[Johan’s father was kidnapped by regime agents, who then told the family that he had died in custody, although they never provided the family with a body]
All the time. I can't leave what I started.
You were in Syria for about three years fighting. Did you leave your job here in Switzerland?
No, I was a professional soldier. I went as soon as I finished my contract with the army.
So now you need to start a new life?
Being involved in the organisation we have now in Iraq is my full-time occupation.
Are you married?
Thank God, no.
Yes, of course. More hopeful and with brighter prospects for the future. The people we were involved with gained strength from seeing ISIS being defeated territorially. For the Syrian people that is a huge victory.
You fought side by side with the YPG. And you said they respected the Syriacs. Now that ISIS is defeated, YPG is still the big player in the region. Do you trust them?
I trust them, like they trust me. But it is politics. I trust the people who represent the Kurds, and their idea. I trust their idea, and I respect the idea. I don't follow the people. If they keep to their idea and follow it, to do something for all the peoples there, I will trust them. If they are going to change their idea they will be betraying themselves, more than me.
Were you ever frustrated or surprised that there were more Syriacs like you from Europe going to fight with your people?
No. I was happier to see the Syriacs inside Syria fight. The main problem was to convince them to change their mentality, not to bring them to war. So I was really happy to see all the influence we had and the young people joining the SMC, because they trusted what we were doing. We were not obsessed with bringing people from outside. If you come by yourself you are welcome, but we were pushing for the local fighters, because those are the people who are going to stay.
It's a little bit like the volunteers of the YPG. They came in their thousands. How many are still in Syria? They left. If we had a thousand Syriac youths and then leaving, it doesn't make sense. We were looking for a long-term, strategical commitment.