“The Peshmerga Lead the Way!” FBR Field Update from Kurdistan

Kurdistan, Northern Iraq

Long live the Peshmerga! This frequent chant from the Kurdish people signifies the appreciation felt for the Kurdish military keeping ISIS (which locals call Daesh) at bay. ISIS’s advance north to Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan in Iraq, has been halted by the Peshmerga and coalition forces. The front line remains generally static but there is fighting every day. The distance between the Peshmerga and ISIS frontlines fluctuates, ranging from approximately 50 meters in some areas, to 2 kilometers in others. Outside of urban areas the untended fields of wild grass and wheat inside the divide are regularly burned by both ISIS and the Peshmerga to reduce cover. These fires reach great heights that send massive plumes of smoke into the air. The smoke from ISIS positions, as opposed to the Peshmerga’s, is a dark black color. A Peshmerga lieutenant commented that the dark smoke comes from the burning of tires, and that ISIS creates the black smoke to intimidate the Kurdish people. It may also be used to obscure ISIS’s ground movements from coalition air surveillance.

The Black Smoke of ISIS

Forward of the Peshmerga’s line are floodlights which illuminate the field and highlight enemy movement. Night is the most common time for ISIS attacks. Behind these lights are trenches for stopping the uparmored humvees and other armored vehicles that ISIS uses. With the recent fall of Ramadi ISIS has received a fresh supply of these vehicles, which the Peshmerga sorely lack the defenses to stop. It is mostly coalition airpower stopping ISIS vehicles before they can push through the thin Peshmerga lines.

The Peshmerga, the name given to the Kurdish armed forces, are famous for their skill as soldiers in the mountains of northern Iraq and Kurdistan. Their numbers, however, are few. Now, most of the line is reinforced with recent volunteers that serve part-time; these men are all ages, and are bakers, nurses, merchants, carpenters, farmers – normal civilians – who have answered the call to help defend their homes. The better-trained, full-time Peshmerga have been positioned all along the line to train the new troops for the fight.

The Peshmerga have high morale, but they lack anti-tank rockets and quality ammunition that reduces weapon jams. They watch for tunnels that cross underneath the coalition reinforced lines. They fear for their families, many of whom continue to live within minutes of the frontlines.

The lives of the Kurdish people and the life of their culture is what is being fought for. The Kurdish are resilient after facing historical oppression, most recently at the hands of Saddam Hussein before the rise of ISIS. Only minutes from the frontline, Kurdish people go to school, play football, bake bread, and tend their flocks of sheep. They fight because they have nowhere to run to. Kurdistan is their home and they fight for the freedom to live without oppression.

Free Burma Rangers stands with the Kurdish people for freedom from oppression. 
Long live Kurdistan and long live the Peshmerga.

God bless you.

The Free Burma Rangers.