British woman dies fighting with Kurds

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)
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)

A British woman who died fighting with a Kurdish armed unit in Syria has been described as an “inspiration” and a “hero”.

Anna Campbell is the first British woman, and the eighth Briton so far, to have been killed in Syria while working with Kurdish forces.

The 26-year-old, from Lewes, East Sussex, died in Afrin on March 15 while fighting with the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), her father, Dirk Campbell, said.

It is feared she was killed by Turkish air strikes.

Speaking to the Press Association, Mark Campbell, co-chairman of the Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign, said: “Anna is a woman who seemed to have more humanity in her little finger than the whole of the international community.

“She is an inspiration and a hero.”

He said Ms Campbell, who is no relation to him, was killed alongside two Kurdish women amid the air strikes.

He added: “I did not know her but I met with her father this morning. I have the utmost respect and condolences for her family.”

Ms Campbell’s father told the BBC his daughter “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.”

The YPJ is an all-female brigade of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units YPG, which has around 50,000 Kurdish men and women fighting against Islamic State in northern Syria.

Mr Campbell told the BBC he understands his daughter joined her Kurdish comrades when they left the fight against IS to defend Afrin from Turkish forces.

In a statement to the Guardian, YPJ commander and spokeswoman Nesrin Abdullah said Ms Campbell’s death was a “great loss”.

Conflict between Turkey and Kurdish groups has been inflamed since January.

Over the weekend, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the country’s military had captured the town centre of Afrin, which was previously controlled by the YPG.

Mr Campbell said his daughter was an “incredibly principled, brave, determined, committed woman” whose death 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 told the BBC.

“She was prepared to put her life on the line. There aren’t many people who do that.

“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.”