There were two weeks to go before summer break at the Swedish high school where Jesper Söder taught when he quit.
Söder, then 24, had concocted a different plan for himself and didn’t want to place his students at risk. He left them behind on May 19 and began his journey to northern Syria.
Now, temporarily back in Sweden after helping Syrian Kurdish forces combat the Islamic State group, Söder said he has a message for the West after last week’s horrific attacks in Paris: Keep up the fight, and refine your tactics.
“You can never let this stuff happen,” Söder told HuffPost in an interview via Skype Thursday night, referring to the brutality that ISIS has inflicted on those living under its control and now on the West.
Söder praised the Syrian Kurdish militia that Washington now sees as a chief ground partner against ISIS in Syria. “In four years [since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011], they have done more than any groups that fight” the extremists, he said.
The militia, known as the YPG, has captured thousands of miles of territory and multiple towns from ISIS since the U.S. began supporting it with air power last fall. The militia recently played a role in the successful effort to push extremists from the area near Sinjar in northwestern Iraq. And a new coalition the YPG has formed with Sunni Arab fighters will — if things go as Washington plans and Arab-Kurd ethnic tensions can be managed — be the force to eventually retake the Syrian town of Raqqa, ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital.
Asked why he decided to take up arms and join the Kurds,Söder replied, “I’m a human lover. I can’t just watch and let this happen.”
His advice for the West?
“You can do airstrikes, you can do more weapons, but you also need to stand up to Turkey … and those financing and supporting terrorists,” Söder said.
Soder blasted the Turkish government and suggested that many of the foreign fighters collaborating with Syrian Kurds who are key to the ISIS fight would like to see Turkey removed from the NATO alliance.
Many observers of the Syrian civil war — particularly the Kurdish forces Söder aligned with — have faulted Turkey for the extremists’ rise because they say its lax border policies have aided the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS and other radical groups in Syria.
Turkey has been criticized internationally (and in the U.S) for doing relatively little to help the Kurds in their internationally celebrated, months-long effort to defend the town of Kobani from ISIS. It has on multiple occasions attacked the Syrian Kurdish militia (which it mistrusts because of its ties to a banned Kurdish movement within Turkey) even as U.S. warplanes flying from a Turkish base help the Kurdish offensive against ISIS.
Söder said he sees those attacks as attempts to provoke the YPG into responding, and shattering its fragile relationship with the U.S.
Söder’s comment on financing points a finger at donors in Gulf Arab states who have funded the Islamic State group and other radical elements in Syria, such as the al Qaeda affiliate there, for ideological reasons or because of opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad. It also implicates Senate Republicans, whose stalling over Obama administration nominees for top jobs has left a vacancy at the Treasury Department office responsible for curbing terror financing.
Read more: The Huffington Post