Dutch man joins Kurdish forces in fight against ISIS after battling separatists in Ukraine
A 23-year-old Dutch man calling himself Baran Sason joined the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria to fight against terrorist organization ISIS. He plans to take part in the battle to reclaim Raqqa, the ISIS declared caliphate, he said in interviews with Kurdish news sites. "I fight to recapture this country", he said.
Dutch newspaper AD managed to get in touch with the young Dutch man. Sason is not his real name, the newspaper agreed to keep his identity secret or security reasons. He confirmed that he's been in Syria for a few months, but would not say much about his motives. "I'm here to fight ant to get to know the Kurdish language and culture", he said to the newspaper. Friends describe Sason as a "deep thinker" and a nice boy, though often unreachable, to the newspaper. This is partly due to his autism, they said to AD.
Sason traveled to Georgia because he loves the country's folk dances, according to the newspaper. At the end of last year, he suddenly popped up in Eastern Ukraine, near the front line in the conflict area. On Facebook there's a photo of him posing in military uniform, with a gun on his shoulder. In Ukraine Sason joined the Right Sector - an ultra-nationalist paramilitary group that fights along regular Ukrainian troops against pro-Russian separatists.
A short while later Sason traveled to Syria to join the Kurdish fighters. "The war here has more meaning", he said from Syria, according to the newspaper. "The war in Ukraine is about power. Here it's about freedom."
On social media he wrote: "In the West people have nothing to live for, and therefore they have nothing to die for."
According to AD, Sason does not seem like a hardened soldier of fortune, but rather an adventurer looking for himself. It is unclear whether he actually takes part in the fighting.
Sason is not the first Dutch man to fight in the ranks of the YPG. Three members of motorcycle gang No Surrender went to Syria to fight against ISIS in 2014. And former soldier Jitse Akse fought there in 2015. An intelligence source told AD that over the past year "probably a few dozen" Dutch traveled to Syria to assist the Kurdish forces in their fight against ISIS.
"Active participation in the fight against ISIS is punishable in principle", a spokesperson for the Public Prosecutor said to AD. "Participation in an armed struggle can soon lead to criminal offenses, war crimes or ordinary crimes. When there is sufficient suspicion, it can turn to criminal investigation and prosecution."
Former soldier Akse was arrested after returning to the Netherlands from Syria. The case against him was dropped because no evidence could be found of his claims that he killed several ISIS fighters.