A 25-year-old Chinese man has become the first citizen in his country to join the fight against ISIS.
Pan Yang is from a family of farmers in the Sichuan Province of southwestern China. This past September, he traveled to Syria, Turkey and Lebanon to join Kurdish militia Popular Protection Units in their fight against ISIS, which he said “has taken so many innocent lives.” He’s been documenting his newfound life on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.
According to Pan’s Weibo account, he wanted to do “something meaningful” after he could not find regular work in China and his girlfriend had broken up with him.
“People should do interesting things … For me, what I can do is pick up a gun and go to war,” Pan told BBC China.
Pan speaks neither English or Arabic, so he’s only able to communicate with his fellow soldiers using an electronic dictionary.
Shortly after his appearance on BBC, Pan made a Weibo post stating his regret for the interview because it might put Chinese people in the Middle East in danger.
“I think I’ve done a really stupid thing,” he wrote. “If I live or die matters not.”
He added: “There are lots of compatriots in Iraq and the Middle East. I don’t want revenge carried out against them because of me. I’m sorry. My head really hurts. I don’t want to see innocent people hurt because of me.”
Pan’s family went to the local press to urge their son to come home.
“Come home quickly,” his sister Pan Xiaolan said.
Pan said that he was inspired by Huang Lei, a 23-year-old British-Chinese man who joined Kurdish forces against ISIS in March.
Last month, ISIS executed a Chinese hostage, prompting Chinese President Xi Jinping to condemn the terrorist group.