One man got inside the heads of ISIS fighters, literally and figuratively, throughout the months-long Siege of Kobani. He was called Heval Hardem, a.k.a.: “Musa the Sniper.”
“I walked for miles once just to kill a single ISIS fighter,” Musa told Kurdish media. “Before and after killing them, I knew who the ISIS fighters were and could identify them by the bullet.”
The bullet came from Musa’s signature weapon, a Russian-made Dragunov rifle, which gave him a deadly range of 400 meters.
“I killed one with a bullet to the head while he was trying to run away,” he once boasted to the Daily Mail. “The others were easier because they could not run very fast.”
26 year-old Musa the Sniper was born in Iran (or “Eastern Kurdistan”) and joined the Syrian Kurdish YPG three years ago. He fought in Kobani from the first day until the last, training others to be snipers when he wasn’t protecting Kurdish fighters on the ground. He was an essential part of the Kurdish fight against Daesh (what the Arabs call ISIS, an acronym of the group’s name in Arabic, which means “a bigot who imposes his views on others”) in Kobani. For four months, he moved continually from ruined house to ruined house house in the city, providing cover and killing as many enemy fighters as possible.
In September 2014, ISIS fighters captured 350 Kurdish villages in the Northern Syrian area of Rojava, an area claimed by the Kurds since the start of the Syrian Civil War. The main city they captured was Kobani, a small city on the Turkish border. When the siege of Kobani picked up a lot of attention in the West, ISIS poured thousands of fighters into the area in an effort to show their superiority. Instead it became an example of tactical blunder, due mainly to the efforts of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to push ISIS from the town. American air strikes with aid from the Iraqi Peshmerga and Free Syrian Army helped dislodge ISIS. The biggest morale booster to the YPG fighters in Kobani, however, was Musa the Sniper.
Musa is credited with hundreds of kills in Kobani alone. He was himself killed earlier this year in the Kobani region. An Italian volunteer for the Kurdish International Brigade of Rojava, a unit comprised of Western volunteers who are fighting ISIS in Syria, penned a memorial to Musa. In it, the Italian who identified himself as “Marcello” wrote the following:
In the city when we were few and DAESH [sic] was occupying most of the buildings, the sniper was king. The Chechen snipers limited the movement of comrades and caused many of them to fall martyrs. These were highly paid mercenaries coming from abroad to destroy us.
We could not even raise our heads with the fear of being struck by sniper fire. Then Hardem came. At that moment ‘Musa the sniper’ of Kobanê was born to strike back fear in waylyers’ hearts’.
If the snipers were kings in Kobanê, then Hardem was the Emperor. Every time a problem came up, Heval Hardem was the man to call first. He would fight day and night, and after a while DAESH learned about his feat. No Chechen sniper could defeat him, many of us are alive because of him.
If ever a true hero was born, that’s Hardem. Hero of Kobanê.