I had an opportunity to chat with a friend of mine, Red, who went to fight for the Kurdish YPG, but ended up incarcerated after an unsuccessful attempt to cross the border leaving Syria.
SOFREP: So can you walk me through how it went down? Your arrest, I mean.
Red: Well, we were passed off near the border on the Syrian side to two guys in Pesh uniforms. From there, we drove to the border, which we were told we would be able to get across just fine, so I assumed we’d be going to the YBS (Sinjar Resistance Units) base near Shengal. Instead, they ended up taking us right to the legitimate border crossing. At that point, we were stopped like every other vehicle, but we had Westerners in the vehicle so they asked who we were, at which point the Pesh guys gave us right up and said they had no idea who we were.
One of the Westerners in the truck with me happened to speak the language. We were all taken to the office there at the crossing one by one and questioned; they were seeing if our stories matched up, which of course they did not because we were all doing different things and hadn’t planned on needing an alibi. All of our bags were dumped and we were searched, then we waited around until we were shuffled off to Dahuk.
That’s sketch as fuck, bro.
We were told there would be no prison, which I knew was a lie, and we spent the next couple days getting interrogated by the Asayish (Kurdish secret police) at some base there in Dahuk. We did sleep in a hotel, which we paid for. All part of the illusion of us not being prisoners. Once they got the information they wanted out of us, they told us we would be going to Erbil and getting freed, but they would not give us our passports until we got there. At that point, a prison van with a cage in the back showed up. We were put in the cage and locked up. They once again told us there would be no prison, which I knew was bullshit.
We got to Erbil. They pulled us right into the prison just inside the city, a compound with eyes on the gate. We were unloaded and sent into the booking room where we were searched again. From there, we were told to remove all personal belongings, our shoes, belts, cell phones, wallets, etc. We had our pictures taken (front, left, right), and our fingerprints done. Then we were shuffled down a series of hallways, passing through a series of barred doors, until we ended up in our prison cells.
Did they give you prison clothes?
Nah, just the clothes we had on our backs. Prison there is a lot different than American prisons.
Ah OK, I was just wondering if they gave you ANY clothes. So what happened next?
Two of the inmates gave me an extra pair of clothes. There are a lot of really good people locked away by those pieces of shit. Next was just the waiting. We got into the cell, not really sure how big it was, but we were put in a cell for one night with just us Westerners. Next day, we were taken out and interrogated. It wasn’t violent, just them playing good cop/bad cop routine shit to make sure we weren’t terrorists.
We got brought back into the cell area, but this time put into the main cell with like 50 other people. We were in there for a week and a half or so, something like that. The only thing shitty about it was the sleeping; we basically slept on top of one another. Everything was regimented: We received three meals a day, and three times a day we were let out of the cell to roam in circles around the “yard,” which was nothing but a cement-floored central area with bars overhead.
We were required to stay seated all day inside the cell, so we basically only got three hours a day to stand up.
So how did you end up getting out?
Once that first week and a half was over, a few new Western prisoners came in, one of which threatened to bring the situation to the Western media. So they put us in another cell with just Westerners. The U.S. consulate, on around the sixth day, came for me and the one other American there. We talked to them, they left, and then they came back like a week later and we were let go after whatever investigations they had to do were completed.
Man, that is wild.
Yeah, I went and stayed with a couple of friends for a few days so I could get my exit visa in order. Once that was set, I flew out shortly after.
Right on, man. I appreciate you sharing.
No problem, brother. Anytime.
(Featured image: AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)