The first British female fighter to join the battle against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria says UK intelligence agency MI5 is targeting her family, who are now “afraid for their own safety.”
Kimberley Taylor, 27, has been fighting alongside the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), an all-female affiliate of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), in Syrian Kurdistan. She is part of the ‘Rojava revolution’, a left-wing Kurdish movement in northern Syria.
Taylor, from Liverpool, claims her mother, father, stepfather and sister have been visited by counterterrorism police at their homes in Prescot and Chorley.
Their laptops and phones were confiscated and have still not been returned, a month after they were seized, says Taylor, who also goes by the name Zilan Dilmar.
“One month later, [police] still haven’t been given anything back. This means that we haven’t been able to have contact for all this time and their stress levels about my safety must be sky high,” she told the BBC.
“My family are now not only afraid for my safety … they are now also afraid for their own safety from the British establishment, which they do not see the reasons or aims behind,” Taylor, a former University of Liverpool math student, added.
“Their actions aren’t justified at all. The British establishment are playing political games. This is not about controlling terrorist threats, this is about frightening people who want to change for the world and Britain too.”
A government spokesperson said those who travel abroad in order to participate in conflicts could face prosecution when they return to the UK.
The Metropolitan Police has warned that anyone who travel to Syria to fight could be arrested and questioned when they return. The Home Office said it could not comment on police operations.
Taylor traveled to the front line in October and is involved in the push towards Raqqa, IS’s de facto capital in Syria. As part of the YPJ’s combat media team, her primary job is to record the militia’s operations, write battle reports and take photos of the action.
It all began in Athens, Greece, in November 2013. My first introduction to people fleeing the Syrian civil war. As they sat with me, sincerity in their eyes, telling their personal stories of tragedy, fear, and loss, the reality of the war was brought to life for me. There was no question in my mind how I would deal with their current situation; an EU deal forcing the border’s of Greece to keep tightly shut, making impossible any advance towards a country providing the right to asylum. Our trips through Europe towards Sweden were the most difficult I’ve ever made; frustration hit it’s peak countless times, the loss of hope drained us, but the victories made us cry with joy. I am forever grateful for those experiences, but I knew this kind of help was unsustainable and didn’t solve the problems at their routes.
In August 2015, my trip along the border of Syria, in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, tore apart my heart at the conditions refugees from Syria and southern Iraq were living under. The lack of food, medicine, shelter, would have been hard enough for any human to endure. But add to this the psychological side of life: families had been torn apart and killed by the Syrian regime; killed, tortured, kidnapped, and raped by ISIS – many still had their daughters in the hands of ISIS, who are forced to be sex slaves as young as 5 years old, many still had their sons in the hands of ISIS, who are forced to be human shields in their dirty war. Then as refugees, their continued lives are determined every day by the constant worry of being able to provide for their families, which they could not. I remember my feelings of guilt and frustration when mothers outstretched their arms, holding their babies towards me, begging me to take their child to a better life, one not of desperation but of opportunity and hope. I vowed after this trip to dedicate my life to their cause.
The closest options available to a fleeing person is now filled with a rapid growth of fascism, creating further instability in their every day life and potentially devastating effects to their future. The closest options available to a fleeing person has a system of governance that cannot provide freedom or comfort, only the monotonous life of searching for work, counting pennies every day, with not enough left to buy that one extra piece of bread so their families could feel less hungry that day. If they manage to reach Europe without drowning along the way, yet again, they are facing a rapid growth of fascism, and a system of governance which cannot provide freedom or comfort, but the constant threat of racist attacks, their right to claim asylum prolonged or denied, deportation, families torn apart by laws that were initially made to protect the rights of humans, and if they are the lucky ones, the monotonous life of wage labour, where bread is no longer your only need, but also the ubiquitous advertisements pushing exponential consumerism being a social pressure so strong that if you don’t conform, you can forget being accepted, you are low-life scum, an immigrant, lazy, uneducated, dirty – and if you do manage to conform, you’re a thief, living on OUR tax money, an immigrant, lazy, low-life scum.
It is often difficult for many people to put themselves in the shoes of others, who led a life so far away from our own. Some don’t feel anything towards them, some feel hate, some feel sorry for them and wish they could do something – but none of you can, you have your own responsibilities, your own money problems to deal with, your own social pressures to abide by, all those aspects of life where you can’t seem to find the root cause – “This is life” we say, “enjoy it, stop being so serious and miserable” we tell each other, as well as ourselves.
Is this true? Are we all destined at birth to live a life through either war, poverty, or a slave system of debt built around ever growing consumerism created by societies pressures and expectations of what a “successful” person achieves and has? I, personally, have searched for years for answers to this question. I have tried and tried to do my part, but been constantly hindered by the systems of domination – capitalism, liberalism, patriarchy, statism. There is no way out under these systems.
Around six months ago, I was invited to Rojava for a ten day trip to report on the women’s revolution here, one week before the delegation began. After three days, I was sure I had found my place in the world, and decided to leave my life behind in Europe and stay here. During my time in Rojava, I have been constantly astounded by the effects of direct democracy, built around a system of democratic confederalism, and practiced on a MASSIVE scale. Here, we are striving for freedom that puts all control in the hands of the people, directly, and for the betterment of society as a whole, not just in a sense of governing, but in opportunity and understanding, by re-inventing the education system, the justice system, the economic system, and all other aspects of life – all complemented by women’s-only committees to deal with the aspects of life which regard women, and to empower them to realise their own perspectives on all issues concerning life and society, all of which has been missing from the world for thousands of years under patriarchal rule, where at any sign of influence on society, women have been demoted from society with “derogatory” labels such as witch, whore, lesbian, unfeminine, or unnatural, and with the concept of natural being merely for reproduction, a sexual object, or incapable of making “rational” decisions in every day life or in politics. The revolution in Rojava is not quite complete yet, we have a long way to go, but I believe more than anything else that this system is the answer for Rojava, for Syria, and for the rest of the world, and that we will all get there.
The YPG (People’s Protection Units) and the YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) were formed by ordinary people to defend their right to life, land, and freedom during the Syrian civil war. Not only are they here to protect the revolution in Rojava, but to fight the greatest fascism of our time – ISIS – who force thousands of innocent people under their rule here in Syria and Iraq. Their extreme ideology is rapidly growing beyond borders. This is not only a war, but an unending struggle between the systems of religious extremism and capitalist imperialism; feeding from one another until there is nothing left on this earth. The life of women and girls under the rule of ISIS is one that we could never imagine. They are without identity, without the right to speak or even think, a slave to men. Anybody that does not conform to the laws of ISIS is systematically tortured, raped, burned alive, beheaded.
I feel, as a woman, and as a revolutionary, that I have a shared responsibility with the people of Rojava – to not only protect the revolution I so strongly believe in, but to also free the people under the horrendous rule of ISIS and other extremist groups, and to share this revolution with them. There is no option for people in Rojava to sit by passively, waiting for a change of thought or trying to change the minds of ISIS members, for if we only sat by, every single one of us would be killed in an instant. This is extremism in its greatest sense. Protection is absolutely necessary, liberation of civilians under the control of ISIS is absolutely necessary. After living with the YPJ for almost three months now, I understand their ideology on war. They are not here as imperialists to enforce fake democracy or capitalism or any system of domination; with a women’s perspective on war, they take the utmost care to liberate people from the hands of ISIS and give every one of them the tools and education to create their own communities of direct democracy and to build freedom away from any slave-like system the world has seen. This is the only way to truly combat extremism in all its forms.
Soon I will be leaving civilisation to fight for the rights of others with my comrades in the YPJ. Friends and family, I hope you understand my reasoning, but if not, I hope you know me enough and trust me enough to believe that what I am doing is not from naivety, but from true knowledge built through life experience and that this is exactly in line with who I am, someone that wants to dedicate their life to creating a world in which we are all free.
“It’s not just [IS’s] killing and raping. It’s systematic mental and physical torture on a scale we can’t imagine.”
While Taylor is the first known woman from the UK to reach Syria to join the fight against IS, numerous men have already done so.
In January, it emerged Ryan Lock was killed during a battle in December while volunteering for the YPG.
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