British woman killed fighting for all-female Kurdish militia in Syria

Anna Campbell was killed by Turkish air strikes in the city of Afrin, father says 

Anna Campbell, 26, from Lewes in East Sussex, 'wanted to create a better world and she would do everything in her power to do that', her father says
Anna Campbell, 26, from Lewes in East Sussex, 'wanted to create a better world and she would do everything in her power to do that', her father says

A British woman killed fighting with an all-female Kurdish militia in Syria has been hailed as “incredibly principled, brave, determined and committed” by her devastated father.

Anna Campbell is believed to have been killed by a Turkish air strike in Afrin on 15 March, days before the city was seized by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s forces.

She is the first British woman killed while volunteering with anti-Isis forces, following the deaths of seven men from the UK.

Friends of the 26-year-old, from Lewes in East Sussex, said she begged commanders of the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) to send her to the front against Turkey.

A spokesperson for the YPJ said she could not "accept the Turkish state's attack" and insisted on fighting in Afrin.

"Despite great difficulties, she was determined to be on the side of her comrades," a statement said. "She arrived in Afrin with unshakeable determination. She participated on the frontlines, along with her comrades-in-arms. On 15 March, when [Turkish forces] engaged in aerial attacks, together with three of her comrades, she joined the immortal martyrs."

The YPG quoted Ms Campbell comparing Turkish forces with Isis, saying both groups "share the same mentality".

In a video recorded before heading to the front, Ms Campbell said she was "excited to go and join so many brave friends" and fight in the memory of those previously killed.

Ms Campbell’s father said she “wanted to create a better world”.

"I told her of course that she was putting her life in danger, which she knew full well she was doing,” Dirk Campbell told the BBC.

“In retrospect I think that I probably should have done more to dissuade her [from going to Syria] but I also knew that she would never have forgiven me if I had actively prevented her from going.”

Ms Campbell joined the YPJ to support its fight against Isis in May last year and later “insisted” on joining her comrades fighting against Turkey in Afrin.

Her father said commanders tried to stop her going to the frontline, amid accusations of indiscriminate bombardment and war crimes, but she died her blonde hair black to blend in and persuaded them to let her go.

Mr Campbell said the death of his "incredibly principled, brave, determined, committe" daughter had left him in pieces.

"She was determined to live in a way that made a difference to the world and she was determined to act on that and do whatever it took," he added.

"She was prepared to put her life on the line…it was the most important thing in life for her."

Mark Campbell, co-chair of the Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign, said Ms Campbell “seemed to have more humanity in her little finger than the whole of the international community”.

"She is an inspiration and a hero,” he added, saying she was killed alongside two Kurdish women in Turkish air strikes.

The Internationalist Commune of Rojava, a Kurdish group based in Northern Syria, said Ms Campbell was given the Kurdish war name Helîn Qerecox.

“We will always remember her brave and unbreakable spirit of resistance,” a spokesperson said.

Ms Campbell voiced a video released by the group to coincide with the G20 summit in Hamburg in June.

In it, she described member states as “a world of patriarchal oppression, of spying and brutal exploitation”.

"Our quest for a different world brought us to the liberated territories of the Middle East,” Ms Campbell said.

"The revolution in Rojava [northern Syria] today embodies the spirit of resistance against their malicious world…part of the worldwide fight of the oppressed against the reign of state, capital and patriarchy.”

Footage reportedly shows Turkey-backed Syrian fighters celebrating in Afrin

A vigil “to remember the bravery and courage of Anna Campbell” was planned at the historic Cliffe Bridge in Lewes at 6pm on Monday.

The YPJ is an all-female brigade of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) which has around 50,000 troops fighting in northern Syria.

On Sunday, Turkey's President said his forces and Syrian rebel allies had raised their flags in the centre of Afrin, nearly two months after launching an offensive on the Kurdish-held territory.

The advance into northern Syria has sparked diplomatic tensions and protests around the world but Mr Erdogan has insisted Turkey is entitled to push Kurdish militias Ankara views as terrorist groups back from its border.

It came days after the YPG announced the death of an American volunteer, Jake Klipsch, “as the result of an unfortunate accident while cleaning his weapon” in Raqqa.

Ms Campbell is believed to be the eighth British volunteer killed while embedded with the Kurdish YPG in Syria

Oliver Hall and Jac Holmes, both 24, were killed within weeks of each other while clearing mines in Isis’ former capital of Raqqa late last year.

Jac Holmes, a 24-year-old YPG volunteer from Bournemouth, has died in Raqqa

Mehmet Aksoy, a 32-year-old filmmaker, was also killed in an Isis ambush during the battle to retake the city in September.

Luke Rutter, 22, died in the Raqqa offensive in July and 20-year-old Ryan Lock was killed in the advance in December 2016.

Dean Evans, 22, died while fighting to retake the city of Manbij from Isis in July 2016 and former Royal Marine Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, was killed in battle in 2015.

Two British men who travelled to Syria to fight against Isis – Aidan James and James Matthews – have been charged with terror offences after returning to Britain.

The YPG is considered a terrorist organisation by the Turkish government and is battling to retain territory taken from Isis in northern Syria amid a huge air and ground advance by Ankara-backed forces.

The dozens of British volunteers believed to be fighting for the group are vastly outnumbered by around 850 extremists who travelled from the UK to join Isis.

Around half have returned to Britain and an unknown number have been killed amid the destruction of Isis’ former “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.

“The UK advises against all travel to Syria and we are unable to provide any consular assistance there,“ a spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.

”It is extremely difficult to confirm the status and whereabouts of British nationals in Syria and anybody who travels to Syria against our advice is putting themselves at considerable risk, particularly if they travel to join an armed group.

“We urge strongly against any participation in this kind of activity.”

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