Tecumseh man witnesses ISIS conflict firsthand
A Tecumseh native has returned home after spending nearly two weeks on a trip along the front lines of the ISIS conflict.
It took a 31-hour bus ride to carry Rory Rosen through central Turkey and across the Iraqi border into Kurdistan, where he was welcomed as a Canadian. When he arrived, the 24-year-old University of Windsor graduate was given an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“(A security contractor) said, you want to visit the front lines? I said yes, definitely. That’s what I’m here for. Next day he put in a call and in 10 minutes arranged to have us go to the front lines,” says Rosen.
Rosen says being white with blond hair made him stand out – forcing him to keep his head down as his convoy travelled along a dirt road, across a river, and through hostile territory. When he hit a fork in the road, his nerves were rattled.
“It was literally we go left or right. Left was straight to ISIS, right, is back to safety. That was a very touch and go moment,” he says. “Anywhere else in world a wrong turn takes a long time, here you take a wrong turn and you lose your head.”
He describes spending his time with refugees – listening to their stories of heartbreak, including one woman whose entire family was killed by ISIS militants.
“Her village in Iraq had been surrounded by ISIS. They tried to put up a fight, but ISIS said drop your weapons,” Rosen says. ”They allowed ISIS in and when they did they separated men and woman.”
The woman told Rosen that the men were shot and the women were sold to be sex slaves or wives. He was also invited to sit-in on a formal meeting with a military general, and in turn getting a chance to ask all of his questions.
“I said 'What is biggest thing you want westerners to know?' And he said 'We need help. We are willing to fight these barbarians, but we cannot do it alone. We are outgunned.'”
Rosen says promised military equipment has not been delivered, while some soldiers have not been paid for three weeks. However, he says their morale is high and their determination is fierce.
“Imagine enemies trying to kill you for religion, on other side of river. That’s what these people have to deal with. They told me on the hill, we are not fighting for land or oil, but to preserve a way of life for everybody...it's about survival.”