An all-female Kurdish militia vowed to fight on after the death of a 26-year-old British woman during a major assault on a region in northern Syria where it has boosted women’s rights.
Anna Campbell died on March 15 during an attack by the Turkish military, the YPJ brigade said on its website, the latest Western fighter to die alongside Kurdish forces in Syria’s seven-year-old civil war.
“Together with three of her comrades, she joined the immortal martyrs,” the group said. “We give our promise to gift them with the freedom of peoples and the victory of women, in which they so strongly believed.”
Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies swept into the Syrian town of Afrin on Sunday after an eight-week campaign to drive out Kurdish forces, opening a new front in Syria’s multi-sided civil war.
Turkey says Syrian Kurdish fighters are an extension of a militant group waging an insurgency inside Turkey, and vowed to crush what it described as a “terror corridor” along Turkey’s southern border with Syria.
The YPJ, a Kurdish acronym for women’s protection units, was established in 2013 in the self-proclaimed autonomous region of Rojava, wedged between Turkey and territory held by Islamic State.
It describes itself on its website as “the first women’s army,” fighting for women’s freedom and a democratic Syria. The site depicts young women being trained with military drills and using automatic weapons.
The unit also said that it has “dozens of nationalities” in is ranks, inspired by Ivana Hoffmann, a young German woman who died in 2015 fighting for the YPJ.
Campbell appeared in a video posted by the YPJ on Facebook on Monday in which she described her excitement at going to fight in Afrin, and explained why she initially went to Syria.
“I joined because I wanted to participate in the revolution of women that is being built up here,” she said.
The YPJ won praise for its prowess battling Islamic State, including the liberation of Yazidi families under siege near Sinjar in northern Iraq in 2014.
The Syrian conflict grew out of popular protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, and evolved into civil war after the government responded with force.
Britain’s foreign office warns against all travel to Syria.
“Anybody who travels to Syria against our advice is putting themselves at considerable risk, particularly if they travel to join an armed group,” it said in a statement.
“We urge strongly against any participation in this kind of activity.”