People's Protection Units

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People's Protection Units
Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG)
People's Protection Units Flag.svg
YPG flag
Active 2011–present
Allegiance Rojava, Syria[1] (Democratic Union Party)
Type Light infantry militia
Size 50,000[2]
Motto YPG dimeşe, erd û ezman diheje (YPG is marching, and the earth and sky [or heavens] tremble)

Syrian Civil War

Iraqi insurgency

Website Official website
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)
Current military situation in the Syrian Civil War
Rojava territory controlled by the YPG in June 2015
YPG members during the 2015 Tell Abyad offensive

The People's Protection Units (or People's Defense Units) (Kurdish: Yekîneyên Parastina Gel‎, pronounced [jɑkinæjen pɑrɑstinɑ gæl], abbreviated as YPG) are the main armed service of the Kurdish Supreme Committee, the government of Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava). The YPG are primarily Kurdish, but also recruit Arabs,[3][4] Turks and westerners, and there are Assyrian/Syriac Christian units integrated into its command structure (Sutoro and Syriac Military Council).

The YPG have become a major opponent of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). They have co-operated with Syrian opposition fighters against ISIL, but have avoided engaging forces of the Syrian government, which controls several non-Kurdish enclaves in Kurdish territory.

The nature of links between the YPG and the controversial PKK in Turkish Kurdistan (North Kurdistan) is disputed.

The YPG were originally formed in 2004 by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Southern Kurdistan (i.e. northern Iraq)[5][6] and were transferred to the service of the Kurdish Supreme Committee (which includes the PYD) in 2012. The group initially took a defensive posture in the Syrian Civil War.[5][7]

In July 2012, the YPG had a stand-off with Syrian government forces in the Kurdish city of Kobanî and the surrounding areas. After negotiations, government forces withdrew and the YPG took possession of Kobanî, Amuda and Afrin.[8][9] By December 2012 they had expanded to eight brigades, which were formed in Al-Qamishli, Kobanî and Ras al-Ayn and the districts of Afrin, Al-Malikiyah and Al-Bab.[10]

Conflict broke out between the YPG and Islamists in 2013 after they expelled a group of jihadists from Ras al-Ayn.[11]

In 2014, the YPG collaborated with the Free Syrian Army in order to fight against ISIL in Ar-Raqqah province.[12] The group has also formed an operations room with multiple FSA factions called Euphrates Volcano.[13] In February 2015, the YPG signed a judicial agreement with the Levant Front in Aleppo.[14] In their campaign against ISIL, the YPG have begun making advances into Arab areas, such as the border town of Tell Abyad in June 2015.[15]

The YPG consider themselves a democratic people's army and conduct internal elections as a method of appointing officers.[16]

The YPJ[edit]

The Women's Protection Units (Women's Defense Units) are the YPG's female units. The YPJ was set up in 2012. Kurdish media have said that YPJ troops became vital during the Siege of Kobanî.[17]

Liberation of Til Koçer[edit]

In October 2013, YPG fighters took control of Til Koçer in Rojava following severe clashes with ISIL.

The clashes lasted about three days. The Til Koçer border gate was taken in a major offensive launched on the night of 24 October.[18]

PYD leader Saleh Muslim told Stêrk TV that the developments in Til Koçer would lead to changes in the political and economic situation in West Kurdistan, and that this success created an alternative against efforts to hold the territory under embargo.[18]

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 "Lions Of Rojava" Facebook page as a recruitment center for foreign volunteers.[19][20] At least ten U.S. volunteers have fought alongside the YPG.[21] Jordan Matson served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army.[22] Jeremy Woodard served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.[23] Brian Wilson, another U.S. Army veteran,[24] is located in Ras al-Ayn.[23]

One Italian,[25] one Greek citizen and dozens of non-Kurdish Turks (both from Turkey and the European diaspora) have also joined the ranks of YPG.[21] 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.[26] 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, such group of volunteers was officially re-organized into the International Freedom Battalion on 10 June 2015. [27]

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.[28]

Several Australians, including former Trade Unionist and politician Matthew Gardiner,[29] have been involved with the YPG despite threats by the Australian Government to prosecute all those involved in the Syrian Civil War.[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 decided to serve as a front line fighter with the YPG.[30][32][33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "PYD announces surprise interim government in Syria's Kurdish regions". Rudaw. 13 November 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Perry, Tom (15 August 2015). "Syrian Kurds now say they now control territory the size of Qatar and Kuwait combined". Business Insider. 
  3. ^ Meseguer, David (9 February 2013). "Arabs join Kurdish militia in Aleppo". Firat News Agency. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  4. ^ Smith, Hannah Lucinda (23 December 2013). "The Boy who Grew up to Betray his Village". Asharq Al-Awsat. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Gold, Danny (31 October 2012). "Meet the YPG, the Kurdish militia that doesn't want help from anyone". VICE. Retrieved 9 October 2014. A member of YPG’s central command … said that the YPG formed in 2004 shortly after the Qamishlo riots, when a number of Kurdish youth realized that they needed to be able to defend themselves more efficiently. They did not officially declare themselves until the revolution started in 2011. 
  6. ^ van Wilgenburg, Wladimir (5 April 2013). "Conflict intensifies in Kurdish area of Syria". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  7. ^ "YPG Commander: Kurds Are Bulwark Against Islamic Extremism in Syria". Rudaw. 22 July 2013. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  8. ^ Ahmed, Hevidar (25 July 2012). "Liberated Kurdish cities in Syrian Kurdistan move into next phase". Rudaw (Erbil, Iraq). Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  9. ^ "Kurds Give Ultimatum to Syrian Security Forces". Rudaw. 21 July 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  10. ^ "The Kurdish Protection Units have formed a new brigade in the Al–Bab region". Scientia Humana. 4 December 2012. Retrieved 18 December 2013. Kurdish Information Center 
  11. ^ "Kurds expel jihadists from flashpoint Syrian town: NGO". AFP. 17 July 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  12. ^ "FSA and YPG cooperate against ISIL militants in Syria's Tel Abyad". ARA News. 12 May 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  13. ^ "YPG and FSA form a joint military chamber to combat ISIS in Syria". ARA News. 12 September 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014. 
  15. ^ Pitarakis, Lefteris; Mroue, Bassem (14 June 2015). "Thousands of Syrians flee into Turkey amid intense fighting". AP. Thousands of Syrians cut through a border fence and crossed over into Turkey … fleeing intense fighting … between Kurdish fighters and jihadis. 
  16. ^ Ahmad, Rozh (6 August 2012). "A rare glimpse into Kurdish armed forces in Syrian Kurdistan". Rudaw (Erbil, Iraq). 
  17. ^ "Kurdish women turning Kobani into a living 'hell' for Islamic State". teleSUR. 14 October 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2014. 
  18. ^ a b "YPG takes control of Til Koçer". Firat News Agency. 27 October 2013. 
  19. ^ "The Lions of Rojava". Facebook. Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  20. ^ "Kobani Kurds Use Facebook To Recruit Foreign Fighters In Struggle Against IS". Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty. 13 November 2014. Retrieved 15 November 2014. 
  21. ^ 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. 
  22. ^ "Exclusive: American explains why he's fighting ISIL". USA Today. 7 October 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  23. ^ a b "The US volunteers who fight with Syria's Kurds". BBC. 23 October 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  24. ^ "A Divorced Father-of-Two from Ohio Is Fighting the Islamic State in Syria". Vice News. 23 October 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  25. ^ dal nostro inviato FABIO TONACCI (14 April 2015). "Karim Franceschi: "Io, l'italiano di Kobane. Così ho combattuto l'Is nel nome di mio padre che sconfisse i fascisti"". Retrieved 9 July 2015. 
  26. ^ Demir, Arzu (28 January 2015). "Preparations for international brigade in Rojava". Firat News Agency. Retrieved 11 February 2015. 
  27. ^ "Enternasyonal devrimciler: Her dilden devrimi savunuyoruz" (in Turkish). Etkin Haber Ajansı. 28 January 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2015. 
  28. ^ Stewart Bell (23 February 2015). "Second Canadian vet battling ISIS: Brandon Glossop felt need to go after Ottawa, Quebec attacks". National Post. Retrieved 9 July 2015. 
  29. ^ "Matthew Gardiner confirmed to be fighting Islamic State with Kurds". NTNews. Retrieved 9 July 2015. 
  30. ^ a b "Australian man defends his actions fighting against Islamic State". Xinhua (Beijing). 11 June 2015. Former international junior bench press champion Ashley Dyball … wrote on Facebook, ‘The s--- you see here is nothing like you see on the bias news reports, the Islamic state must be stopped and if it means I can’t come home f--- it.’ … Dyball faces prosecution if he returns. 
  31. ^ Michael Safi, " Kurdish militia pays tribute to Ashley Johnston, killed fighting with its forces", The Guardian, 2 March 2015.
  32. ^ "British Chinese volunteer fighting alongside Kurds against ISIS in Syria becomes a weibo hero". South China Morning Post. 28 May 2015. Retrieved 9 July 2015. 
  33. ^ Volunteers from China, US and UK join Kurdish forces to fight ISIS (photos)

External links[edit]