Everyday life in an YPG training camp

Everyday life in an YPG training camp

The threat of Turkish bombs, the importance of teaching the principles of the Kurdish revolution in the training camps, learning how to use a weapon... Arthur describes his day-to-day experience.

YPG-Training camp for international volunteers, canton of Cizîrê

Turkish bombings
April 25, 2017

Because of news from Turkish bombings on Sinjar and on an YPG base of Rojava (not ours) I will have to shut down all means of communication.

All of the fighters have to turn off their cellphones for safety reasons.

This afternoon, military airplanes, probably Navy Seals, have overflown our camp. Were they to discourage Turkish aircraft from another nasty strike? The Americans must quite furious.
Soon I will write more!
A little picture from us. At the summit of the pylon: the YPG flag.

Back at the camp after a night under the stars
April 26, 2017


Somehow, bombings are just like misfortune, you never know who will be hit. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t really protect yourself against it…

This is what a comrade told me yesterday evening, just before we split up to spend the night spread out in the fields, out of fear a bomb might be dropped above our heads… In this moment – lying there, watching the sky, monitoring this starlit night, so beautiful and yet so hostile, for the slightest light, the tiniest sound – one thinks of the people that have been living with the threat of bombings for decades: Palestinians, Afghans, Iraqis…
And I wonder how they manage to sleep peacefully even one single night in a year…
The atmosphere at the camp is a bit tense. Not only do we have to fear air strikes, but the Turkish army could also hit us with a ground attack. While we were getting ready for the training, a few of us asked for weapons… but there are not enough for everybody, and I’m one of those who didn’t get one.

Some time after the training, a comrade who had noticed my deception handed me something: a grenade. He quickly explained to me how to use it and concluded by saying: “it can help you for defense, just in case… or, as a last resort, if you don’t want them to get you. At least you have the choice.”

Holding an old AK47 in my hands
April 28, 2017


After the past bombing threats, life is trying to get back to normal at the camp… not that easy when you know that only about ten kilometers away from our base, near Tal-Abyad and Dérik, our comrades are facing the world’s eighth strongest army to keep this little piece of earth free.

I finally received a weapon to defend myself, an old Romanian AK47, probably twice as old as myself. Against helicopters or airplanes, I guess this will be as useful as an electoral program of Macron…
However, I fully understand that the Kurdish attach such great importance to the ideological dimension of the training before teaching how to handle a weapon. Because, as they say, if you put a weapon into the hands of a woman or man without ideological training, he or she will might one day turn into a bandit (and not the Robin Hood kind of bandit)…
Last night, we have again been overflown by a helicopter. Nice American material, only that this time, a Turkish pilot was sitting inside… Luckily, a beautiful thick hill was standing between us and his 30 mm canon (not to mention the thermal optical sights that can detect heat, therefore bodies).

This reminds me another element from our lessons: the power of a nation-state relies greatly on its air-force. I had never thought about it this way. Obviously I was aware of the military importance of air force, but I had never linked that to the political issue. I hope we will manage to resolve this problem one day, otherwise I’m afraid any revolutionary effort is doomed to fail, and by saying that I mean, it will be buried under a carpet of bombs topped with two or three high precision missiles…

Comments

Spikymike
Jul 3 2017 10:00

Yesterdays news from a 'starry eyed' militarised ideologue.

donaldo
Jul 4 2017 21:57

If you think that reading something that has been written three months ago from within a conflict that is still going on is outdated, don't read it, the dates stand right at the beginning of the text.

Any kind of field engagement is motivated by emotions and ideals, especially one that puts one's sake at risk. I think whoever has had a concrete politcal activity (other than writing comments on a blog) knows that and can relate to the feelings that this comrade expresses. And it's a travel diary, not a political treaty.

Next time, just keep such useless and insulting comments to yourself.

Steven.
Jul 4 2017 22:14

Thanks very much for these translations, Donaldo they are much appreciated!

Mike, while I normally enjoy your contributions on here, snarky comments at fellow contributors, especially people relatively new to posting content is really unhelpful. If you have some constructive criticism or thoughts please make them, but if not please refrain.

Spikymike
Jul 5 2017 11:05

Steven,
Yes I was 'snarky' but frankly this poster is updating simple 'front-line news' like an aspiring journalist with very little in the way of political analysis or content though I would say a very clear political message that by this method will likely go unchallenged, unlike other texts that appear on this site on the same theme. Having been warned - I will hold my tongue or otherwise try to be nicer to such idiot-martyrs in future.

AndrewF
Jul 5 2017 19:52
Spikymike wrote:
Having been warned - I will hold my tongue or otherwise try to be nicer to such idiot-martyrs in future.

This is over stepping the line to becoming a complete arsehole, at this point in time many of us have friends among the 'idiot-martyrs' - whom are generally neither idiots nor people desiring martyrdom. They are simply those who have decided thats where they can contribute often quite aware of the risks and consequences this piece describe.

mikail firtinaci
Jul 6 2017 04:03

This is a pro-war propaganda and its only aim is to romanticize the ongoing hellish war.

First of all, Turkish soldiers are not plane flying anonymous monster-robots. They also die violent deaths in wars and almost all come from working class families. They may be bombarded by Turkish nationalism and militarism, but especially in 90s there were numerous cases when they refused their officers demands to fight or even shot their own officers while on patrol. This is one of the reasons why the Turkish armed forces in Kurdistan do not move out of barracks much these days and this is why air attacks are more common. The state and the army fear relying on ground troops too much. The recent attacks on the Kurdish cities were carried out by fascist, professional and semi-paramilitary special operation forces which are smaller in size. Clearly the state is hesitant to rely on numbers.

Second, military service is obligatory in Turkey. Those who don't have the money that can pay their way out of military service have to serve, otherwise they face prison and a lifetime of legal record that will prohibit them working in many stable state&private sector jobs. And most rank&file soldiers in Kurdistan come from the Turkish and also Kurdish poor who don't have any other choice but to serve in the army.

The report of the war given in the above piece is totally lacking depth and class analysis of war and proletarians in uniform are merely portrayed as enemy monsters.

Finally, there is tellingly no analysis or even a basic description of the PKKs military structure or the "political" doctrine it teaches. The reason should be clear: Fundamentally, PKK is an extremely hierarchical army that mimics the class society... just like any other national army. And its essential task is to preserve and perpetuate the state and class relations that PKK wants to consolidate in Kurdistan.

AndrewF
Jul 6 2017 13:12

In most countries the pilots of planes and helicopter gunships are drawn from the higher ranks of society. They are generally also officers. If I remember correctly one of the British royals was a helicopter pilot, those sorts of sons are never infantry. I don't know a lot about the Turkish military but from reading around the coup its clear that you have a few elite units and a mass of infantry whose role in any real war would be cannon fodder. So I strongly suspect the common pattern holds.

In any case the piece is talking about the fear felt when planes or gunships are overhead and how those on the ground can do nothing about it. It's very odd to read that and insist on the need for sympathy for the pilots who are in no actual danger rather than those on the ground who are in considerable danger and pretty helpless - that approach only makes sense as as expression of nationalism, whatever internationalist cloak it might be draped in.

This is also not an event happening in Turkey but as an outcome of Turkish colonialism with regard to N. Syria. It's true that ground soldiers probably have little choice (although I think again its elite armour and mechanised infantry that are deployed). But the instance that there can be no resistance to colonialist escapades isn't any sort of position of neutrality.

Chilli Sauce
Jul 6 2017 16:52
Quote:
Yes I was 'snarky' but frankly this poster is updating simple 'front-line news' like an aspiring journalist

Without getting into the piece itself - although, for the record, I think Mikhail made a very good contribution - I was a little suspect of this being posted as a news item. Maybe I'm being a pedant, but this would seem far more fitted to a blog or an article.

rat
Jul 6 2017 18:37

A libertarian communist fighting with the YPG writes:

Quote:
Because of news from Turkish bombings on Sinjar and on an YPG base of Rojava (not ours) I will have to shut down all means of communication.

All of the fighters have to turn off their cellphones for safety reasons.

This afternoon, military airplanes, probably Navy Seals, have overflown our camp. Were they to discourage Turkish aircraft from another nasty strike? The Americans must quite furious.

This reads a little bit as if US air power is supporting YPG bases.
So maybe Rojava is one of the only social revolutions with American military backing?

AndrewF
Jul 6 2017 18:52

US military has been carrying out airstrike for the YPG for the last couple of years. ISIS had over ran all of Kobane canton and all but a 200m strip of Kobane city when the US dropped weapons supplies and started airstrikes - initially taking out the US tanks & armoured vehicles and ISIS captured at Mosul and which the YPG were pretty helpless against.

More recently they've even been given 120mm mortars but not the anti-air missiles they need to defend against Turkey. This is indeed unusual but not a unique historical situation, if you include the soviet union and china there are very very few revolutions where outside military supplies were not essential. Spain 1936 included.

Accepting them is a significant risk, not accepting them would have meant having your head cut off shortly after watching your family having their heads cut off. I mean that quite literally.

Flint
Jul 6 2017 18:57
mikail firtinaci wrote:
Second, military service is obligatory in Turkey. Those who don't have the money that can pay their way out of military service have to serve, otherwise they face prison and a lifetime of legal record that will prohibit them working in many stable state&private sector jobs. .

Were you in the military service in Turkey?

rat
Jul 9 2017 19:35

This reads a little bit like an official statement from the United States Armed Forces:

AndrewF wrote:
US military has been carrying out airstrike for the YPG for the last couple of years. ISIS had over ran all of Kobane canton and all but a 200m strip of Kobane city when the US dropped weapons supplies and started airstrikes - initially taking out the US tanks & armoured vehicles and ISIS captured at Mosul and which the YPG were pretty helpless against.

More recently they've even been given 120mm mortars but not the anti-air missiles they need to defend against Turkey. This is indeed unusual but not a unique historical situation, if you include the soviet union and china there are very very few revolutions where outside military supplies were not essential. Spain 1936 included.

Accepting them is a significant risk, not accepting them would have meant having your head cut off shortly after watching your family having their heads cut off. I mean that quite literally.

Sike
Jul 7 2017 09:31

If the following excerpt from a 2016 article from aljazeera is correct then it would seem that Turkish Air Force pilots are volunteers and are required to be commissioned officers. Which means that by most anarchist and marxist definitions of class Turkish military pilots are no more working class then are police officers.

From aljazeera:

Earlier this month, the Turkish government shut down all of Turkey's military schools in another state of emergency decree. The move, which made it impossible for future military pilots to be trained in specialized academies from an early age, has given rise to concerns about the long-term prospects of the Turkish air force. Following the shutting down of the military schools, Ankara announced changes in the requirements for becoming an armed forces pilot. Graduates of four-year civilian aviation schools, who are under the age of 27, could now apply to become an active officer, the government said in a decree.

In the United States armed forces most pilots are commissioned officers with a smattering of high ranking NCO's (warrant officers), all which are volunteers and often career military. The army uses both commissioned officers and warrant officers as helicopter pilots. I have not the foggiest idea of what rank Turkish army helicopter pilots are but if the structure of their air force is any indication it must be similar to that of the US army. And again I don't know how it works in Turkey but in the US army most troops that deploy via helicopter (air assault) and fixed wing craft (paratroopers) are considered to be elite infantry and have to specifically volunteer for such units, and while they aren't exactly the same as special operations forces (they are used differently) their enthusiasm for what they do is often on par with that of special operations forces.

mikail firtinaci
Jul 7 2017 13:44
Quote:
Which means that by most anarchist and marxist definitions of class Turkish military pilots are no more working class then are police officers.

If you read what I wrote carefully you would see that my whole point is about the majority rank&file of the Turkish army. Turkey has a big army in terms of numbers and most of it is composed of workers. The pro-PKK left, or even the PKK, when it still pretended to be marxist sometimes conceded that in the past!

Sike
Jul 8 2017 05:42

mikail, thank you for taking the time to clarify and my apologies for taking you out of context. I read what you had written once again more carefully and I now see clearly that the point that you were making is indeed that most Turkish soldiers are conscripts and are drawn from the ranks of the working-classes and that you were not in any sense confounding these with the officer caste or the special forces of the Turkish military.