A British citizen who was fighting on behalf of the Syrian Democratic Forces, under the YPJ, has been confirmed killed in Afrin by Turkish military forces. Anna Campbell was part of the all female YPJ militia and one of several foreign volunteer fighters to be killed during Operation Olive Branch since it’s start in January. Campbell, age 26, traveled to Syria from her home in East Sussex in 2017 to join the Kurdish people in the fight against the Islamic State. She was killed when her convoy was targeted by a Turkish airstrike on March 16th.
Sections of the SDF’s YPG and YPJ halted their anti-Islamic State operations in the Syrian region of Rojava to shift their forces’ focus on combating Turkish military aggression. Clashes between the two have been consistent since the start of the Turkish incursion and eventual capture of Afrin city center. Campbell went by the Kurdish alias, Helîn Qerecox; all foreign fighters receive a Kurdish name to go by when they join the YPG/YPJ. She is the eighth United Kingdom citizen to die fighting alongside Kurdish military forces.
Her father confirmed the loss and spoke of his daughter highly in a BBC interview, “She wanted to create a better world and she would do everything in her power to do that. 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.” The Kurdish administration is currently making efforts to expatriate Campbell’s remains to the UK for burial/memorial services.
Turkish soldiers alongside Free Syrian Army militias entered Afrin on Sunday and quickly gained control of the area, forcing the SDF to retreat. Turkish President Erdogan claimed that Operation Olive Branch was launched in an effort to combat a “terror corridor” running along the Turkish border but it has quickly devolved into a land grab laden with civilian casualties. The “terror” he refers to is the PKK, a group with close ties to the YPG although the YPG downplays those ties. The YPG have denied the loss of Afrin and are insisting that their forces have begun an insurgency that will strike at Turkish forces despite their occupation. Guerrilla warfare is something the YPG is all too familiar with as the PKK have been using the tactic against the Turkish military for quite some time now.
Photo Courtesy of the YPJ