On Monday protesters gathered outside the Turkish embassy in London to support the case of a British citizen arrested in Turkey on "terrorism" charges. Joe Robinson, a former soldier who volunteered with the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in 2015 to fight against Islamic State in Syria, was arrested in Turkey in 2017 while on holiday.
He was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison over the weekend because Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist organization linked with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
"Fighting against ISIS is not a crime. Free Joe Robinson!" read signs held by the handful of protesters who answered a call to protest in London. "Today's protest in support of Joe Robinson was a success, there is a growing movement to get him home," tweeted Macer Gifford, an activist and anti-ISIS campaigner who also fought against ISIS in Syria.
"He went to Syria as a medic. He wanted to help innocent people wounded by the brutal Islamic State."
He linked the issue to Turkey's growing tensions with the West and said that the Kurdish Solidarity Campaign would continue to lobby to bring Robinson home. "His prison sentence is a shock to us all... to spend the best part of his life in jail for fighting ISIS is a real miscarriage of justice."
In 2014 the YPG helped to liberate hundreds of thousands of Yazidis stranded in Sinjar in Iraq and saved them from ISIS. It also helped push ISIS back from cities in eastern Syria, eventually allying with the US-led Coalition. In recent months, as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the YPG has continued to fight ISIS.
However, some of the western volunteers who helped fight ISIS have run into legal troubles upon returning home. Turkey especially began to crack down on the YPG after a ceasefire with the PKK fell apart in 2015.
After the 2016 coup and amid rising tensions with the US, Ankara has increasingly asserted that the YPG are "terrorists" and accused the US of working with terrorists. In January 2017 Turkey launched an offensive into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria to push the YPG back from the border. Anna Campbell, a 26-year-old British woman, was killed in Afrin in March. The Telegraph reported that she likely died from Turkish airstrikes.
On Saturday Italy also detained three Italians who were thought to have joined the YPG and were seeking to fight abroad, according to a report at Kurdistan24.
Seth Frantzman is The Jerusalem Post's op-ed editor, a Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a founder of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.