The Anarchists vs. the Islamic State

Brace Belden before a battle in Syria in November. Courtesy of Brace Belden

By Seth Harp for The Rolling Stone. February 14, 2017 [x]

On the front lines of Syria with the young American radicals fighting ISIS

On the morning of his first battle, Brace Belden was underdressed for the cold and shaky from a bout of traveler’s diarrhea. His Kurdish militia unit was camped out on the front line with ISIS, 30 miles from Raqqa, in Syria. Fighters stood around campfires of gas-soaked trash, boiling water for tea, their only comfort besides tobacco. “I’ve never been so dirty in my life,” Belden recalls. When the time came to roll out, he loaded a clip into his Kalashnikov and climbed into a makeshift battlewagon, a patchwork of tank and truck parts armored with scrap metal and poured concrete. Belden took a selfie inside its rusty cabin and posted it online with the caption “Wow this freakin taxi stinks.”

The rest of the militia piled into an assortment of minivans, garbage trucks and bulldozers, and rode south into territory ISIS had held for more than three years. Belden was manning a swivel-mounted machine gun, the parched landscape barely visible through the rising dust, when he spotted a car packed with explosives revving across the desert toward the Kurdish column. Before he could shoot, an American fighter jet lacerated the sky and an explosion erupted where the car had been, shaking the earth for miles around.

It was November 6th, 2016. The Kurdish militia known as the YPG – a Kurmanji acronym for People’s Protection Units – had commenced a major offensive to liberate the city that serves as the global headquarters for ISIS. The YPG was backed by U.S. air power and fighting alongside a coalition of Arab and Assyrian militias. Also within their ranks, though scantly reported, was a group of about 75 hardcore leftists, anarchists and communists from Europe and America, Belden among them, fighting to defend a socialist enclave roughly the size of Massachusetts.

Belden, who is 27, started tweeting photos of the front shortly after arriving in Syria in October. The first widely shared image showed him crouched in his YPG uniform, wearing thick Buddy Holly glasses, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, a stray puppy in one hand and a sniper rifle in the other. “To misquote Celine,” the post read, “when you’re in, you’re in.” He has since amassed 19,000 followers under the handle PissPigGranddad, puzzling the Internet with a combination of leftist invective and scurrilous bro humor. Tweets like “Heading to the Quandil Mountains to lecture the PKK about entitlement reform” are followed by “The dude with the lamb bailed so now we’re fucked for dinner.”

Belden had no military experience before joining the YPG. He lived in San Francisco, where he arranged flowers for a living. Before that, he was a self-described lumpenproletariat, a lowlife punk and petty criminal with a heroin habit who started reading Marx and Lenin seriously in rehab. Once sober, he got involved in leftist causes, marching for tenants’ rights, blocking evictions, protesting police brutality. As he prepared for the Middle East, his girlfriend thought he was going to do humanitarian work. She was “not stoked,” Belden says, to learn that he planned to fight alongside the YPG.

The first phase of the Raqqa offensive was a mission to take Tal Saman, a satellite village of 10,000 people 17 miles north of Raqqa proper. “We pushed up to Tal Saman till we had it surrounded on a half circle,” Belden says, “then we just bombarded the shit out of it.” Refugees poured out of the village, seeking protection behind Kurdish lines. “Hundreds of civilians coming across for days in a row,” Belden says. At night, his unit stayed in whatever building they’d just taken, camped out on rooftops in the excruciating cold. “The first week we were out it was awful,” Belden says. The stepmother of a fellow volunteer from the U.S. had gotten Belden’s number. She kept texting to make sure they were eating enough.

The march on Raqqa slowed to a halt after two weeks, as the YPG consolidated its hold over a string of liberated villages. The YPG controls a region of 4 million people in northern Syria known as Rojava. Its tens of thousands of motivated fighters have been battling ISIS for five years. American as well as French warplanes have been covering their maneuvers with airstrikes for the past two, forcing ISIS off the roads and highways and open desert, and back into the urban strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa. Now, the Kurds are kicking the door down in both cities.

But the YPG is not your typical ethnic or sectarian faction. Its fighters are loyal to an imprisoned guerrilla leader who was once a communist but now espouses the same kind of secular, feminist, anarcho-libertarianism as Noam Chomsky or the activists of Occupy Wall Street. The Kurds are implementing these ideals in Rojava, and that has attracted a ragtag legion of leftist internationals, like Belden, who have come from nearly every continent to help the YPG beat ISIS and establish an anarchist collective amid the rubble of the war – a “stateless democracy” equally opposed to Islamic fundamentalism and capitalist modernity. They call it the Rojava Revolution, and they want you.

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Elite Iraqi security forces have captured the Kurdish government headquarters buildings in the centre of Kirkuk with the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordering the Iraqi flag to be raised over Kirkuk and other disputed territories. An Iraqi Oil Ministry official said that it would be “a very short time” before the Iraqi military seized all the oilfields in Kirkuk province.

The century-old movement for Kurdish independence has suffered  a calamitous defeat as Iraqi military forces retake the Kirkuk oil province, facing little resistance so far from the Peshmerga fighters. Kurdish officials accuse part of the forces belonging to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the two main Kurdish parties, of “treason” in not resisting the Iraqi assault.

Iraqi Kurdish dreams of achieving real independence depended on controlling the oil wealth of Kirkuk which is now lost to them, probably forever. Such autonomy as they did have will be curtailed, with Turkey announcing that it will hand over control of the border gate between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan to the central government in Baghdad.

The Iraqi government operation began early on Monday morning as troops swiftly seized two major oilfields and the headquarters of the North Oil Company. A convoy of armoured vehicles from Baghdad’s highly-trained and experienced Counter-Terrorism Force, which led the attack in the battle for Mosul, drove unopposed to the quarter of Kirkuk occupied by the governor’s office and other administration buildings.

Iraqi oil officials in Baghdad say that the Kurdish authorities of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had tried to close down oil production by evacuating oil workers  but that output would soon be resumed. The Kurds seized Kirkuk city in 2003 at the time of the US invasion and expanded their area of control in 2014 when the Iraqi army in northern was defeated by Isis.

The streets in Kirkuk city were deserted in the morning as people stayed in their houses or fled to KRG territory further north. So far there has been little shooting as the Peshmerga abandoned their positions in what appears to have been a prearranged withdrawal. The city has a population of one million made up of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, the latter two communities hostile to Kurdish rule. A resident of Kirkuk said today that ethnic Turkmen were firing guns into the air in celebration of the takeover by government forces.  

Mr Abadi told his security forces in a statement read on state television “to impose security in Kirkuk in cooperation with the population of the city and the Peshmerga”. He called on the Peshmerga to serve under federal authority as part of the Iraqi armed forces. Coming after the recapture of Mosul from Isis in July after a nine-month siege, Mr Abadi will be politically strengthened by his victory over the Kurds whose commanders had promised to defend Kirkuk to the end.

The speed and success of the Iraqi military advance against negligible resistance so far is a blow to President Masoud Barzani who ignited the present crisis. He did so by holding a referendum on Kurdish independence on 25 September that was greeted with enthusiasm by Iraqi Kurds. But it was adamantly opposed by the Iraqi central government, Iran, Turkey as well as traditional Kurdish allies such as the US and Europeans, leaving Mr Barzani isolated in the face of superior forces.

The referendum is seen, even by many of those who originally supported it, as a disastrous miscalculation by Mr Barzani. Kamran Kardaghi, a Kurdish commentator and former chief of staff to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who died last week says that “the Kurdish leadership never expected that there would be such consequences to the referendum.” Omar Sheikhmous, a veteran Kurdish leader, warned before the referendum that it might turn out to be one of the classic misjudgements in Iraqi history, comparing it to Saddam Hussein’s decision to invade Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. He feared the referendum, guaranteed to alienate all the Kurds’allies, would turn out to a political error with similar calamitous consequences.

The withdrawal of part of the Kurdish forces is ultimately a reflection of deep divisions between the Kurdish leaders and their parties, whose rivalry has always been intense. The two main political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Masoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), founded and led for decades by Jalal Talabani, have always had separate armed forces, intelligence and political management. The KDP, strongest in west Kurdistan, fought a savage civil war with the PUK, based in the east, in the 1990s. Kirkuk was always considered PUK territory, though its PUK governor, Najmaldin Karim, has recently inclined towards support for Mr Barzani’s policies.

Part of the PUK, much divided since its leader Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke and sank into a coma, opposed the independence referendum as a manoeuvre by Mr Barzani to present himself as the great Kurdish nationalist leader. Ala Talabani, leader of the PUK parliamentary delegation in Baghdad, was shocked at the funeral of her uncle,  former Iraq president Jalal Talabani last Friday, to find that the Iraqi flag had been removed from the coffin and there was only a Kurdish flag.

The US has been closely allied to the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, but strongly opposed the independence referendum which it saw as provocative and divisive. Washington has called for “all parties to immediately cease military action and restore calm,” adding that Isis remained the true enemy of all parties in Iraq and they should focus on its elimination.  

President Trump’s denunciation of Iran when he decertified the deal over its nuclear programme last Friday could have energised Iran, traditionally a supporter of the PUK, to back an Iraqi government offensive in Kirkuk. The Iranians have always been worried about Iraqi Kurdistan becoming a base for US forces that could be used against us.

A simpler explanation for what happened is that the Kurdish leadership was more divided than expected and the Iraqi armed forces stronger, while Mr Barzani had alienated his traditional allies. A meeting of Kurdish leaders attended by Kurdish leaders on Sunday called for mediation and a non-military solution to the crisis, but by then it was too late.



first KurdStep (kurdisch Dubstep) ^^


ئەمڕۆ ڕاستەقینانە دانوستاندن دەست پێ دەکات لەسەر پێکهێنانی کابینەی هەشتەمی حکومەتى هەرێمى کوردستان. خۆی لە خۆیدا ووشەی دانوستاندن ووشەیەکی جوانە. دان-و-ستاندن.

هەموو هەنگاوێک کە بریتی بێت لە دان-و-ستاندن وەخت دەخایێنێت بۆیە نابێت چاوەڕێ بکەین بە یەک دوو دانیشتن ئەم پرۆسەیە کۆتایی پێ بهێنرێت.

بەڵام ئەوەی گرنگە نییەتەکەیە یان ئامانجە سەرەکیەکەی دانوستاندنەکەیە. دەبێت ئامانجی سەرەکی ئەم کۆبوونەوانە تەنها پێکهێنانی حکومەتێک نەبێت، ئەوە ئاسانە. دەبێت ئامانجی ئەم دانیشتنانە رێکەوتنێک بێت، بەڵکو گرێبەستێک بێت لە نێوان لایەنە سیاسیەکانی کوردستان لەسەر چۆنیەتی گەیاندنی باشترین خزمەت بە هاوڵاتیان و بەدیهێنانی خواستی خەڵک، نەبوونى مەرجى نەگونجاوى پێش وەخت لەلایەن لایەنە سیاسیەکانەوە.

هەندێک جار ئەوەندە دەکەوینە ناو جەرگی ململانێی سیاسی و هەوڵدان بۆ سەپاندنی بۆچوونێک بەسەر بۆچوونێکی تر، ئەرکی سەرەکیمان لە بیر دەچێت. لەو ساتە وەختانەی دەوری سەرکردە گرنگە. سەرکردە نابێت تەنها کار بکات بۆ ئەوەی خۆی خۆشەویست بکات لای خەڵک، ئەمە ئەرکی سەرکردە نییە. هەندێ جار سەرکردە دەبێت بڕیار بدات کە رەنگ بێت بڕیارێکی ویستراو نەبێت، بەڵام بریارێک بێت کە لە ئایەندەدا بەرژەوەندی گشتی لەبەر چاوبێت.

لێرەدا هیوادارم، پێوەری راستەقینە بۆ کابینەی نوێ تەنها راگرتنی هاوسەنگیەکی سیاسی نەبێت، بەڵکو گرنگیدان بە بەرنامەی کاری لایەنە سیاسیەکان بێت. کام هێزی سیاسی باشترین و واقیعترین بەرنامەی کاری هەیە بۆ خزمەت کردنی خەڵک کە دوورە لە دروشمی سیاسی و بریتی بێت لە سیاسەت کە مایەی جێبەجێ کردنە؟ کام بەرنامە لەگەڵ بەرنامەکانی تر دەگونجێن؟ و ئەگەر ناگونجێت کێ هەندێک لە بابەتەکانی بەرنامەی کاری خۆ دەکشێنێتەوە لە پێناوی بەرژەوەندی گشتی؟ ئاڵۆزی دانوستاندن ئەمەیە هاوڕێیان، هەبوونی دیدێک کە گەورەترە لە بەرژەوەندی تاکی، یان تەنها بەرژەوەندی حزبێک یان لایەنێکی سیاسی.

ئێمە یەکەم حکومەت نین کە کابینەیەکی فرە حزبیمان هەبێت. هەندێک نموونە سەرکەوتوو بوونە، هەندێکیش سەرکەوتوو نەبوونە. تەماشای بەریتانیا بکەین، لەوە ناچێت هاوپەیمانیەتی پارێزگارەکان لەگەڵ لیبراڵەکان سەرکەوتنی هێنابێت. ئاسانیش نییە ئەم هاوپەیمانەتییە سەربکەوێت لەبەر ئەوەی دوو بۆچوونی زۆر جیاوازیان هەیە. سیاسەتێکی لیبراڵی ناگونجێت لەگەڵ سیاسەتێکی محافزکارانە.

هیوادارم ئەم پرۆسەیەدوور بکەوێتەوە ە لە دروشمی سیاسی و زیاتر گرنگی بدات بە پلان و سیاسەتەکان کە مایەی جێبەجێ کردنن. با لەم پرۆسەدایە خەڵکی خۆمان، کە هەموو گەلی کوردستانە نەکەین بە قوربانی ململانێیەکی سیاسی کە ناوەڕۆکەکەی پێکهاتبێت لە هەوڵدانی سەپاندنی داوایەکی نەگونجاو ی حزبێکیان لایەنێک بەسەر پرۆسەیەکی گشتگیری. با لە بیرمان بێت کە دانوستاند بە راستی ئەوەیە، دان-و-ستاندن، لەکۆتایدا هیوام وایە ئەم پرۆسەیە سەرکەوتووبێت و ئامانجەکانى خۆى بپێکێت .

“Be The One” by PANDORA feat. Beverly, the opening theme to the show, will be released on CD on January 24th 2018. Included with the CD + Toy version of the CD are the DX Dog and Mic Fullbottles, giving Build the DogMic Form in Ganbarizing. 

The CD also includes “pride of you” by KRGS, the theme to the Climax Fighters game on PS4.