left to right: Josh Molloy, Joe Ackerman (with children), Jac Holmes
Irishman Joshua Molloy and two Brits, Jac Holmes and Joe Ackerman, had all volunteered to support the Kurdish People’s Protection Forces (YPG) in their struggle against the forces of the Islamic State in Syria.
They have all reportedly seen action on the front lines, side by side with their Kurdish comrades. After many months such action inevitably takes it’s toll and recently they wanted to return to the UK.
Normally, such a journey should not be so difficult, a short journey to Hewler (Erbil) and a plane journey home. However, Joshua, Jac and Joe had to wait for weeks on the border between Rojava (N.Syria) and the KRG (N.Iraq), waiting for the Semelka border crossing to open so they could be allowed to transit to the airport.
Eventually frustrated by the delay they decided to travel south and make their way through Sinjar (Shingal) to Silemani or Hewler to catch a plane home.
Unfortunately, they were stopped at a Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Asayish (police) checkpoint in or around Sinjar and taken into detention.
The Sunday Times reported that they were being held in a prison in Hewler, however the families of the men have still not been given a reason for their detention or when they are likely to be released.
In the absence of an official statement it is hard to understand why three young men who had travelled from the comfort of their homes to volunteer their skills and time to help the Kurdish people battle against IS would be ‘detained’ by any Kurdish force.
Unfortunately, it is not the first time something like this has happened and it shines a light on a particularly embarrassing practice by one particular Kurdish party, the KDP, of harassing and imprisoning Kurdish fighters who have fought with the YPG (People’s Protection Forces).
It is thought that this happens because of the close political ties between the KDP and the Turkish state, which is prosecuting a very brutal and unreported war against the Kurdish people in North Kurdistan (SE Turkey).
If you ask any Kurdish person about this embarrassing practice they will respond with a sense of shame and point to the fact that most Kurdish people wholeheartedly support the YPG and the foreign fighters who volunteer to fight alongside them and vent their anger at the practices of KDP authorities. What is certain is that this practice is damaging the Kurdish image in the west.
Joshua Molloy’s father had a phone call from another YPG international volunteer recently released from the same prison the three men are currently being held in and describes very bad conditions of overcrowding.
The Irish media are widely reporting the plight of Irishman Molloy, a young quiet man and ex soldier in the Royal Irish Regiment. His father Declan Molloy told the media: "It’s just ironic that these young men have gone over there, particularly to Syria in order to help where they can and then being held by the same people or those allied to them. It’s a difficult situation."
Joshua Molloy reportedly took part in the liberation of Sinjar and is highly thought of amongst YPG forces. Jac Holmes and Joe Ackerman have both been volunteering with the YPG since early 2015 and are highly respected amongst their comrades too.
It will be one week today since the men were imprisoned in Hewler without any explanation and today they are seeing representatives from the UK embassy who are visiting the prison.
Let’s hope that common sense prevails and that the brave fighters who only want to travel home and be with their families for much deserved rest and recuperation are released soon and allowed to travel.
The families of Joshua, Jac and Joe have made personal appeals to the authorities of the Kurdistan Regional Government to release the men and allow them to travel home on humanitarian grounds, as the men came to help the Kurdish people struggle against ISIS.
I think, frankly, that is the very least they should do.
If there were any justice at all in this world the men would be bestowed medals for their bravery.
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