick with her is the generosity and kindness of the Kurds, that she experienced.

Moreover, she was impressed that in a geographic area where women are oppressed, the women's brigade in Rojava is viewed as equal to that of the men's. Men and women fighters are interchangeable in combat positions. Now, the Kurds, who have met the ISIL challenges head on, and who have worked alongside the U.S.-led coalition in a tandem of cooperative strategy to beat back Islamic State, have another enemy to contend with. Turkey has declared war on Kurdish fighters.

The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development party, has emphasized their classification of Kurdish militias -- particularly the Turkish PKK with whom it has been long at war as separatists -- as terrorists, no less so, as far as Ankara is concerned, than the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. And so, under the guise of being a member of NATO fulfilling its obligation to fight Islamic State, Turkey is aiming its guns primarily at the Kurds.

"I think about going back a lot. I miss my friends there and I worry about them and it felt like a real purpose. Here in Canada, I feel like I'm sucking air -- not doing anything that matters", she told an interviewer.
Courtesy of Hanna Bohman
Courtesy of Hanna Bohman

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

()() Follow @rheytah Tweet