Canadian veterans join Kurdish battle against ISIS

Canadian veterans join Kurdish battle against ISIS
​The Islamic State has been able to attract various foreigners to its side in the escalating conflict in the Middle East, but now some Canadian veterans are joining Kurdish fighters in an attempt to beat back the extremist group in Iraq and Syria.

At least six Canadian veterans are shipping out to the Middle East to join the Kurdish Peshmerga units over the next few weeks, CBC News reported on Friday, and another six or so are considering joining them. The former Canadian Forces troops said that their country’s response to the Islamic State (IS, or ISIS/ISIL) has not been good enough.

Not only are some veterans north of the border planning to fight IS, but a group titled the “First North American Expeditionary Force” has been created in order to connect those who want to fight with Kurdish forces.

"I got put on this Earth to do one thing," one veteran told CBC, declining to identify himself. "I got this fire in me. I still want to soldier on."

This man alone said he intends to convince four or five other friends to join.

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Another man, 26-year-old Dillon Hillier, compared his participation to those who fought against the Nazis.

“I look at what I’m doing as no different than when thousands of Canadians went to fight the Germans in World War II,”he said to the National Post.“And I think ISIS is far more barbaric.”

Canada has no law prohibiting its citizens from joining foreign militaries – as long as the group in question has not been declared a terrorist group and is not actively battling Canada or its allies – but it is advising people not to travel to Syria or Iraq, Reuters reported.

Still, those Canadians who may become involved with Kurdish groups like the PKK in Turkey – also aiding Iraqi Kurds against IS – could inadvertently find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Canada lists the PKK as a terrorist group.

"There's a risk that any individuals who come into contact even inadvertently or indirectly with the PKK could in fact be falling afoul of supporting a terrorist organization," Jez Littlewood, an assistant professor of international affairs at Carleton University, said to CBC.

Canadian veterans wouldn’t be the only foreigners joining the fight. Three members of the infamous Dutch biker gang “No Surrender” journeyed to Iraq and Syria in October in order to fight against IS. Before that, some American citizens entered the fray as well.

Fighting on the other side of the battle, though, are even more foreigners. American officials believe there are more than 15,000 people from 80 different countries fighting alongside IS, including more than 2,000 Europeans and 100 Americans.