Havel Hassan (havel means comrade in Kurdish), an ethnic Turk and member of the Turkish Communist Party, rested his mangled leg on the F350 Ford pickup truck and asked as calmly as I had ever seen him if the hospital in Qamishli— the regional Kurdish capital city—had morphine. Havel Canan said, “No morphine, but they do have baby powder.” I’ll never forget how Hassan began unhesitatingly giggling like a girl with his hand over his mouth as he bled out because there wasn’t even a tourniquet available.
This example demonstrates how pathetic the resources often were. This also somewhat translates to why the Syrian Kurdish Army was such a diverse organization and thus may be complicated to understand.
Overall, the army exists under the titles YPG (made up of men) and YPJ (women) who are under the de jure control of the PYD, the Syrian Kurdish government, but under effective military control of the PKK—the Kurdish Worker’s Party. However, these are just titles. In reality, the army is a vast melting pot of political parties, ethnicities, cultures, and peoples. They consist of ethnic Kurds from Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria, Arabs, Sunni and Shia tribesmen, Turks, Assyrians, Orthodox Catholics, westerners from far-flung France, England, Romania, Germany, and beyond, with political affiliations stretching across the divide—often to the bewilderment of even the most experienced fighters.
A friend of mine told me of how he once pulled together an impromptu group of three fighters comprised of him—a Turk—an Arab, and a Kurd. The Kurd couldn’t speak Arabic or Turkish, the Arab couldn’t speak Kurdish or Turkish, and the Turk couldn’t speak Kurdish or Arabic. Together, though, they stopped repeated ISIS attacks that stupidly approached through a YPG minefield that night.