British woman killed fighting Turkish forces in Afrin

Anna Campbell, 26, from southern England, is thought to be the first British woman to die while assisting Kurdish forces in Syria

This undated photo provided by The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) a Syrian Kurdish militia, shows Anna Campbell, 26, a British citizen who was a fighter with the Kurdish female militia known as YPJ, who was killed March 15, 2018 by a Turkish airstrike in Afrin, north Syria. (YPG Syrian Kurdish militia via AP)
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A British woman was killed while fighting with Kurdish forces in Afrin, Syria, reportedly when the convoy she was travelling in was struck by a Turkish missile.

Anna Campbell, a 26-year-old from Lewes, East Sussex, died on March 15 while volunteering with the US-backed Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) in the besieged city.

Ms Campbell initially travelled to Syria in May last year to join the Kurdish fight against ISIL. She is thought to have spent her first months in the country fighting in the ISIL stronghold of Deir Ezzor.

But after Turkey began a major offensive against the Kurds along the northern Syrian border in January, many Kurdish fighters left the fight against ISIL to go to the Afrin front and some British volunteers, including Ms Campbell, are believed to have joined them.


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Her father Dirk Campbell told the BBC: "She wanted to create a better world and she would do everything in her power to do that."

He added: "I told her of course that she was putting her life in danger, which she knew full well she was doing. I feel I should have done more to persuade her to come back, but she was completely adamant."

According to Mr Campbell, his daughter’s Kurdish comrades tried to prevent her from going to Afrin.

"With fair hair and blue eyes they knew she would stand out, but she dyed her hair black and persuaded them to let her go," he said.

He added: "I contacted my MP Maria Caulfield as soon as I knew she was in danger from the Turkish bombardment.

"I emailed my MP and said my daughter is in danger, you have to get on to the Foreign Office and get them to put pressure on Turkey to stop."

He said he only heard about his daughter’s death on Sunday, and said he was “in pieces”.

The YPJ, with whom Ms Campbell was fighting, is the women's wing of the Kurdish militia known as the YPG. Both have received widespread media attention in recent years for their efforts in the battle against ISIL.

The group claim to have recruited some 15,000 women to their ranks in recent years, both Syrian Kurds and foreign fighters such as Ms Campbell. She is the eighth British citizen to die while fighting for the group.

Last month, former British Army soldier James Matthews, who had fought with the YPG in Syria, was charged with terror offences in the UK. It was the first such case of a Kurdish militia member being charged in the UK.

YPJ commander and spokeswoman Nesrin Abdullah described Ms Campbell's death as a "great loss".

In a statement she said: "Campbell's martyrdom is a great loss to us because with her international soul, her revolutionary spirit, which demonstrated the power of women, she expressed her will in all her actions.

"On behalf of the Women's Defence Units YPJ, we express our deepest condolences to [her] family and we promise to follow the path she took up. We will represent her in the entirety of our struggles."

The news of Campbell’s death came as Syria’s civil war entered its eighth year last week, with heavy fighting on two fronts – around Afrin and in the rebel enclave of eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

On Sunday, Turkey's flag was flying in Afrin after its troops and Ankara-backed rebels chased out Kurdish militia forces to seize control of the Syrian city.

Up to 250,000 civilians are reported to have fled Afrin in recent days after Turkish-backed fighters took the surrounding region and all but encircled the city.