A group of international volunteers fighting with the YPG. Photo: Uygar Onder Simsek/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—Three foreigners who fought with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) have today been released from detention after being arrested crossing the border into the Kurdistan Region.
Two Britons and an Irishman were arrested in Sinjar for entering the country illegally and detained for about 10 days by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil.
The three are Joshua Molloy from Ireland, and Jac Holmes and Joe Ackerman, both from Britain.
Joshua Molloy, 24, first went to Kurdish Rojava, northern Syria, in March 2015. He had previously served with the British Army for four years. He was moved to join the YPG after being horrified by the crimes of the Islamic State (ISIS), particularly the massacre of Yezidis in Shingal.
Molloy’s father, Declan Molloy, told Ireland’s public broadcaster RTÉ that his son did not consider himself a freedom fighter but felt he was joining a humanitarian cause. “His intention was to go over there and help in any way he can,” he said.
Jac Holmes was 22 when he went to fight against ISIS in January last year. He was an IT worker with no previous military experience but also felt compelled to join the campaign against ISIS.
“They are a horrendous terrorist organization, they enslave, pillage – they think they're justified under their version of Islam,” Holmes was quoted as saying by the BBC. “Anyone of a sane mind can see there is nothing religious or righteous about it.”
Holmes was shot in the arm in May during an attempt to take a village from ISIS. He returned to Britain to receive medical care and then rejoined the YPG.
On his release Sunday, Holmes posted on Facebook “Got out of jail peeps, thanks for the support.”
Joe Ackerman updated his Facebook status with just the one word, “Free.”
Ackerman is also a former soldier. Kurdish media reported that Ackerman joined the YPG after becoming disillusioned by the West’s failure to take on ISIS. “Nobody else seemed to be doing anything,” he was quoted in the Kurdish Daily News.
Foreigners crossing the border into the Kurdistan Region illegally face up to one month jail time. They may also be fined up to $1000 per month for expired visas.
Molloy’s father called it “ironic” that his son, who had volunteered to help the Kurds was then detained by Kurdish authorities.
Western nations have warned their citizens against travel to Syria and Iraq and joining the fight against ISIS saying that they may face criminal charges on returning home. Despite the warnings, hundreds from North America and Europe have made their way to join Kurdish forces.
Consular officials are now arranging for the three men to return home.