People's Protection Units

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People's Protection Units
Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG)
People's Protection Units Flag.svg
Official flag of the People's Protection Units
Active 2011–present
Country Syria
Allegiance Western Kurdistan[1]
Democratic Union Party (de facto)
Type Army
Role Regional defence
Light Infantry
Size 65,000[2]
Nickname YPG

Syrian Civil War

Iraqi insurgency (2011-present)

General Commander Sipan Hemo
Spokesperson Rêdûr Xelîl
Spokesperson Khebat Ibrahim
Nujin Dirik (Aleppo commander)
Giwan Ibrahim (Qamishli commander)
Cemşîd Osman (Ras al-Ayn commander)
Roshna Akeed (Ras al-Ayn commander)
Map showing de facto cantons of Western Kurdistan (Rojava), defended by the People's Protection Units in February 2014
Current military situation in the Syrian Civil War.
  Controlled by Syrian Government forces
  Controlled by Kurdish forces
  Controlled by al-Nusra Front
  Controlled by Syrian Opposition forces

(For a more detailed map, see Cities and towns during the Syrian Civil War)

The People's Protection Units (Kurdish: Yekîneyên Parastina Gel; Arabic: وحدات حماية الشعب[3] Wihdat Himayah ash-Sha'ab), commonly known as the YPG, is the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syrian Kurdistan.[4] The group is one of the armed Kurdish forces in Syria[citation needed] and has so far taken a defensive position in the Syrian Civil War,[4][5] fighting against any group that tries to take control of the Kurdish areas.

The group was founded by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) after the 2004 Qamishli clashes, but it was not active until the Syrian Civil War.[6] Following the signing of the 2012 Arbil Agreement by PYD and the Kurdish National Council (KNC), the YPG came under the formal command of the Kurdish Supreme Committee. However in reality it is almost exclusively still the armed wing of the PYD.[7] The KNC has accused the PYD of using its armed wing as a way to intimidate other Kurdish parties, these allegations include kidnapping, assassinations and the removal of other party flags from public buildings.[8]

The YPG is composed of men and women from communities across the Kurdish region of Syria. The YPG considers itself a democratic people's army and conducts internal elections as a method of appointing officers.[9] Though predominantly Kurdish, the group has attracted increasing numbers of Arabs, including fighters defecting from the mainstream opposition[10] as well as locals from mixed or Arab villages in YPG-controlled territory who see the group as the best guarantor of regional security;[11] a number of non-Kurdish Christians also fight in YPG ranks, and the militia has close ties to the Assyrian/Syriac Sutoro and Syriac Military Council. They are known for their large number of women fighters.[12]

In late July 2012, the People's Protection Units pushed out government security forces from the city of Kobanî (Ayn al-Arab) and took over Amuda and Efrîn.[13][14] As of December 2012, the YPG consisted of eight brigades. Some of these brigades operate in Efrin, Qamishli, Kobanî and Sere Kanye.[15]

Conflict has grown between the YPG and Islamists after they expelled a group of jihadists from the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain.[16]

In 2014, the YPG collaborated with the Free Syrian Army in order to fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Ar-Raqqah Governorate.[17] The YPG has also formed an operations room with multiple FSA factions called Euphrates Volcano.[18] In February 2015, the YPG signed a judicial agreement with the Levant Front in Aleppo.[19]

Liberation of Til Koçer[edit]

People's Defense Units (YPG) fighters took control of the Til Koçer city in Western Kurdistan, following severe clashes with al-Qaeda-linked armed groups.

Til Koçer, on the border with the city of Musul in Iraq, has been rescued following the "Tırbespiyê" and "Til Elo Martyrs" operations YPG launched on 23 October.

Clashes between YPG and the ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) militants in the city lasted till early morning on Sunday. YPG fighters cleared the city of the armed groups and also seized their five tanks, different kinds of missiles and weapons.

Following the two revolutionary operations, YPG fighters took the control of seven villages and three hamlets, and also seized the armed groups' many headquarters in Til Koçer, since 23 October.

Two villages, a headquarters and Til Koçer border gate (Alyarubia) were also taken by YPG fighters in the major offensive they launched on the night of 24 October.

PYD (Democratic Union Party) leader Saleh Muslim who spoke to Stêrk TV on Saturday said that the YPG success in Til Koçer was the "victory of the entire Kurdistan".

Muslim remarked that the developments in Til Koçer would also lead to changes in the political and economic situation in West Kurdistan, and said this success has created an alternative against the efforts and intentions to hold the entire West Kurdistan territory under embargo.

PYD leader noted that the Til Koçer border gate was a new alternative for trade against embargo.[20]

Foreign volunteers[edit]

An unknown number of non-Kurdish volunteers joined the YPG, frequently from countries in The Americas, Europe and Australasia.

On 21 October 2014, YPG launched the The Lions Of Rojava Facebook page as a recruitment center for foreign volunteers.[21][22] One American who volunteered this way has since deserted and left the YPG after claiming ISIS put a bounty on his head, along with other Westerners fighting against them; he made the following claims and opinions regarding his time with the YPG: "It's extremely dangerous in that they're taking anyone with no military experience, no age requirements, no physical restrictions ... They are just taking people there, giving them a gun saying hey good luck buddy".[23]

As of November 2014, there are at least 10 U.S. volunteers who have fought alongside the YPG.[24] Jordan Matson served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army.[25] Jeremy Woodard served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.[26] Brian Wilson, another U.S. Army veteran,[27] is located in Ras al-Ayn.[26]

One Greek citizen and dozens of non-Kurdish Turks (both from Turkey and the European diaspora) have also joined the ranks of YPG.[24] Many of these Turkish fighters are members of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP), which has reportedly been sending volunteers to fight in the YPG since 2012, at least four of whom have been killed in battle as of February 2015—one during the Battle of Ras al-Ayn, and three during the Siege of Kobanî. The MLKP has also declared its intention to form a leftist international brigade within the YPG, modelled after the famous International Brigades who fought on the side of the Second Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War.[28] The party released a video in late January 2015 purporting to show several Spanish- and German-speaking communist volunteers from Europe among its ranks in Jazira Canton.[29]

At least one Canadian, Brandon Glossop, formerly of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry is known to be serving with the Lions of Rojava.[30]

On 26 February 2015, the death of the first foreign volunteer to be killed in action with the YPG was announced.[31] Ashley Johnston, a 28 year-old man from Canberra, Australia, travelled to Syrian Kurdistan in October 2014 and volunteered as a humanitarian aid worker. He later agreed to serve as a front line fighter with the YPG.

The YPJ[edit]

The YPJ (Women's Protection Units) is the female brigade of the YPG, and was set up in 2012. The Kurdish media says that "YPJ troops have become vital in the battle against I.S." in Kobanî.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "PYD Announces Surprise Interim Government in Syria's Kurdish Regions". Rudaw. 13 November 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  2. ^ "Will the Islamic State last through 2015?". Today's Zaman. Retrieved 4 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "صالح مسلم: وحدات حماية الشعب قوة لحماية شعب غرب كردستان، وغير تابعة لنا". Hawar News. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Gold, Danny (31 October 2010). "Meet the YPG, the Kurdish Militia That Doesn't Want Help from Anyone". Vice. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  5. ^ "YPG Commander: Kurds Are Bulwark Against Islamic Extremism in Syria". Rudaw. 22 July 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ van Wilgenburg, Wladimir (5 April 2013). "Conflict Intensifies in Syria's Kurdish Area". Syria Pulse (Al Monitor). Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "A Rare Glimpse into Kurdish Armed Forces in Syria". Rudaw. 
  10. ^ Meseguer, David (9 February 2013). "Arabs join Kurdish militia in Aleppo". Firat News. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  11. ^ Smith, Hannah Lucinda (23 December 2013). "The Boy who Grew up to Betray his Village". Asharq Al-Awsat. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  12. ^ "Al Nusra attacks YPG's women fighters in Serekaniye". Firat News. 16 July 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  13. ^ "Liberated Kurdish Cities in Syria Move into Next Phase". Rudaw. 25 July 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  14. ^ "Kurds Give Ultimatum to Syrian Security Forces". Rudaw. 21 July 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  15. ^ "The Kurdish Protection Units Have Formed a New Brigade in the Al Bab Region". Scientia Humana. 4 December 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  16. ^ "Kurds expel jihadists from flashpoint Syrian town: NGO". AFP. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  17. ^ "FSA and YPG cooperate against ISIL militants in Syria's Tel Abyad". ARA News. 12 May 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  18. ^ "YPG and FSA form a joint military chamber to combat ISIS in Syria". ARA News. 12 September 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  20. ^ "YPG takes control of Til Koçer". FiratNews. 27 October 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  21. ^ "The Lions of Rojava". Facebook. Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  22. ^ "Kobani Kurds Use Facebook To Recruit Foreign Fighters In Struggle Against IS". Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty. 13 November 2014. Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  23. ^ Herridge, Catherine (1 January 2015). "US vet says fighting in Syria was as easy as buying airplane ticket to Miami". Fox News. Retrieved 12 January 2015. 
  24. ^ a b "Western "comrades" join Kurds, Arabs, secularists, Yezidis, and Syriac Christians against Islamic State". Your Middle East. 29 October 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  25. ^ "Exclusive: American explains why he's fighting ISIL". USA Today. 7 October 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  26. ^ a b "The US volunteers who fight with Syria's Kurds". BBC. 23 October 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  27. ^ "A Divorced Father-of-Two from Ohio Is Fighting the Islamic State in Syria". Vice News. 23 October 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  28. ^ Demir, Arzu (28 January 2015). "Preparations for international brigade in Rojava". Firat News Agency. Retrieved 11 February 2015. 
  29. ^ "Enternasyonal devrimciler: Her dilden devrimi savunuyoruz" (in Turkish). Etkin Haber Ajansı. 28 January 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2015. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ Michael Safi, " Kurdish militia pays tribute to Ashley Johnston, killed fighting with its forces", The Guardian, 2 March 2015.
  32. ^ "Kurdish Women Turning Kobani into a Living 'Hell' for Islamic State". telesur. 14 October 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2014. 

External links[edit]

People's Protection Units on Facebook