Thursday, September 01, 2016

Tracking Islamic State

Meet The Wisconsin Army Vet Who's Fighting With The Kurds Against IS

American Jordan Matson has fought in northeastern Syria alongside the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
American Jordan Matson has fought in northeastern Syria alongside the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

Twenty-eight-year-old Jordan Matson was working odd jobs in small-town Wisconsin when Islamic State (IS) gunmen overran Iraq's Mosul in June.

The U.S. Army veteran says that reports of IS militants' brutal assaults on Christians and minorities in the Iraqi town proved to be the turning point that prompted him to go to Syria and fight the extremist group.

"For over a year, people were being slaughtered by ISIS," the 28-year-old Sturtevant, Wisconsin, native told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI), using another acronym for IS.

"Anyone who didn't conform to their way of life could either convert, be killed, or get driven off their land. So when Mosul fell and IS drove all the Christians and minorities from the town or killed them, I thought that enough was enough and I decided to come here to fight," Matson said via Skype.

For two months, Matson has fought in northeastern Syria alongside the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). He said he decided to join the Kurdish militia after searching the Internet for a way to fight IS.

"I found that the YPG was the only force in the area that would let Christians and Muslims live in peace together so I decided to join them," he said.

WATCH: Jordan Matson talks to RFI on the Iraq-Syria border: 

American Peshmerga Fighter: 'Let's Cripple IS'i
November 05, 2014
Jordan Matson is a 28-year-old U.S. army veteran who has volunteered to fight with Kurdish Peshmerga forces. He has spent two months fighting with the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) against Islamic State militants. Speaking at the Al-Ya'rubiya crossing on the Iraq-Syria border, he said Western troops would be needed to defeat them. (RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq)

Matson, one of only four Americans known to be fighting alongside Kurdish militia forces in northeastern Syria, said the YPG received him with open arms.

"I've been getting nothing but love here, they have treated me like a member of their own family since the day I got here," he said.

Not long after his arrival in Syria via Turkey, Matson was hit by shrapnel from a mortar round during a battle in Rojava, taking injuries to his eye and arm.

He related how Kurdish locals took care of him while he was recovering in the hospital. Kurdish families would visit him there, bringing food to share with him and other wounded fighters, he said.

"There's a lot of love in the community. It's something you can't really find in the United States; it's very different and I love it," Matson added.

Matson, who has recovered from his injuries, is now in Kobani.

He said he and his fellow YPG fighters were "extremely thankful" to the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces who have recently come to the northern Syrian town to help in the battle against IS.

The YPG and Peshmerga are fighting closely together, he said. "It's a welcome relief during the fighting, we are fighting for the same cause."

While the reinforcements from the Iraqi Peshmerga have helped combat IS in Kobani, Matson believes more is needed from the United States and its international allies.

"To put an end to IS, we are going to need boots on the ground," he said. "If we increase the bombing campaign and put boots on the ground to help give support to the YPG fighters, it would help push IS back to the Syrian borders. Troops could save many lives here," Matson told RFI.

Although U.S. law enforcement officials say that it is illegal for Americans to join a Syrian militia like the YPG, CNN reports that Matson has been attempting to recruit more foreign fighters to the Kurdish militia via social media.

Kandal Amed from the YPG told RFI that other foreign fighters have already joined the Kurdish militia to fight against IS.

"Foreign fighters are in all fronts with the People's Protection Units. Germans and Russians, others, wanted to be part of the new spirit that was created for the peoples of the Middle East. Among our ranks, you will find Americans, Germans, and others, all men, but we expect the arrival of foreign women, too," Amed told RFI by phone from the Al-Ya'rubiya (Tal Kojar) checkpoint on the border between Iraq and Syria.

Amed also talked of YPG cooperation with Iraqi Peshmerga forces, including to rescue stranded Yazidis from Iraq's Sinjar Mountain.

"Now in the Sinjar Mountain there are families, civilians, and our comrades living in difficult humanitarian conditions. We talked to them by phone today," he said on November 5, "They suffer from the extreme cold, where during the last week about seven to eight children died because of the cold and hunger. We are now working with the Peshmerga forces to open a corridor to save these families."

-- Joanna Paraszczuk and RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq correspondent Simira Balay

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: TheSaucyMugwump from:
November 05, 2014 15:47
This story should remind us of the Crusades. Liberals and Muslims often claim that the Crusades are the prime example of Christians oppressing peaceful Muslims, but the truth is that the Crusades were initiated partially in reaction to the Islamic invasion of Europe around 700, 400 years before the first Crusade.

It is a tragedy that the three stooges -- Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld -- used up the world's sympathy with their invasion of Iraq, when that sympathy is needed today for Yazidis and Kurds.
In Response

by: Tim Lieder from: New York
November 07, 2014 06:43
Actually the Crusades had a long and violent history that begin with Constantinople asking the Europeans to come help them out against the Muslims, but led to a great deal of violence and death - starting with the German Jewish communities. When the crusaders got to the Middle East, they killed everyone - including Christians. By the end of the Crusades, the Crusaders went to Constantinople, looted everything and went home.

And those Muslims who were invading Europe, particularly Spain, represented a rare point of civilization in a brutal and horrible place.

Of course, what's ironic is that one of the great Muslim heroes that fought against the Crusades was Saladin who was a Kurd. But he also ran things with much more civility than the Xians.
In Response

by: TheSaucyMugwump from:
November 07, 2014 15:03
"those Muslims who were invading Europe, particularly Spain, represented a rare point of civilization in a brutal and horrible place"

This ridiculous and revisionist notion only arises from people who have not studied history. It is often repeated by people like Rick Steves, the PBS travel salesman, who believe in Romantic wars, i.e. no blood.

Muslims, a/k/a the Moors, invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 710 and were only stopped in 732 at the Battle of Tours. Do you honestly believe that Muslims bloodlessly conquered the Iberian Peninsula?

Have you noticed the many secessionist movements around the world? Can you not understand that the native peoples of the Iberian Peninsula would have greatly resented being made servants of Muslims?

by: John from: Canada
November 05, 2014 15:56
This is my thank you to everyone that has the guts to stand up against "bullies" and to come together from different parts of the world all in the name of peace and friendship.
When you talk of family, it really is true, there is no better bond.
Serve those misguided bullies with no mercy as they deserve none.

by: Bill Webb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
November 05, 2014 22:12
They must appeal to the Americans, Germans, Russians. Someone must respond. They've done it before. They will not just let them die of cold and hunger.

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena

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