From catching waves to catching jihadis: An American surfer with no military experience has ditched his board and joined the Kurds in northern Syria in their fight against Islamic State, the Mail Online reported on Thursday.
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Dean Parker, 49, told the Mail that his decision was prompted by a TV report about the plight of the Yazidis, trapped by ISIS fighters on Mount Sinjar in Iraq.
"The cameraman filmed this one mother holding her 10- or 11-year-old son. She was crying, holding him,” he told the Mail. “He was looking at the camera and that look of sheer terror in his eyes overwhelmed me with emotions I have never felt before.”
The Florida-born granddad was not deterred by the dangers ahead and his lack of fighting experience. He quit his job as a surfing instructor in Costa Rica and made his way to the frontline in the war against Islamic State, only notifying his family of his whereabouts five days after arriving in the Kurdish-ruled area of Syria, via Facebook:
"Hey Everyone, I am in Rojava Kurdistan. The YPG is training me, until I am ready, then join the fight against Daesh. The only way to try to explain this is that I head Gods call," Parker's Facebook post from November 2 reads.
According to the Mail, Parker joined a unit of foreign militants fighting with the Kurdish People's Protection Unit, the YPG.
Parker told the Mail that he is still in training with Kurdish fighters, and that he hasn't yet taken part in heavy fighting. "I am in good hands here. The experienced military guys go to where the real fighting is. Maybe I'll stay and live here afterwards. The Kurds are the most gracious, respectful people I have ever met. We are family now. I am so honored to be here," he told the Mail.
Parker told the Mail that he hasn't given up on surfing, saying that he has sworn to surf the waves of the Black Sea after the war against ISIS is successfully completed.
Parker is only one of a number of westerners who have joined the ranks of the Kurds in the fight against Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Gill Rosenberg, a Canadian-Israeli woman, has reportedly been fighting with the Kurds since November. In December, reports that she has been captured by ISIS were rebuked by Rosenberg on her Facebook page.
British media has also reported that Western nationals, particularly British citizens, are streaming into Syria to fight against Islamists.
A Facebook community called The Lions of Rojava displays pictures of numerous Westerners, who have joined "People's Defense Units" in Rojava, Syria.
"Its better to live one day as a Lion than thousands days as a sheep," (sic) the page declares above a photograph of seven people, mostly sporting fatigues and sunglasses.