Thousands of foreigners have flocked to Iraq and Syria, most of them to join Islamic State (IS), but there are few who have gone to fight on the other side by joining a small Christian militia.
The militia they have joined is called Dwekh Nawsha - meaning self sacrifice in the ancient Aramaic language still spoken by Assyrian Christians, who consider themselves the indigenous people of Iraq.
Dwekh Nawsha operates alongside Kurdish peshmerga forces to protect a cluster of Christian villages on the front line.
Twenty-eight year old Brett is one of the volunteers who came from overseas, a U.S. army veteran who recently returned to Iraq to fight IS in what he sees as a wider war between good and evil.
"We want to ensure the security here I mean it is great people and we want to be able to... The towns that we are in control right now. They have the ability to live a pretty undisturbed life, I mean the nervous are on end but they can go to work and still have a decent life and still have security knowing we are here to protect them, the church bells ring and that is what we want to do is to ensure that the church bells continue to ring and we are working on getting some of the towns out of Daesh s [IS] hands," he said .
Brett, is the only one of the foreign volunteers to have engaged in fighting so far. The others only recently arrived, and were turned back from the front line on Friday by Kurdish security services because they did not have necessary approval from the authorities.
Software engineer Scott served in the U.S. army for seven years during the 90s, but has spent most of his time since in front of a computer screen in North Carolina.
He was galvanized by images of IS militants hounding Iraq s Yazidi minority, and became fixated on the struggle for the Syrian border town of Kobani -- the target of a relentless campaign by the jihadists, who were held off by the lightly armed Kurdish YPG militia, backed by U.S. airstrikes.
Scott had planned to join the YPG, which has drawn a flurry of foreign recruits, but he changed his mind four days before heading to the Middle East after growing suspicion of the group s ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) - a terrorist organization as designated by the United States and Europe.
"I am here in Kurdistan to help all the people that are being sold into slavery, children been killed, Christian being displaced and basically to protect anyone who needs help regardless of their religion. I am from North Carolina, United States, and I am more than happy to be here. What I want to accomplish is to get Daesh [IS] out of this country, destroy it basically," said Scott.
Their motives for doing so differ, but they share a belief that the IS is a threat.
"I am not too worried about Daesh [IS] and what they can do to me. I am just one man but I am here to protect the innocents at all costs and it is out of love and concern and respect for these people here and I would like to see all the communities working together, people from every race and religious background to defeat ISIS which is really a menace, not only in this part of the world but as you know they are threatening people in Europe and North America, it is a world problem and we all need to get involved," said Andrew, another foreign fighter.
He and the other volunteers worried they would not be allowed to return to the United States if they were associated with the PKK, and also disliked the group s leftist ideology.
The only foreign female in Dwekh Nawsha s ranks said she had been inspired by the role of women in the YPG, but identified more closely with the "traditional" values of this Christian militia.
The phenomenon of foreigners joining conflicts abroad is not new - French Foreign Legion and International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War - but this is the first time that social media has played a major role.
& The Assyrian Patrotic Party was founded on July 14, 1973 in Baghdad, during the visit of Yaqu Malik Ismail to Iraq, who was accompanied by a delegation from the Assyrian Universal Alliance. Within a short period of establishing the party Assyrian Patrotic because of the nationalist drift between young Assyrian number of members belonging to the party palhundreds, even though the party was a secret to be done, he had been working very actively under the various aspects of social activities, sports and cultural rights. The birth of the party imposed the need to frame the tide Growing nationalism among young Assyrian in general and university, and are not dispersed National Action and poured in a political way possible in which to go forward and take advantage of the experiences and practices of national past and to create continuity in the work and gain experience and accumulation in order to serve our people s cause.
In response to the killings against the Assyrian Christisns and other Minorities, and the rise of Sunni Islamists such as ISIS, the party set up the Dwekh Nawsha which stands for the Sacrifiers in the Syriac Language. Dwekh Nawsha was formed to "protect Christian territories in Nineveh province, particularly the northern part of Nineveh," according to the group s leader Albert Kisso. It had 70 active members as of November 2014. Currently over 250 members makes this group a force in the Nineveh Plains which is the Heartland of the Assyrian people. In mid-November, following the Peshmerga taking back control of the Assyrian town Baqofah from ISIS, a Peshmerga commander, Abdul Rahman Kawriny, said: "We, the Peshmerga, came here from Erbil to protect our Christian brothers and their homes. There is constant cooperation and assistance from both sides." The ISIS flag was replaced by that of Dwekh Nawsha Kisso added: "We are patrolling day and night. We move around these areas and observe the situation...[we will protect monasteries, churches and artifacts] because this is the beauty of the Mesopotamian civilization.
Accordingly, we find that Saint Michael, the archangel of battle, is tattooed across the back of a U.S. army veteran who recently returned to Iraq and joined a Christian militia fighting Islamic State in what he sees as a biblical war between good and evil.
Brett, 28, carries the same thumb-worn pocket Bible he did whilst deployed to Iraq in 2006 – a picture of the Virgin Mary tucked inside its pages and his favorite verses highlighted.
“It s very different," he said, asked how the experiences compared. "Here I’m fighting for a people and for a faith, and the enemy is much bigger and more brutal."
Thousands of foreigners have flocked to Iraq and Syria in the past two years, mostly to join Islamic State, but a handful of idealistic Westerners are enlisting as well, citing frustration their governments are not doing more to combat the ultra-radical Islamists´-or-prevent the suffering of innocents.
The militia they joined is called Dwekh Nawsha – meaning self-sacrifice in the ancient Aramaic language spoken by Christ and still used by Assyrian Christians, who consider themselves the indigenous people of Iraq.
A map on the wall in the office of the Assyrian political party affiliated with Dwekh Nawsha marks the Christian towns in northern Iraq, fanning out around the city of Mosul.
The majority are now under control of Islamic State, which overran Mosul last summer and issued am ultimatum to Christians: pay a tax, -convert- to Islam,´-or-die by the sword. Most fled.
Dwekh Nawsha operates alongside Kurdish peshmerga forces to protect Christian villages on the frontline in Nineveh province.
“These are some of the only towns in Nineveh where church bells ring. In every other town the bells have gone silent, and that’s unacceptable,” said Brett, who has "The King of Nineveh" written in Arabic on the front of his army vest.
Brett, who like other foreign volunteers withheld his last name out of concern for his family s safety, is the only one to have engaged in fighting so far.
The others, who arrived just last week, were turned back from the frontline on Friday by Kurdish security services who said they needed official authorization.
"STOP SOME ATROCITIES"
Tim shut down his construction business in Britain last year, sold his house and bought two plane tickets to Iraq: one for himself and another for a 44-year-old American software engineer he met through the internet.
The men joined up at Dubai airport, flew to the Kurdish city of Suleimaniyah and took a taxi to Duhok, where they arrived last week.
“I’m here to make a difference and hopefully put a stop to some atrocities,” said 38-year-old Tim, who previously worked in the prison service. “I’m just an average guy from England really.”
Scott, the software engineer, served in the U.S. Army in the 1990s, but lately spent most of his time in front of a computer screen in North Carolina.
He was mesmerized by images of Islamic State militants hounding Iraq s Yazidi minority and became fixated on the struggle for the Syrian border town of Kobani -- the target of a relentless campaign by the jihadists, who were held off by the lightly armed Kurdish YPG militia, backed by U.S. air strikes.
Scott had planned to join the YPG, which has drawn a flurry of foreign recruits, but changed his mind four days before heading to the Middle East after growing suspicious of the group s ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
He and the other volunteers worried they would not be allowed home if they were associated with the PKK, which the United States and Europe consider a terrorist organization. They also said they disliked the group’s leftist ideology.
The only foreign woman in Dwekh Nawsha s ranks said she had been inspired by the role of women in the YPG, but identified more closely with the "traditional" values of the Christian militia.
Wearing a baseball cap over her balaclava, she said radical Islam was at the root of many conflicts and had to be contained.
All the volunteers said they were prepared to stay in Iraq indefinitely.
“Everyone dies,” said Brett, asked about the prospect of being killed. “One of my favorite verses in the Bible says: be faithful unto death, and I shall give you the crown of life.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assyrian_Patriotic_Party 6 hours ago
Westerners join Iraqi Christian militia to fight IS