Arab fighter from Hama: YPG protects the peoples of Syria

YPG fighter Rojhat Agir is Arab and from Hama. "We have seen the violence of the state, the other groups and the IS. The YPG protects the peoples of Syria," he stresses.

Since the establishment of the People's Defense Units (YPG) in 2012, more and more Arabs have also joined the YPG. They not only see the YPG as an alternative to the anti-democratic rule of the regime in Damascus, they have also experienced the brutality of the FSA, Jabhat al-Nusra, the so-called Islamic State (IS) and the other groups. As a result, many Arabs now see the Autonomous Administration as their perspective.

One of them is Rojhat Agir from Hama. He comes from the Okaidat tribe in Hama. Due to the Okaidat's insistence on their tribal life, they were subjected to repression by the Syrian regime before 2011. With the start of the Syrian war, rule over the villages around Hama alternated between the FSA, Jabhat al-Nusra, and IS. After death threats from IS, Agir fled to Hesekê and met the YPG there. Rojhat Agir has been fighting in the ranks of the YPG for five years.

In an interview with ANF, Agir appeals to the peoples of Syria and especially the Arabs: "The ruling states fear the unity that we have formed with the self-government and the YPG. There are political and military attacks against the YPG and the Autonomous Administration. Let's strengthen our unity and defend our homeland and our lives together."

"The Syrian regime tried to take us away from our culture by force"

Agir says that his experience with the Syrian regime played an important role in his joining the YPG. He says, "The Syrian government even interfered with what we ate. In the village, our tribes live according to their traditions and culture. But there was always fierce repression during the regime rule against those who remained attached to their culture and tribe. The regime wanted everyone to live according to the given system and culture. It was difficult to accept such intervention by the state against the natural society and tribe. Our tribe insisted on its own culture. There was pressure not only on our tribe, but also on other tribes.

Let me give them a small example. We lived a natural life in the village. Everybody knows the village life. We made our own bread. The government even interfered there. They baked the bread and sent it to us. We as a people did not accept that. They tried to destroy our culture a few times. When they sent the bread, the people protested, there was tension between the regime and the tribe. Every time they came, we fought back. We wanted to live our own natural life. It was definitely very hard for the tribe. It was a small tribe, and it's not easy to resist this pressure from the state forces."

Every day the repression increased

In 1982, the Syrian regime massacred more than 20,000 people in Hama in an operation against the Muslim Brotherhood. Since then, anger at Damascus simmered in the scarred city. Agir tells that with the start of the revolution, the regime remained in key positions in the city, but rural areas fell to the FSA, al-Nusra and eventually IS. He continues, "There are many peoples living in Hama. There are a few factions that depend on the regime, but apart from the Alawites, no one there accepted the regime anymore. The Druze as well as the Sunni population were upset against the regime anyway because of the anti-democratic rule and the massacre in the city. When the Syrian revolution began in 2011, we were all full of joyful anticipation. In 2012, parts of Hama were dominated by the FSA.

In the beginning, they tried to convince the population. But that changed more and more. In 2013, Jabhat al-Nusra came to our area and dominated it within a few months. Then, overnight, IS came in. Of course, there had been no clashes between al-Nusra and IS. They handed over the area to the IS. The traditional population couldn't communicate with the regime also, but also with these forces that were trying to impose their rules on the people."

"We left Hama to protect my mother from the IS"

Rojhat Agir and his family had to leave Hama due to IS persecution and fled to the Hesekê region in the self-administered territories of northern Syria. Agir's uncle had previously been murdered by IS and his mother threatened with death. He recounts, "The pressure on the population was intense. The IS killed many people for allegedly breaking the rules. There was cruel oppression. Not many people accepted it, but everyone was afraid. This was especially true in our region. Our tribe could not integrate either under the regime's rule or under that of the IS. The IS came and labeled some as agents, others as thieves, and executed them. Some were murdered just for going to the city. The IS caused great fear among the people. That is why our family left Hama. My mother was sick and went to the hospital in the city because there was no hospital in the village. But in the city there was the regime. We found out then that a death sentence had been given to my mother. They had killed my uncle for the same reason. The IS wanted to make sure that the population did not go to the hospital in Hama, but to the IS hospital in Raqqa. When the sentence was passed on my mother, we had to flee Hama to protect her."

"I saw that the fight against IS is possible"

Agir and his family fled to Hesekê in 2014, where they again faced the threat of IS. But Rojhat Agir saw the YPG successfully defend the town against IS. He says of the experience, "We came to Hesekê from Hama and stayed with relatives in the regime-controlled area. The IS attacked the regime area. The neighborhood where we were staying came under IS control. We fled to another neighborhood. The regime could not stand up to the IS. It was moving too fast and had captured almost a third of Hesekê. We didn't know the YPG at the time. But as the attack progressed, the YPG intervened and defended the areas. They even saved some regime soldiers from being killed by the IS.

My father knew the Asayish (local security forces) and joined them. He also participated in the battle of Hesekê. Gradually we got to know the Kurds, the Asayish and the YPG. I asked my father, "These are Kurdish soldiers, why are you joining them?" My father told me that they all fought together and respected each other. I wasn't convinced, but I was also impressed by the YPG's war against IS."

All peoples fight together under the umbrella of the YPG

Towards the end of the operation to liberate Manbij, Agir joined the YPG. He then participated in the liberation of Raqqa. He recounts his experience with the YPG: "I was surprised when I joined. Arabs, Kurds, Syriacs and members of other peoples were fighting and living together. In Raqqa, for example, we all fought a very fierce war together. By crushing IS, the YPG became the hope of all peoples. I and many others have seen that neither the YPG nor the Autonomous Administration are like a state. The state has a flag, a language, a cultural understanding and is based on coercion. The Syrian state does not accept differences. But within the YPG, everyone can speak their own language and live according to their own culture. In the Autonomous Administration, everyone can learn in their mother tongue. This is a situation that gives hope to everyone."

"Our unity scares the ruling states"

Agir continues: "Those who joined the YPG are people from this region, they are the poor. The democratic life that the YPG and the Autonomous Administration defend frightens the ruling states. They see it as a danger to themselves. The participation of us as Arabs in the YPG and the Autonomous Administration increased greatly, especially with the liberation of Manbij, Raqqa, Tabqa and Deir ez-Zor. 

The Autonomous Administration and the YPG brought the peoples, especially us Arabs and Kurds, closer together. I am from the Arab people myself, but I learned Kurdish within two months of participation in the YPG. I felt it was a need. No one forced or pressured me to do it. I wanted to learn the language of the friends I fought with. It's just a nice feeling.

As free and peaceful peoples, we must continue to strengthen our unity against the murderous attacks of the ruling regimes. If we don't strengthen our unity, we can't protect our country from their dirty plans and attacks."