The shocking tragedy of the war in Syria suddenly came home to us all here recently in the small town of Lewes in East Sussex, when we heard the news that Anna Campbell, the 26 year old daughter of a Lewes friend had been killed in a Turkish attack on the all-female Kurdish YPJ in Afrin, Syria. Anna had joined the YPJ because she believed in their ideals and wanted to fight ISIS. Her father Dirk said that she was ‘very idealistic and determined’. The British and Americans have been supporting the YPG in their fight against ISIS, but as Dirk wrote recently: ‘The most scandalous injustice of all this is that the Syrian Kurds, until yesterday, were the faithful allies of the West in fighting against Islamic State. They were supported by Britain and the USA and supplied with weapons. They did our job. They attacked IS, defeated them and rendered them ineffective. Our message to them? ‘Thanks. You have done our work for us. We now leave you to the tender mercies of the Turkish army, furnished with the high tech weapons we have sold them.’ Yes. My daughter was killed by British-made weapons, in the hands of Turks, trained by British military experts.’
War is a disgusting immoral business – and I mean business. While supplying arms to the Kurds we have quite happily been supplying arms to the tune of £330 million to the repressive regime of Turkey, regardless of whom they kill – just as we continue to supply arms to Saudi Arabia despite its appalling human rights record and its bombing of men women and children in Yemen.
Dirk has written a powerful article about his daughter and the Rojava Project, which she believed in. Read it here. And Dirk has a message for anyone touched by Anna’s death, which I will pass on here:
Most of the people who have contacted me to offer condolences have asked, as one does, if there is anything they can do to help. Actually there is one thing that everyone can do to help: support Anna’s cause, i.e. the Rojava cause, by emailing your MP. You may think that this is a waste of time, but it’s not if enough people do it. A single email by my sister to her MP in Ealing resulted in a direct question to Boris Johnson, who is now aware from several sources of the strength of feeling about Anna’s death and the Turkish attempt to wipe out Rojava.
So email your MP. Ask why the UK government is doing nothing to prevent the Turks invading Syria and displacing and massacring the Kurds who are the UK’s allies in defeating Islamic State. Tell your MP that the Syrian Kurds are not terrorists, as the Turks claim, and do not pose a threat to Turkey or Turkey’s territorial integrity. The Syrian Kurds are successfully modelling a new society based on the values of feminism, ethnic inclusivity and environmentalism which, if it were allowed to survive, could provide a solution to all the ethnic rivalries and tensions that have been tearing the middle East apart for decades.
Make the point that if Western governments give Turkey the green light to stamp out the Syrian Kurds and their hopeful project, it is likely that Islamic fundamentalism and war in the middle East will go on indefinitely, with all that means in terms of refugees and security issues for the West.
Remind your MP that the Kurds don’t want to leave their homeland to come here. They don’t want to put their children in flimsy dinghies and risk drowning on the open sea. They don’t want to live in internment camps. They would prefer to live safely and prosperously where they are, and it is the non-violent, inclusive society that is being modelled in northern Syria (Rojava) that offers them the best hope of doing that. Inform your MP that the protection units of the YPG/YPJ only exist for the defence of Rojava. The clue is in the name – ‘protection’. There is no aggressive intention behind the formation of these units, only the need to defend against aggression.
Lastly, ask your MP if they think that British sales to Turkey of weapons and training, with the death and displacement of thousands that follow as a direct result, are worth the economic value to the UK that those sales provide.
One more thing: a fund has been set up by a family friend in Anna’s name to support the victims of the Turkish invasion in Northern Syria via a local charity. If you would like to donate to this fund go to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/annacampbell