ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Dutch Kurd named Devin (28), who joined the People’s Protection Units (YPG) during the battle for Tabqa in 2016, is now facing trial, Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad (AD) reported on Tuesday.
There are several Dutch citizens that traveled to the Kurdistan Region to join the fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. However, they were not prosecuted, or their prosecution was stopped due to a lack of evidence.
The Dutch prosecution service, however, charged Devin with the “preparation for murder or manslaughter in Syria and/or Iraq.” A spokesperson for the Dutch Public Prosecution told AD that they suspect that “Devin participated in the armed struggle.”
According to the Dutch prosecution service, participating in the armed struggle, even if its against IS, can carry penalties and be punishable by law.
“Participation in the armed struggle could lead to criminal offenses, war crimes, or ordinary crimes,” a spokesperson of the prosecution service told the Dutch newspaper. “This man claims he was in a medical unit, but that does not really fit with the pictures where he is shown with weapons.”
Devin told AD he was part of a medical unit during the battle for the control of Tabqa dam. “I wanted to help people, fighters and civilians. I didn’t want to kill people, everybody can do that,” he said.
“I carried a gun, you can see that on a lot of pictures. I also put those on Facebook. But that was for self-defense, if IS would attack the medical unit.”
“I didn’t need the gun to fight, nevertheless I was shot at by snipers,” he argued.
Devin joined the YPG after learning more about his Kurdish background and the horrors and war crimes carried out by IS.
“I decided I couldn’t continue my life, while I knew what was going on,” he stated.
Through Facebook and the YPG website, he took a flight to Iraqi Kurdistan in late 2016 and traveled to Syria.
However, in the summer of 2017, Dutch police called his mother to inquire about his return home. Eight months later, he was arrested by Dutch police and questioned.
“Did you kill people? You know that only the Dutch state has the right to kill?” Dutch police officers reportedly asked him. He was released three days later.
“They have no evidence, only pictures with a gun. Preparation for murder? This is nonsense. I only shot in the air,” he added.
In 2016, the Dutch prosecution service squashed a case against the most well-known Dutch YPG volunteer - Jitse Akse (47) - for lack of evidence.
He was suspecting of killing jihadists while fighting alongside Kurdish forces in Syria last year.
The Syrian Kurds argue it is a shame that foreign volunteers who joined the YPG to protect their homelands are facing prosecution when they return home.
“We have defeated global terrorism. There are still thousands of terrorists captured by our forces. We are protecting Germany, Europe, the world,” Nouri Mahmoud, the YPG spokesperson told Kurdistan 24.
In the United Kingdom, British volunteers also faced problems with prosecution services and law enforcement.
“This is a negative position of the UK government,” Syrian Democratic Council co-head Ilham Ahmed told Kurdistan 24. “We now hold dozens of UK fighters that joined Daesh [Arab acronym for IS]. At the same time, they are trying to prosecute those who fought against IS,” she said.
“The same people that came from the UK protected Britain as well,” she affirmed.
Editing by Nadia Riva