Joining the YPG, Fighting Islamic State
Handout Martyrdom poster of Nazzareno Tassone, a Canadian, released by the YPG militia on Tuesday
". . . [May 2016] Starting the process to try and get over there [Syria]."
" . . . Officially cleared to go by the YPG. [Not informing family] they would have a heart attack."
"More than a bit scared that's for sure. . . Funds are just sketchy right now We don't get paid 'cause that would be illegal."
"If people don't do something then those pigs are gonna run free and it's just a matter of time till something really really bad happens."
"[July 11] They [Turkish war jets] hit us for four hours. Sorry about that [interruption in communication]. ISIS decided to make sure we were awake."
"[July 13] Lost a friend last night. Just after I got off guard. Suicide bomber from what I was told. He was [a] good guy. Not sure what to feel. Just numb."
"[September: In Manjib taking the city from ISIL], a turning point. Seen a lot of shit here already. But what I've seen has made me truly realize . . . we have to win."
"[October 1] Hoping to get a new weapon. Looks like we might be going on another big offensive."
"Fractured my toe and the guy in front of me is dead [December 6]."
"Leaving in two days for Raqqah so probably be gone for another two months. Worried about this one my friend. It's going . . . bad."
Nazzareno Tassone, Canadian fighting with Kurdish YPG militia in Syria
|Handout Nazzareno Tassone, left, with Ryan Lock. Both were killed in Syria on Dec. 21, according to the Kurdish YPG|
Raqqah was where fighting with Kurdish forces against Islamic Syate of Iraq and the Levant, the premonition that young Nazzareno Tassone felt, became reality on December 21. He had planned to return to Canada for a brief rest, before returning again to Syria. His rest has become permanent. His family would like to retrieve his body for burial and ISIL, holding his body along with that of a British YPG recruit, Ryan Lock, and other fellow Kurdish fighters would like to extract a ransom for the exchange.
The messages above were sent to a friend in Canada whom he kept informed of his movements and his experiences in Syria. His friend, Mike Webster, knew that Tassone was anxious to possess some body armour, and was in fact in the process of trying to get funding to him so he could acquire an armour plate for his combat vest. And then it was discovered that it was too late.
Nazzareno Tassone, 24, no longer had need of that armour plate.
Back in the spring of 2016, he had managed to make contact with a YPG recruiter to begin the process of accepting him as a volunteer fighter so he could plan his travel itinerary. He kept his intentions from his family knowing how that knowledge would upset them at the thought of his placing himself in such danger in a deadly war zone. He ventilated his concerns to his friend, a former reservist.
Before leaving for Syria, he sold his Lee Enfield rifle for cash. He was in need of funding, but he felt compelled to go, regardless. In June he travelled to Istanbul and from there flew on to Iraq. His first message to his friend back in Canada was on July 11, when he described the situation there as "bloody. Extremely". But he had been given a Kalashnikov rifle to use. He needed body armour but hadn't the funding for it.
His group was attacked while in the mountains by Turkish jets. And two days later he wrote that one of his friends was dead. Then, on July 30 he wrote to his friend that an American and a British fighter with the YPG had been killed in the past two weeks when ISIL blew up a fuel truck beside a YPG base. Still, he felt from his perspective that ISIL was losing ground.
And then in mid-August Manbij was taken from Islamic State by the YPG. Two weeks later Nazzareno was back from the front, with the YPG within 45 kilometres of Raqqah. He was still using the AK rifle provided to him, but it was a 1939 bolt-action rifle he mostly used. Turkey's assaults concerned him. Turkish bombing of the YPG convinced him that it was working alongside ISIL.
He was also worried, he said, that if his unit was attacked again by Turkish forces he would be forced to fight back, and against a member of NATO, a situation he felt might impact the neutrality with which fighters like him were viewed in Canada. "It's a predicament", he wrote to his friend. By this time he was an RPG gunner, still without armour for his combat vest.
His personal concerns were ended two weeks later. ISIL's propaganda instrument Amaq posted photographs of two Westerners killed by ISIL attacks in a village just west of Raqqah; one of Nazzareno, the other of British volunteer Ryan Lock.