The Western corporate press is now having a field day promoting the latest Western incarnation of destabilization in Syria – the new “anti-ISIS” LGBT brigades. No, this isn’t a prank. According to a number of sources, LGBT brigades of fighters in Syria are now joining forces with Western-backed Kurdish fighters in order “fight back against ISIS” for the persecution of homosexuals under jihadist rule as well as attacks on communities outside of terrorist jurisdiction.
Still, while the Western media is hyping the new brigades as an example of empowerment and anti-terrorist heroism, there is much more to the story than meets the eye. In addition, it involves a number of different factions and Western intelligence activity both at home and abroad.
Who Are The LGBT Brigades?
According to corporate outlets like The Daily Beast, the LGBT brigades are made up of “international volunteers” branding itself as the Queer Insurrection and Liberation Army (TQILA). The group appears to be an offshoot from the International People’s Guerrilla Forces (IRPGF), who announced the creation of TQILA. IRPGF itself is a member of the International Freedom Battalion, a group of foreign fighters who have traveled across the world to join Kurdish fighters, the YPG, in Syria. The goal of these groups is not so much to “defeat ISIS” but to aid in the creation of the bizarre anarcho-leftist state desired by the Kurdish fighters.
A statement posted by TQILA on the group’s Twitter page said that its members “seek to smash the gender binary and advance the women’s revolution as well as the broader gender and sexual revolution.”
TQILA’s members have watched in horror as fascist and extremist forces around the world have attacked the Queer community and murdered countless of our community members citing that they are “ill” or “sick” and “unnatural.” The images of gay men being thrown off roofs and stoned to death by Daesh was something we could not idly watch. It is not only Daesh whose hatred for Queer, Trans and other non-binary peoples leads to religiously motivated hatred and attacks. Christian conservatives in the global northwest have also attacked LGBTQI+ peoples in an attempt to silence an erase their existence. We want to emphasize that queerphobia, homophobia, and transphobia are not inherent to Islam or any other religion. In fact, we know many Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. who are accepting and welcoming of uniqueness and non-conforming people and some who are even Queer themselves. We stand in solidarity with them against fascism, tyranny, and oppression. Additionally, we criticize and struggle against the conservative and feudal anti-Queer sentiments within the revolutionary left both here and abroad.
Our commitment to struggling against authority, patriarchy, oppressive heteronormativity, queer homophobia, and trans phobia, are strengthened by the revolutionary advances and gains of the Kurdish women’s struggle. The fact that Jineologi classes debate gender construct and sexuality further highlights the advances of the revolution in Rojava and all of Kurdistan with women pushing for revolutionary advances at a rapid pace. It is this necessity and desire to strengthen the gains of the women’s revolution while advancing the Queer struggle that has motivated Queer comrades of the IRPGF to form TQILA.
The group also posted several mottos at the end of its statement such as “Queer Liberation! Death to rainbow Capitalism!” “Shoot back! These faggots kill fascists!” and “Militant Horizontal Self-Organized Collectives And Communities For The Revolution And Queer Anarchism.”
Heval Rojhilat, spokesperson for TQILA declined to reveal how many fighters and personnel are involved in the unit due to security reasons. However, he did say “Many of our comrades are within the LGBTQI community. We are already fighting in Raqqa.”
The group did respond to a comment on Twitter stating that it does, in fact, pronounce its name like the drink tequila. The logo of the group is a black AK-47 on a pink background. Pictures have been posted by the group showing the motto, in English, and the logo in an area that is claimed to be in Raqqa.
Who Are The Volunteers And Who Are They Volunteering With?
The corporate press is attempting to portray the new LGBT brigades as a conglomeration of LGBT individuals from the battlefront and across the world set to defend the rights of LGBT people in one of the most oppressive environments in the world; i.e. Daesh-controlled territory. However, a clearer picture of the brigades shows that TQILA is most likely made up of Western leftists.
The YPG forces themselves have been accepting an influx of Western leftists for some time and the IRPGF and IFB have been the main groups supplying organizing and providing these fighters with their setup and connection to the YPG. These leftists are a hodgepodge collection of communists, anarchists, anarcho-communists, cultural Marxists, Maoists, Leninists, and many others forms of leftist ideology. The makeup of many of these groups of Western leftists contains a rather diverse selection of Bitcoin owners, radical college students, fanatical communists, and violent social justice warriors.
It is noteworthy that the Western social justice brigades would find common cause with the YPG Kurdish fighters but it is by no means illogical. YPG fighters, as well as its sister organizations in Iraq, Iran, and Turkey, are all fanatical Marxist ideologues who blend in a bizarre brand of feminism and cultural Marxism in with their economic and social doctrines. For that reason, Western leftists find a welcome home with the YPG, where not only the ideology but the practice of willing self-brainwashing takes place through confirmation bias and “courses” designed to reaffirm the already achieved indoctrination of cultural Marxist principles.
Seth Harp wrote in his article for Rolling Stone entitled “The Anarchists VS The Islamic State” that the YPG is not sectarian as much as it is Noam Chomsky-like feminist anarcho-libertarian. However, the truth is that the YPG is indeed sectarian to the core, so much so that it has become notorious for its genocide and slaughter of Assyrian and Arab Syrians in territory it conquers. While there are similarities between the ideology of Noam Chomsky and the YPG, there is undoubtedly a similarity between the ideology of the YPG and ISIS.
As Maram Susli wrote in her article, “Why A Kurdish Enclave In Syria Is A Very Bad Idea,”
Since the Kurdish population are not a majority in the areas PYD are trying to annex, the past few years have revealed that PYD/YPG are not beyond carrying out ethnic cleansing of non-Kurdish minorities in an attempt to achieve a demographic shift. The main threat to Kurdish ethnocentric territorial claims over the area are the other large minorities, the Arabs and the Assyrian Christians.
Salih Muslim, the leader of PYD, openly declared his intention to conduct an ethnic cleansing campaign against Syrian Arabs who live in what he now calls Rojava. “One day those Arabs who have been brought to the Kurdish areas will have to be expelled,” said Muslim in an interview with Serek TV. Over two years since that interview he has fulfilled his word, as YPG begun burningArab villages around Al Hasakah Province hoping to create a demographic shift. It is estimated that ten thousands Arab villagers have been ethnically cleansed from Al Hasake province so far. The villages around Tal Abayad have suffered the most as Kurdish expansionists seek to connect the discontiguous population centres of Al Hasakah and Al Raqqa. “The YPG burnt our village and looted our houses,” said Mohammed Salih al-Katee, who left Tel Thiab Sharki, near the city of Ras al-Ayn, in December.
YPG have also begun a campaign of intimidation, murder and property confiscation against the Assyrian Christian minority. The YPG and PYD made it a formal policy to loot and confiscate the property of those who had escaped their villages after an ISIS attack, in the hope of repopulating Assyrian villages with Kurds. The Assyrians residents of the Khabur area in Al Hasaka province formed a militia called the Khabour Guard in the hope of defending their villages against ISIS attacks. The Khabur Guard council leaders protested the practice of looting by Kurdish YPG militia members who looted Assyrian villages that were evacuated after ISIS attacked them. Subsequently, the YPG assassinated the leader of the Khabur Guard David Jindo and attempted to Assassinate Elyas Nasser. At first the YPG blamed the assassination on ISIS but Elyas Nasser, who survived, was able to exposethe YPG’s involvement from his hospital bed. Since the assassination YPG has forced the Khabour Guard to disarm and to accept YPG ‘protection.’ Subsequently most Assyrian residents of the Khabour who had fled to Syrian Army controlled areas of Qamishli City could not return to their villages.
The Assyrian Christian community in Qamishli has also been harassed by YPG Kurdish militia. YPG attacked an Assyrian checkpoint killing one fighter of the Assyrian militia Sootoro and wounding three others. The checkpoint was set up after three Assyrian restaurants were bombed on December 20, 2016 in an attack that killed 14 Assyrian civilians. Assyrians suspected that YPG was behind these bombings in an attempt to assassinate Assyrian leaders and prevent any future claims of control over Qamishli.
It would be foolish to ignore the signs that more widely spread ethnic cleansing campaigns may occur if Kurdish expansionists are supported, especially since other ethnic groups are not on board with their federalism plans. It has only been 90 years since the Assyrian genocide which was conducted by Turks and Kurds. This history should not be allowed to be repeated. Assyrians have enjoyed safety and stability in the Syrian state since this time. Forcing the Assyrians to accept federalism is not going to ensure their safety. Establishment of a federal Kurdish state in Iraq has not protected Assyrian villages from attacks by Kurdish armed groups either. The campaign of ethnic cleansing against both Assyrians and Arabs in Al Hasakah has already begun and may now only escalate.
The Leftist Brigades
Without digressing too much into a discussion of YPG forces and Kurdish autonomy, the question still remains as to whom these “foreign leftists fighters” are. In Seth Harp’s Rolling Stone article, one can find a rather long profile of the fighters coming from the United States, Germany, and other places. Setting the stage for what anarcho-communist utopia Western leftists were entering, Harp wrote,
Foreigners interested in joining the YPG receive instructions by encrypted e-mail to fly to Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, a city controlled by a socialist opposition party sympathetic to the Rojava Revolution. Although volunteers are welcome, it’s not easy to reach the YPG. To the south is ISIS. To the west is the Free Syrian Army, a disorganized coalition of warlords and mercenaries dominated by Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front. To the north is Turkey, the archenemy of Kurdish independence, whose conservative, Islamist government is bombing the YPG. To the east is the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq – for years, its military force, the Peshmerga, permitted volunteers to cross into Syria. But last year, under pressure from Turkey, the KRG closed the only bridge over the Tigris, completing the total blockade on Rojava.
My assignment was to get inside Rojava and report on the Western leftists taking part in the fight. From Sulaymaniyah, I traveled to Kirkuk, Iraq, where I met with a Peshmerga general who ordered four of his men to smuggle me across the blockade disguised as a fellow fighter. We made it through a series of regional checkpoints and arrived at a hardscrabble guerrilla camp in the foothills of Mount Sinjar, a forbidden zone controlled by the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK. I spent a cold night huddled in a grimy kitchen, befogged with eye-watering quantities of cigarette smoke, while young PKK militants lectured me on the crisis of late capitalism and the American media’s sexual exploitation of women.
Of all the armed factions in the region, the PKK is the most crucial to understanding the Rojava Revolution. Beginning in 1978, the PKK waged a communist insurgency against the government of Turkey, and was designated a terrorist group by the U.S. in 1997. Two years later, Turkish security forces captured the party’s founder, Abdullah Öcalan. Sentenced to life on an island prison, Öcalan underwent a political conversion. He gave up Marx and Lenin and started reading about anarchism, feminism and ecology, especially the works of Murray Bookchin, a libertarian socialist who used to rub shoulders with Bernie Sanders in Vermont.
In 2011, Öcalan wrote a pamphlet called “Democratic Confederalism,” which outlines a sort of Athenian-style direct democracy based on voluntary participation in neighborhood councils, placing a special emphasis on the equality of women. The 47-page blueprint for a society without a formal government might never have mattered had the regime of Bashar al-Assad not pulled its forces from northern Syria in 2012, allowing local Kurdish militias – allied with the PKK and devoted to Öcalan – to take over. The Syrian Kurds, under the protection of the YPG, declared Rojava’s autonomy and adopted a constitution based on Öcalan’s “Democratic Confederalism.” For the first time since the Spanish Civil War, anarchists controlled a nation-size territory, and Rojava soon became a celebrated cause of the international left.
Harp then went on to describe the situation in which Western leftists found themselves upon arriving and connecting with their Kurdish comrades. He also describes the mindset and background of a number of select Western leftists. He wrote,
All volunteers arriving in Rojava attend a month-long training course at a place called the Academy, an oil facility with four concrete buildings, running water, intermittent electricity, a laundry line and a potato patch. I met a dozen recruits when I visited, mostly Germans and Italians, but also two Americans, an Englishman, a Finn, a Spanish Basque and a Tibetan citizen of Hong Kong. In the barracks, they slept five to a room on floor mats, their rucksacks and rifles stacked in the corners. At dawn they went for a run in uniform, carrying Kalashnikovs. The rest of the day, recruits attended classes in weapons training, anarcho-feminist ideology and rudimentary Kurmanji.
Those already trained, many of whom had already fought, sat around soaking up the few hours of winter sunshine, with little to do but smoke cigarettes and drink tea. One of these was Karim Franceschi, a bearded 27-year-old Italian who was among the first leftists in Rojava. In September 2014, ISIS controlled most of the border with Turkey. Only the city of Kobani held out, and ISIS sent its most hardened foreign fighters to take it. The YPG’s heroic defense brought fame in the international press. In October 2014, Franceschi and a cohort of Italian communists met with Kobani officials in exile with the idea of volunteering in some kind of medical capacity. “They were so desperate,” Franceschi recalled. “They didn’t give a shit about medicine. They wanted fighters. I couldn’t say no.”
Franceschi was vague about his background, but wore a Mao pin, owned a fortune in Bitcoin and spoke seven languages, including Arabic and Kurmanji. With no military experience, he was sent to the front line, where Kurdish defenders were outnumbered perhaps five to one. “I felt scared as hell,” he said. “I knew there were Chechen terrorists, crazy fighters from ISIS. At night, we heard them speaking on the radio, more in Russian than in Arabic.” For the next three months, he never slept more than two hours at a stretch. “I was lucky,” he said. “I survived long enough to learn how to fight.” ISIS made the tactical error of pulverizing the city to ruins, which forced its fighters out of their stolen tanks to move on foot. “That’s when the fight got real,” Franceschi said.
More foreigners arrived, all leftists, and they formed a sniper unit. “This was the first internationalist team,” Franceschi said, showing me a photo of himself in Kobani alongside a Spanish anarchist, a British Kurd and Keith Broomfield, the first American known to have died in the ranks of the YPG. “A lot of comrades were martyred during that time,” Franceschi said. “There was a lot of violence. But believe me, there was so much warmth. The conversation, the intimacy that you get knowing that you’re fighting for something and that you’re in the right. There were no ranks. You could go to your general, slap him behind his head and ask him for a cigarette. It was amazing. I had the time of my life, even though I lost my best friends there.”
. . . . . .
This was Dilsoz (a Kurdish war moniker; many leftists refused to give their real names because of laws against taking part in foreign conflicts). He was 29 years old. Occupation: thief. He grew up in a squat house outside Rome and, despite never finishing school and having limited English, could hold forth on Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony: “The dominant class transmit his beliefs, his values, to the proletarian class,” he said, subtly swiping two cigarettes from my pack. “The poorest persons, now they argue like a capitalist, the same person that oppress him, that send his mother to the factory.”
With his scars and jailhouse tattoos, Dilsoz stood out among the other volunteers, most of whom were middle-class and educated, like Zerdeşt (also a war moniker), a blue-eyed boy of 20 whose father is a doctor in Bavaria. Back home, Zerdeşt hung out with a crowd of “bobos” – bourgeois bohemians, rich hipsters, professional-class liberals – who talked up the Rojava Revolution but never did anything to support it. One day he told himself, “OK, now you have to stop bullshitting.”
. . . . .
As for the pacifist liberals back home in Europe and America, “They’re not truly committed to anything,” Franceschi said, pulling out his phone to read a Murray Bookchin quote. “‘Today we are turning inward: We are looking for personal definition, personal improvement, personal achievement, personal enlightenment.’ This is the left today in the world. Even those here, many anarchists, they come here and they want to be amazed and live the Kurdish ways. You’re not here on a trip, man. It’s not your personal voyage. There is a war. There is a revolution. And they need fighters.”
. . . . .
Growing up in San Francisco, Belden never had money: “I was a troubled teen. I went to five different high schools. I always worked shitty jobs. I guess I should have gone to college – but a lot of good that did other guys.” He protested the Iraq War at age 13 but later forgot about politics, and formed a band called Warkrime. “I was a punk for a long time, and that doesn’t make you into the best dude,” he said. Photos from this period show him hanging around grungy bars, smoking, drinking, mooning the camera, holding a gun to his head, sitting passed out on a couch. “Don’t ever get addicted to drugs,” he said. Eventually, he landed in jail. “I got picked up for possession,” he explained, “and I had a previous warrant for assault after I got in this weird shoving match with a guy.” He was released and later survived a heroin overdose but ended up with a $2,000 bill for a five-minute ambulance ride, a debt he could never pay off on minimum wage. “I had to become a sober dude,” he said, “a straight-edge.”
Politically, though, rehab further radicalized him. “All I did was read books on far-left theory,” he said. “I started to understand intellectually what I already understood emotionally.” In late 2012, he came across an article on the declaration of Kurdish autonomy in Syria, which led him to Öcalan’s manifesto. Rojava has never been mainstream news, but over the past few years the fringes of the Internet have produced a stream of glamorous war imagery: red stars on black flags, Molotov cocktails, Banksy-style murals on bullet-riddled walls, and sexy female fighters posing with Kalashnikovs atop piles of rubble. “Grab your laptop and come to Rojava now,” said an early version of RojavaPlan.com, a recruiting website affiliated with the hacker collective Anonymous. “Burn down government institutions, form a commune and grow some potatoes between the rubble of the old world.”
. . . . . .
“Did you meet the little Jewish nerd?” asked Belden, who is Jewish himself; he used to have a Star of David tattooed on the knuckle of his middle finger, but had a spade tattooed over it before coming to the Middle East. He took me inside to a carpeted room with sleeping mats and pillows lining the walls and introduced me to Lucas Chapman, a skinny American in Coke-bottle glasses warming his hands on a stove heater.
Chapman claims to remember nothing that happened before his 16th birthday. He hated high school in Dahlonega, Georgia, a town of 6,000 people just south of the Chattahoochee National Forest. “I just wanted to get the hell out,” he said. He attended American University in Washington, D.C., where he majored in Jewish history and immersed himself in socialist theory. “As long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in leftism,” he said. He worked part-time for a startup called Postmates, an Uber-like company of underemployed couriers. “On one of my last deliveries I brought some rich prick two MacBook Pros,” Chapman said. “He was barefoot in his underwear, and he literally wrote in zero dollars and zero cents for a tip. How does anyone do that?”
After days like that, Chapman would go home, fire up a bowl and spend the evening studying Kurmanji and scrolling through RojavaPlan.com. He left for Sulaymaniyah in September 2016 and spent a sleepless first night at a designated hotel, sweat seeping from every pore, his mind racing. “What the hell am I doing here?” he thought. Noon the next day he was taken to a different room, where at least there was another American: Belden. That afternoon they were driven to a camp in the Zagros Mountains, and that same night they hiked across the border, a six-hour march without water, suffering under heavy packs, tripping over rocks and brambles. The sun had not yet risen when Chapman first set foot in Syria. It was the morning of his 21st birthday.
Western Leftist Brigades And Connections To Antifa
It is important to take a brief look at the international element of both the YPG/PKK/Peshmerga fighters, Western leftist brigades and Antifa in order to see where some dots may connect. Antifa, a loose collection of American anarcho-communists, anarchists, leftists, and other typically leftist ideologues, has been gaining more and more notoriety in the press lately as it has been responsible for a host of violent actions against Trump supporters as well as speakers and events the group views as “fascist.” It is generally made up of other organizations, groups, and individuals more so than a formal Antifa organization and there is some debate as to how centralized Antifa proper might be, with some suggesting Antifa is an official group and others saying it is only an organizing strategy.
At one time the latter seemed true enough but, in 2017, it seems Antifa has become more and more centrally organized and its ability to direct protests and organize action has increased dramatically. It seems fairly obvious that Antifa now has a more centralized structure. It has its own symbols, flags, ideology, and international elements and it is no longer realistic to suggest that Antifa is not a centralized organization without some sort of power structure and funding. Antifa is short for “Anti Fascist,” a term liberally used by the group to describe anything to the right of Bernie Sanders.
In a recent video released by the International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces in which the IRPGF expresses solidarity with the YPG and PKK fighters and a desire to “defend the revolution” in Rojava. In the background, one can clearly see the Antifa symbol and flag behind the IRPGF fighters.
Are Alt-Righters In For A Rude Awakening?
It’s ironic then, that so many “alt-right” activists continue to dismiss Antifa activists as pathetic weaklings who couldn’t defend themselves in a physical fight. Indeed, such are the insults hurled at anyone who is not obsessively conservative from the far right corners. The general perception of Antifa activists is that of the skinny middle class white kid who became a vegan and compulsively reads Karl Marx. In a physical fight, alt-righters know for a fact they have the upper hand. But this is merely a perception, and perceptions can often be wrong. Many of these “skinny Marx readers” are demonstrably gaining more than a crash course in how to fire a weapon, they are gaining firsthand experience in combat and urban warfare. If a second American civil war ever does break out between the right and the left, certain elements of society might be surprised to learn that their opposition is not as weak as they had once thought.
Indeed, one may be justified in wondering if this attempt at “International Revolution” may at some point culminate in even more violent behavior from Antifa and related organizations, thus provoking a response from their right wing fascistic counterparts. It’s a frightening prospect to say the least but it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
Do The LGBT Brigades Exist Or Are They A Figment Of The Leftist Imagination?
According to the Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Media Center, the LGBT brigades don’t even exist, at least not within its frontline ranks in Raqqa.
The SDF spokesman, Mustafa Bali, announced the organization’s denial of TQILA fighters but stressed that the SDF’s “collective ideology” respects human rights, “including the rights of homosexuals.” This is in an interesting development and a rather odd statement considering that the SDF is made up not only of Kurdish fighters but also of fanatical Arab Muslims as well.
For those who might be reading this article unaware of the role Kurdish organizations like the YPG/PKK/Peshmerga and concepts like Kurdish autonomy play in the destruction of Syria and the entire Middle East, I recommend consulting a number of articles such as my own, “U.S. Bases Strategically Placed To Prevent Military From Advancing; Outlining Borders of Kurdistan,” Maram Susli’s “Why A Kurdish Enclave In Syria Is A Very Bad Idea,” and Sarah Abed’s three-part series on the Kurdish issue (“The Kurds: Washington’s Weapon Of Mass Destabilization In The Middle East” and “The Kurdish Connection: Israel, ISIS, And U.S. Efforts To Destabilize Iran.”) These articles will go some length toward explaining how the Kurdish push for a separate state is actually part of a much larger plan by Western powers and Israel to create micro states and mini states in order fracture the region into impotent vassel countries as well as to destroy countries that stand in opposition to the Western agenda and the dominance of Israeli settler state.
In addition, the Kurdish factions are not simply oppressed people demanding equality; they are a mix of fanatical Muslim fundamentalists and radical communist “revolutionaries,” all of which have been ready to commit atrocities and commit genocide in order to reshape the areas they have conquered.
With Western leftists associated with violent leftist organizations in the U.S. and Europe now traveling to Syria to fight alongside Kurdish battalions, there exists the possibility that these fighters will find their way back to their homes battle-hardened and ready to more expertly inflict violence on their own domestic opponents. In addition, the training they have received from Kurdish fighters and thus American military “advisors,” may prove useful back home if and when violence takes place between themselves and “alt right” activists.
Whether or not the LGBT brigades are real is largely irrelevant. What it shows is that the world is becoming an increasingly violent place with political ideology no longer being confined to public discourse and nasty words but expanding more and more to violent outbursts and even coordinated violent attacks.