Kirkuk, Kurdistan – One is a former US-Marine, the other served in the Slovakian army and a third one, being a South Korean, experienced a divided homeland himself. The Peshmerga Legion consists of former Special Forces and soldiers of different military branches from all over the world. And they all have two aims; Destroying ISIS and fighting for an independent Kurdistan.
Having served in the British Army in the past, Steven Costa, founder of the Peshmerga Legion, says: “We are here because we believe what ISIS is doing to the Kurds must be stopped. The killing of women and children must be stopped. The destruction of historical sites must be stopped. We all support an independent Kurdistan. The Kurdish people have the right to govern themselves and their own country.”
The Peshmerga Legion was found around May 2015 and soon filled its ranks with former military personnel from all over the world. The former Marines, Special Forces and Navy soldiers fight at the frontlines of the Kurdish war against ISIS and they are not thinking about leaving until ISIS is destroyed and Kurdistan gets independent.
“My reason for going to Kurdistan basically stems from the much discussed quote "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to do nothing". Without going any further on that quote’s background, it sums up my reasons for going to Kurdistan and picking up a rifle.” says 32-year-old Mats Magnusson, a Legionary from Scandinavia.
He adds: “I know that I could've helped out the people in Kurdistan in other ways, like sending money or donating clothes. But seeing as how my background all comes down to bringing violence to bad people, this was the best solution in my mind.”
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war and the Kurdistan Region’s entry into the war against ISIS hundreds of foreign fighters came to Kurdistan to join either the Kurdish forces in Syrian Kurdistan or the Peshmerga in Iraqi Kurdistan. However some people think that the foreigners are not there to help the Kurds, but rather to fight Islam.
But 30-year-old Lee, who has roots in South Korea, says: “I joined the Legion in order to fight ISIS. We've all seen and read about the reports from Syria and Iraq. ISIS must be stopped and since no one seemed to be willing to fight them head on, I chose to leave my country in order to do so. This is not about fighting Islam or some grand crusade, this is just me and other volunteers trying to stop ISIS.”
The Peshmerga Legion, who funds themselves through donations via their homepage, is legally recognized by the Ministry of Peshmerga and functions as an irregular Peshmerga unit inside the armed forces of the Kurdistan Region.
Talking to Corduene under his Nom de guerre, Rupert Alan says that he wants “to make a difference and affect change in the world.”
The 27-year-old American adds: “I came to Kurdistan to be part of something bigger than myself. People today get so caught up in political affiliation, what color skin you have, where you were born, etc. and forget the very thing that should unite us – we are all human beings. I’m here to help people out regardless of race, religion, nationality, or sexual preference. Daesh is an evil force committing atrocities to these people and I am here to stop them. I believe in this cause so much that I gave up a very promising future in America to give my life for it.”
The Kurdistan Region finds itself in a brutal war against the so-called Islamic State for one year now. Support came from all over the world, including an immense media coverage of the war, military supplies and hundreds of Western volunteers for the Kurdish armed forces.