A young Chinese man has become the first citizen of his country known to have traveled to Syria to fight with the Kurds against Islamic State, a newspaper said on Thursday, running an interview with his sister who called for him to come home.
Pan Yang, from a farming family from a mountainous area in the southern Sichuan province, went to Syria via Thailand, Turkey and Lebanon sometime around September and ended up fighting with a Kurdish militia, the Huaxi Metropolitan Daily said on its site.
Pan’s elderly parents had no idea where Syria is, nor what Islamic State is, his sister, Pan Xiaolan, told the newspaper, expressing worry for his safety.
“Come home quickly,” the paper quoted her as saying.
Pan Yang told the BBC’s Chinese language site last week that he was fighting with a Kurdish militia called the People’s Protection Units, or YPG.
Pan wrote on his social media account late on Wednesday that he regretted talking to the BBC, saying it could cause Islamic State to target Chinese people in the Middle East.
“I think I’ve done a really stupid thing,” he wrote.
“If I live or die matters not,” Pan said, adding that Islamic State also monitored the BBC.
“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 account also features pictures of him holding weapons, including rocket launchers.
China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Chinese government says some Uighurs, a mainly Muslim people from China’s violence-prone far western region of Xinjiang, have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight with terrorist groups there.
Last month, Islamic State said it had killed a Chinese hostage, prompting outrage in Beijing.
The BBC said Pan was inspired by the story of a British Chinese person who had joined a Kurdish group fighting Islamic State.
“People should do interesting things… For me, what I can do is pick up a gun and go to war,” he told the BBC.