What to do with the Westerners fighting against ISIS

The West tries to cope with the people who are joining ISIS, but it seems we have to deal also with an another phenomenon (of course, on much, much lower scale), with the Westerners who are joining the fight against ISIS. So  how to deal with them, would you say that we should clearly distinct them from the jihadists who joined ISIS, or maybe not? Read few comments.

Daveed Gartenstein-RossDirector, Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the author of Bin Laden’s Legacy

I don’t view Westerners joining the fight against ISIS as a problem. ISIS is a genocidal organization that has “cleansed” areas it controls of religious minority communities with deep roots in Iraqi history, has systematized the sexual slavery of women and boasted about it, and beheads innocents whom it captures. If ever there was an organization worth traveling abroad to fight against, it’s ISIS. Further, while ISIS’s imperialistic and xenophobic ideology makes ISIS returnees a threat to carry out attacks when they come back home, this is not the case for anti-ISIS groups such as the Kurds. So long as Westerners who have traveled to the region to fight ISIS aren’t breaking any laws, authorities should leave them alone. They are certainly a clearly and unambiguously distinct phenomenon from the individuals who have gone to fight on ISIS’s behalf.

David Lowe, Programme Leader, Law School, Liverpool John Moores University

My view is not to make a distinction. I, like many, have sympathy with individuals who want to go to Northern Syria and Iraq to fight Islamic State, especially those from Kurdish ethnic groups to support the Peshmerga forces. Already reports have come in that UK citizens form the ethnic Kurdish have gone to join the Peshmerga forces to fight Islamic State. What makes this more difficult to object to individuals going to the region to fight Islamic State is that the UK along with other EU s and North American states are supporting Peshmerga forces with military training and equipment. That said, another issue that is difficult for port and border officers is to differentiate between individuals who are going to the region to join either the likes of the Peshmerga forces or Islamic State. In the UK a Bill will be announced this week where it is proposed that individuals suspected of going to the region to fight will have their passports taken from them for up to 30 days where they will then be investigated. If the law is to be applied proportionality I feel is should be applied to all who are going to join groups and fight. This is for two reasons, one is to dissuade those joining groups that fight Islamic state as they will not have any military training etc and this would keep them safe. Such individuals could be encouraged to join charity /aid groups in their home state to support victims of Islamic State atrocities/aggression. Secondly, it is best to leave military support for groups like the Peshmerga forces to the state authorities who will provide professionals, including professional military personnel to train those groups already fighting Islamic State in the region.

Adrian GuelkeProfessor, Centre for the Study of Ethnic Conflict, Queen’s University of Belfast

The cases of people volunteering to fight ISIS as part of Kurdish militias have been covered very sympathetically in the media here. Hitherto I have seen very little in the way of comments from government or politicians. I think the government will want to discourage such volunteers (because of all the possible complications that might arise if they were captured by ISIS or if they were to fell foul of the Turkish authorities). However, the government will be quite careful in how it justifies any action it takes to stop volunteers, given the media portrayal of the issue.


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