A Canadian-Israeli woman reported to have been captured by the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria is safe, according to Kurdish sources reached by Mutlu Civiroglu, a Kurdish affairs analyst based in Washington.
Canadian-born Gill Rosenberg travelled to Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria earlier this year to join the Peoples’ Protection Units, or YPG, a Kurdish militia battling Islamic State in several enclaves across northern Syria. Posts on an Islamic State-affiliated web forum this weekend alleged she had been captured during Islamic State attacks on Kobani, a Kurdish city on the border with Turkey that has been besieged by Islamic State for more than two months.
But this morning, Civiroglu spoke with Ismet Hasan, defence chief for the Kobani enclave, who told him Rosenberg has never been to the city. Civiroglu also spoke with another Kurdish official in one of the other two Kurdish-controlled enclaves, who told him she met with Rosenberg yesterday. Other less senior sources also alleged Rosenberg is safe.
Rosenberg is part of a growing number of Westerners travelling to Kurdish areas of Iraq and Syria to battle Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Civiroglu estimates about 50 are in Syria, with more are on the way.
Civiroglu says Hosein Kocher, a senior YPG commander, told him what they want most are heavy weapons rather than volunteers. But Kocher told Civiroglu the Kurds are nevertheless touched by the personal risks foreign volunteers are willing to assume to fight with them.
“They find it very meaningful. It represents the public support that is increasing for them. He said it is important symbolically that the world is seeing their fight against ISIS terror, global terror, and that they value and appreciate YPG’s bravery,” Civiroglu says.
Civiroglu says the role played by international volunteers in Syria depends on their skills and military experience. Some are fighting on the front lines and have been injured.
Rosenberg is not the only Canadian who has travelled to Iraq or Syria to fight Islamic State. Maclean’s has reported that several Kurdish Canadians are in northern Iraq with the Kurds’ peshmerga fighters there.
Separately, a group calling itself the 1st North American Expeditionary Force has been established to help Canadian military veterans with overseas experience join Kurdish forces.
At least one Canadian Forces veteran, Dillon Hillier, who served in Afghanistan with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, is fighting in northern Iraq.
In a post on the 1st North American Expeditionary Force Facebook page, Hillier describes a recent battle with Islamic State as “the greatest day of my life” and says, “I accomplished more good in those 20 hours than the previous 26 years.”
The post includes video that appears to show Hillier bandaging the head of a wounded fighter as gunshots crack and other soldiers look on.
“F–k! He got hit in the face,” Hillier says in the video. “You’re gonna be all right, man. Tell him he’s gonna be all right.”