Saint Michael, the archangel of battle, is tattooed across the back of a U.S. army veteran who recently returned to Iraq and joined a Christian militia fighting ISIS in what he sees as a biblical war between good and evil.
Brett, 28, carries the same thumb-worn pocket Bible he did whilst deployed to Iraq in 2006 - a picture of the Virgin Mary tucked inside its pages and his favorite verses highlighted.
“It’s very different,” he said, asked how the experiences compared. “Here I’m fighting for a people and for a faith, and the enemy is much bigger and more brutal.”
Thousands of foreigners have flocked to Iraq and Syria in the past two years, mostly to join ISIS, but a handful of idealistic Westerners are enlisting as well, citing frustration their governments are not doing more to combat the ultra-radical Islamists or prevent the suffering of innocents.
The militia they joined is called Dwekh Nawsha - meaning self-sacrifice in the ancient Aramaic language spoken by Christ and still used by Assyrian Christians, who consider themselves the indigenous people of Iraq.
A map on the wall in the office of the Assyrian political party affiliated with Dwekh Nawsha marks the Christian towns in northern Iraq, fanning out around the city of Mosul.
The majority are now under control of ISIS, which overran Mosul last summer and issued am ultimatum to Christians: pay a tax, convert to Islam, or die by the sword. Most fled.
Dwekh Nawsha operates alongside Kurdish peshmerga forces to protect Christian villages on the frontline in Nineveh province.
“These are some of the only towns in Nineveh where church bells ring. In every other town the bells have gone silent, and that’s unacceptable,” said Brett, who has “The King of Nineveh” written in Arabic on the front of his army vest.
Brett, who like other foreign volunteers withheld his last name out of concern for his family's safety, is the only one to have engaged in fighting so far.
The others, who arrived just last week, were turned back from the frontline on Friday by Kurdish security services who said they needed official authorization.
نستخدم ملفات الكوكيز لنسهل عليك استخدام مواقعنا الإلكترونية ونكيف المحتوى والإعلانات وفقا لمتطلباتك واحتياجاتك الخاصة، لتوفير ميزات وسائل التواصل الاجتماعية ولتحليل حركة المرور لدينا...اعرف أكثر