The British fighter killed in Syria

Sister in arms: Anna Campbell was 26 and trained as a plumber before going to Syria.

Is Anna Campbell a hero? The British civilian was killed in Syria after joining the fight against ISIS. Her father praised a “loving daughter” who devoted her life to fighting injustice.

One day when Anna Campbell was 11 years old, she saw some classmates tormenting a tiny bumblebee. She immediately stepped in to protect the creature — something her father says she was “ridiculed” for. Nonetheless, he claims this determination to fight injustice and “create a better world” stayed with her.

From May last year, she volunteered to fight for the YPJ, a Kurdish militia embroiled in the brutal war against ISIS.

Recently the fighting intensified, as Turkey — which views Campbell’s Kurdish comrades as terrorists — began a brutal bombardment against them in northern Syria.

And just a few days ago she was killed when a Turkish missile hit her convoy. She is the first British female fighter to die with Kurdish forces in Syria.

Yesterday, in an emotional interview her father paid tribute to his daughter who “would go to any lengths to create the world that she believed in”. He also described her as “very idealistic”.

Such idealism has long been a potent force, and Campbell joins an historic line of British civilians who have risked their lives for foreign causes. For example, during the Spanish Civil War, thousands of Britons fought against the rise of fascism.

But is Anna Campbell a hero?

Freedom fighter

Of course, some argue. If we all had the sense of justice that Campbell had, the world would be a much better place. It is only through idealism and imagining a better world that positive change happens. That she fought to make her vision a reality clearly makes a hero.

We must choose our words carefully, others respond. Whilst her personal qualities are to be admired, we must not uncritically laud the decisions she made — decisions which ultimately lead to her death. To do so would be to encourage other idealistic young people down a similarly deadly path.

You Decide

  1. Is it right for UK citizens to fight in foreign wars?

Activities

  1. According to her father, Anna Campbell went to fight in Syria because she wanted to help change the world for the better. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be? Share your ideas with your class. Do you think your aim is realistic? How would you go about achieving it?

Some People Say...

“Better to fight for something than live for nothing.”

George S. Patton

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Anna Campbell is the eighth British fighter to die in Syria whilst fighting for the Kurds. The force she was fighting for, the YPJ/YPG, are part of a US backed coalition which was assembled to fight ISIS.
What do we not know?
Britons fighting in Syria face uncertainty when they return to the UK. Police have warned that anyone joining the fight may be charged with terror offences.

Word Watch

YPJ
The Women’s Protection Unit — an all-female militia linked to the main Kurdish force in Syria, the YPG (People’s Protection Units).
ISIS
ISIS is now largely defeated in Syria. A key turning point was the fall of their final stronghold, the city of Raqqa.
Terrorists
Turkey claim that the YPJ/YPG are controlled by the PKK — a Kurdish group it designates as a terrorist organisation (a designation shared by NATO and the US). Turkey is currently fighting a PKK insurgency within its own borders.
Idealistic
Unrealistically aiming for perfection.