Recent months have seen an upsurge in the media coverage of the rise of terrorist group that calls itself Islamic State and the continuing threat they pose to Iraq, Syria and surrounding Middle Eastern countries. Our televisions and twitter-feeds have been flooded with images, videos and trends linking us to the latest from an organisation who are keen users of social media as a means of establishing themselves with explicit beheadings, gun battles and the executions of their captives.
While Western politicians seem to be fumbling for ideas in their approach to the Islamic State, others have wasted no time in responding to calls for help from the refugees and the locals caught up in the crossfire. Two weeks ago, members of a Dutch motorcycle club took it upon themselves to travel to Iraq and join Kurdish fighters against ISIS. Themselves using social media to announce an arrival, they posted on twitter that the members of the No Surrender Banditos where indeed taking up arms with the Kurdish.
This photo, reportedly taken near the city of Mosul in northern Iraq (the second city to have been seized under ISIS control earlier this year) shows biker ‘Ron’ (right) together with a Kurdish fighter and some Kalashnikovs as proof of the alliance.
It also seems the members from the club have indirect support from their homeland. A spokesperson from the Public Prosecutor in the Holland has stated that “joining a foreign armed force was previously punishable, now it's no longer forbidden…You just can’t join a fight against the Netherlands,” ultimately giving the all clear for bikers to take the fight to the Islamic State if they wish.
The Empire Strikes Back
Since then, reports have emerged that other biker outfits are following suit, notably the Median Empire Motorcycle Club based in Germany. They recently posted a picture of their members allegedly in the city of Kobane in Syria, along the Turkish border, sporting assault rifles and distinctive leather jackets.
A comment from their Facebook page states “Our boys are at the front lines, fighting the Islamic State,” as well as contributing to an aid campaign for the locals of the area. The photos posted on the page are supplemented with a live battle updates, 'Our boys were in Kobane today and told me they were shot at but nothing happened to them. They are okay.’ The bikers in this particular club perhaps have a more personal vendetta against the jilhadists, given that a significant section of its membership are Kurdish and so their efforts to support the local Kurds, both in aid and on a fighting front, are personal.
The German Public Prosecution have not yet revealed their stance to this, unlike the Dutch, and whether they are simply turning a blind eye with a reluctance to comment, it is clear that the events in the Middle East are stirring reactions within various European subcultures. A response of both humanitarian aid and physical resistance is being implemented in the shadow of political inaction. The coming days and weeks are sure to tell just how effective this kind of action is against the Islamic State.