Scary Dutch Biker Gang Versus... ISIS? The Bikers Joined The Kurds' Battle In Iraq, And It's Legal
In a cross-cultural alliance that probably surprised everyone, Dutch bikers have joined Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS. Members of the biker gang "No Surrender" have taken up arms — literally, with Kalashnikov rifles — in Iraq, where Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been battling the extremist jihadist group for months now.
The group's leader, Klaas Otto (what a boss name), told Dutch TV station NOS that three members from Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Breda were currently fighting alongside the Kurds outside Mosul in Northern Iraq. Huff Post UK also reported that Kurdish television broadcasted a Dutchman "lamenting how under pressure the Kurdish forces are, and saying how he had come to help."
According to AFP, the Dutch public prosecutor Wim de Bruin said that this level of badassery is probably not illegal. Well, his exact words were:
Joining a foreign armed force was previously punishable, now it's no longer forbidden... You just can't join a fight against the Netherlands. The big difference with [ISIS] is that it's listed as a terrorist group. That means that even preparing to join [ISIS] is punishable.
De Bruin also said that if these bikers will not be exempt from prosecution if they commit war crimes, murder or rape, but such events would be "difficult to prove" in a Dutch court.
A photograph tweeted by a Dutch-Kurdish account shows a heavily-inked man in a military outfit and dark sunglasses, holding a Kalashnikov in one hand and flashing the victory sign with another, posing with a Kurdish soldier. "Ron from The Netherlands has joined the Kurds to exterminate the rodents of [ISIS]," reads the caption.
It's a heartening turn of events , as other countries (including the Netherlands) have been trying to put an end to their citizens flocking Iraq and Syria to join ISIS. The brutal terrorist group has a savvy social media department, making it incredibly effective at recruiting new members, especially from Western countries. The U.S. State Department estimates that 12,000 foreigners of at least 50 different nationalities have traveled to Syria to fight with a number of different groups, including ISIS.
So although these Dutch bikers cannot join ISIS because it's classified as a terrorist group, they can join those fighting against it. Here's where it gets a little murky: those fighting with the Kurds cannot join the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), as the EU considers it a terrorist organization. But the PKK control several brigades currently fighting ISIS.
The Kurds in Iraq are in a sticky situation. After ISIS won territory in Iraq out of seemingly nowhere and the Iraqi army, ill-equipped and undertrained, fled the area, the Kurds saw an opportunity to seize the land from ISIS. They also hoped that having territory under their control will strengthen their bid to establish an independent state, something they have aspired to for decades.
And although the U.S. administration has pledged to arm and train the Peshmerga (partly because of their skill in battle, and partly because so far, they are the only effective force fighting ISIS) the administration's promise to assist the Peshmerga in fighting could be a cautious sign that a Kurdish state isn't that unattainable. The Kurds claim to be the largest stateless minority in the world.
For now at least, ISIS has to deal with some Dutch bikers looking to "exterminate" them, even if these particular fighters, to quote the New York Post, are "mostly middle-aged, paunchy men."
Images: Getty Images (2)