SURUÇ, Turkey—He gazes at the photograph of his daughter Evan on his cellphone as he offers to let me look. She is 18 years old with long dark wavy hair. It isn’t a snapshot but a more formally posed picture. The girl has lively eyes, a pleasant smile. It was taken shortly before she left a note for her parents telling them she was crossing the border into Syria to join the Kurdish defense militia, the YPG. That was six months ago and last week she contacted him and explained she was fighting the militants of the Islamic State in the besieged town of Kobani.
There is both sadness and pride in her father’s eyes. Ali, a 47-year-old shepherd and father of ten from a nearby village, says, “She is greater than me. I can’t be like her. I have not reached her level of commitment.”