A communist organization in Spain has been filtering Spanish citizens into Iraq and Syria to fight with the communist Kurdish PKK against the Islamic State. The fighters, most serving as snipers protecting Kurdish and Yazidi areas, assert that they have a responsibility as communists to “further the advancement of this region’s proletariat.”
Spanish newspaper El Mundo traveled to Sinjar–site of a horrific ISIS siege last year that forced thousands of Yazidis to flee up a barren mountain, dying of heat and exhaustion–to meet a squad of Spanish snipers being trained by the communist PKK. The Spaniards tend to work nights and have orders to shoot anything that moves from their high standing points. The team El Mundo visited had been put under the orders of a female PPK commander named Berivan, who explained her position of authority as a Kurdish tradition: “The Kurdish woman combats all servitude and injustice imposed by the patriarchy.”
The Spanish men did not seem to mind, too preoccupied with killing Islamic State jihadists. One sniper, who goes by the alias Paco Arcadio, tells the newspaper he felt a calling to combat “the fascism that ISIS represents” and encourage “the advance of the region’s proletariat.” This new wave of Spanish fighters follows in the footsteps of Spanish communists who joined the invading Russian army in Ukraine in 2014 and have been charged upon returning home with complicity to murder.
Arcadio hopes the Spanish government views ISIS as a more legitimate target than a crippled, pro-democratic Ukraine. “I hope the commitment the West has made to fighting Daesh means we will not suffer any reprisals,” he tells local news, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
There is a high chance these fighters will face some repercussions for fighting with the PKK. Unlike the Iraqi Peshmerga, which are the soldiers of Iraqi Kurdistan, the PKK is a communist terrorist group responsible for an estimated 40,000 deaths since its inception. It has been accused repeatedly of violence in Turkey, and has taken lately to attacking the Peshmerga, despite their war against ISIS. Last week, PKK terrorists killed at least two Peshmerga soldiers on the Iran-Iraq border, following a dispute in which the PKK challenged the Peshmerga’s presence in the area.
While the Islamic State is vocally against any Kurdish organization, claiming to represent Sunni Arabs, the PKK’s war on ISIS seems to disregard that the Islamic State is, in practice, a socialist regime. On paper, the policies of the Islamic State in well-held cities like Raqqa and Mosul look little different from those in, for example, Venezuela. In Mosul, ISIS imposed strict price controls on goods and services that merchants cannot adapt to the market, significantly straining the cities’ economies. One merchant speaking to the Financial Times called the prices “comical” and notes that merchants try to disregard them without getting caught.
One thing merchants cannot dispose of so easily are the astronomical taxes: up to 50% of salaries of government workers, who are tolerated because ISIS does not have a sufficient number of engineers and skilled workers to run basic government services like power plants and hospitals. Trucks attempting to ship cargo across the Islamic State are charged 10%. Individuals trying to open a business–any business–must pay ISIS 2.5% tax on their revenue.
Like any socialist state, those who reap the benefits in the Islamic State are the party loyalists: the mujahid. The mujahid, who do the killing for the Islamic State, are highly encouraged to marry and have children and are promised a free honeymoon and $1,500 to buy a new home. They receive $400 for every child their wife bears, and marriage bonuses are offered if they can convince a foreign woman to leave the West for them or their wives have skills that would benefit ISIS. ISIS also pays for their food and clothing, and wives receive $50 a month, presumably for personal and child care.