SURUC, Turkey — At the age of 22, Delkhwaz Sheikh Ahmad has become a battle-hardened father of two, fighting against an ever increasing array of groups embroiled in Syria's multi-faceted civil war.
A conscript serving his military service in Syrian President Bashar Assad's army when the Syrian revolution broke out in 2011, the Syrian Kurdish teenager at the time was seriously wounded in Daraa — where the revolution began — while fighting the rebels in July that year. The bullet that hit him narrowly missed his heart, and he was sent to his home village of Metina to recover.
There, he joined a local self-defense force protecting the village — and ended up fighting against four separate rebel groups: the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, the Raqqa Brigade and, lastly, the Islamic State group. In one of the twists of this multi-sided war, his militia eventually joined the main Kurdish militia, the People's Protection Units, also known as YPG which joined forces with the Raqqa Brigade against IS.
He lost two cousins and many of his friends in battles across the region.
Sheikh Ahmad says that as IS got closer in mid-September, he evacuated his family — his 23-year-old wife Siham and their two sons: 2-year-old Dilyar and 3-year-old Ibrahim — to Turkey. They now live with his brother in Suruc, a town just across the border in Turkey.
But he stayed behind, to defend the strategic Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, along the border with Turkey.
"We just want to defend our lands, our towns, our villages, where Kurdish people are," he said.
Every few weeks, he takes a couple of days to cross the border into Turkey to visit his family. But the crossing isn't always open, in either direction. Now, he's trying to get back into Syria, along with several other fighters, to defend Kobani.
"It is hard, but we will get back in because our friends are there. We have to get inside, even if there is hardship, we will get inside."