From protester to fighter: Fleeing Iran’s brutal crackdown to take up arms over the border in Iraq – with a special focus on Chechen refugees
Al Jazeera speaks to a Chechen refugee living with the militants of the Islamic State
The Iraqi Kurdish town of Qamishli is located in northeast Syria, on the western side of the Euphrates River. Until three years ago it was a prosperous city. But, after Islamic State seized it last year and set up camps in the surrounding areas, its economy has been hit by the economic and social consequences of the war on terror. Qamishli is the last major town in Iraq that remains under the control of the jihadist group.
Dressed in the traditional red and white Chechen attire, the 22 year old, who lives in the Kurdish city of Kobani with his family, looks at the streets and alleys of Qamishli from a distance.
He looks at the town with a mixture of curiosity, sadness and optimism. “We are not sure, but I think Qamishli is doomed,” he says.
It is just one of the reasons why the town, home to some 90,000 people, is a priority for the Kurdish regional government in northern Syria. The Islamic State forces, now under the control of its ‘caliphate’, is expected to launch an offensive on Qamishli next week to take the town back from the Kurds.
Iraqi Kurds take up arms, along with Chechen refugees
The decision to send the majority of his family to live in Kobani is motivated by the belief that the Islamic State, if defeated, will stop fighting and allow the town to become a safe haven for Chechens and other displaced populations from across the Middle East, and as far away as the Balkans, who are in the grips of a bloody civil war.
In Kobani, Chechens come in the dozens to take part in the anti-Islamic State demonstrations. “The most important thing is to protect our people from being sent to the camps. If people don’t leave from Kobani, who? And who