Returning Fighters

As the war against ISIS comes to an end, the media and politicians have been discussing how to deal with the return of those who fought for  ISIS. What fewer people are aware of is that there were also volunteers who chose to embed with Kurdish units fighting against ISIS in northern Iraq and Syria. In some respects, as I discussed in an earlier blog, the conflict in the Middle East has resembled the Spanish Civil War, in that it drew in foreigners from around the world, who were motivated to join an ideological conflict. I’m not the first person to have that insight, which was also recently discussed in a documentary titled, “The Fight Against Islamic State – Robin Hood Complex.”

The man who made this film, Emile Ghessen, served in the British military in the Middle East. He then became fascinated by the people who made the decision to travel to the region to fight as volunteers in the war against ISIS. The central question of the documentary was “what motivated these people.” What he finds is a collection of people from different backgrounds, who rejected what they viewed as the apathy of the West, and were determined to do their part to stop ISIS. He also examines the internal battles and personal interests that shape the volunteers decisions. As these people now return, some are being charged upon arriving home, even though they were fighting against a terrorist group.

The video is available for free on YouTube, where it appears to have been posted by Ghessen himself, otherwise I would not recommend it. It makes for compelling viewing, and provides another look at the widespread impact of the Middle East’s recent conflicts.

Shawn Smallman, 2019

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