While illegally crossing the Iraqi-Syrian border, Canadian Peter Douglas was adamant that his incursion was for humanitarian reasons – to help the people of Syria. Douglas is one of a growing band of foreigners to dodge authorities and join the fight against Islamic State militants who have killed thousands and taken vast parts of Iraq and Syria, declaring a caliphate in territory under their control.
Many of these fighters argue they are there for humanitarian reasons but they say their decision to take up arms to fight for the Syrian people will not be viewed as such by some.
"I want to fight the Islamic State, although it might be the last thing I do," said Douglas, 66, from Vancouver, as he prepared to board a boat crossing a remote stretch of the Tigris River .
"I know I have 10 years to live before I will start develop dementia or have a stroke so I wanted to do something good," he added, although he acknowledged that taking up arms was new on the list of jobs and occupations he has previously pursued.That's where we differ. Running off to "help Syrians" is definitely not on my bucket list (or wouldn't be, if I had one). Then, too, the number of Western "humanitarians" drawn to the conflict pales beside the number of Westerners enticed to fight with ISIS:
So far an estimated few dozen Westerners have joined Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State in northern Syria, including Americans, Canadians, Germans, and Britons.
The Syrian Kurdish armed faction known as the YPG has not released official numbers confirming foreign or "freedom fighters" and academics say it's hard to assess the total.
But the number pales compared to an estimated 16,000 fighters from about 90 countries to join Islamic State since 2012, according to the U.S. Department of State figures.
The United Nations has warned extremists groups in Syria and Iraq are recruiting foreigners on an "unprecedented scale" and with a commitment to jihad who could "form the core of a new diaspora" and be a threat for years to come.A few dozen versus an estimated 16,000: If you're a Western "humanitarian" like Pete and you want your head to remain attached to your body, those odds really suck.