Hassan is a 27-year-old father of four who works at a grocery store in the village of Charkhiya, north of Aleppo.
He was born in the Syrian city of Aleppo to a Palestinian father and a Lebanese mother and lived there for seven years.
His father was killed by the Syrian government and he was born out of wedlock.
When Hassan left Aleppo for the Kurdish-majority northern province of Rojava in July 2017, he joined the local Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), a Kurdish militia group that fights against the Islamic State group (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
After the group was formed, Hassan went on to fight with the YPG, a Kurdish-led Syrian opposition militia that includes a small number of members from the PMU.
He says that the PMUs, which are not recognized by any country and whose leaders are mostly drawn from the ethnic Kurdish community, are the only fighting force in Rojava that does not follow a military strategy of “liberation” and is fighting against IS.
In Rojava, he says, the main threat to his life is the “foreign army” who want to “occupy” the area.
“If they [foreign forces] want to enter the area, we will fight them,” Hassan said.
In the first few months of 2017, the PMUS and the YPG fought each other in a civil war that began in 2013 and ended in an agreement in 2018.
The YPG, which has a presence in northern Syria and in northern Iraq, has been fighting the Assad regime in the north for more than two years.
In the first half of 2018, the Syrian regime and the Kurdish YPG signed an agreement for an alliance.
Since then, the YPG and the PMS have engaged in combat in the area between the two sides.
Hassan says that during the battle for Charkhihya, the Assad forces and the rebels were targeting the village because they believed the village to be a front for the international coalition against IS and to be the center of smuggling and the trafficking of weapons from Syria into Turkey.
The PMU, he said, is trying to defend the village and its residents.
The YPG is the largest militia in the region, and it is the only one that is in the Kurdish region.
Hassam is part of a small, local group of fighters in the PM unit, known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
“We are doing what we are doing because it is necessary for us,” he said.
“If the international forces withdraw from Rojava [in 2020], there will be no government.
The only way to survive is to defend our people.
We are ready to die for the people.”