Christopher is a former bike racer and photographer currently working as a metalworker in Brooklyn. His roommate, Chris, works as a theatre director. It’s a big change from a year ago, when both of them were in Syria, fighting the Islamic State as part of a Kurdish militia.
One year ago the U.S.-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), finished a four month campaign to push ISIS out of its Syrian capital, Raqqa. Official American involvement in Raqqa was limited to airstrikes and small teams of elite special forces troops. But the YPG, a socialist Kurdish militia, didn’t have the same limitations, drawing hundreds of foreign, less-than-experienced fighters to its ranks.
Signing up was easy — both men found applications on Google. That’s also how they met, while fighting for the YPG, and they were there on the day Raqqa officially changed hands. (After hearing rumors that ISIS had placed a bounty on the heads of foreign fighters, Chris and Christopher requested to be identified only by their first names or Kurdish noms de guerre.)
“Most of the time it was super boring,” said Christopher. Chris says he read the “whole cannon” of Shakespeare during his time in Syria.
And like many foreign fighters, Chris decided to hide his involvement in the Syrian war, avoiding social media, and only telling close friends and family where he was. Christopher, on the other hand, took a slightly different approach, building a small Instagram following, where he posted updates from the battle in Raqqa and propagandized in support of Kurdish revolutionaries.
VICE News Tonight met Christopher and Chris in New York to ask what exactly compelled them to run off to Syria to fight for the Kurdish cause.
This segment originally aired October 17, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
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