Fighting and Dying in Kurdistan During the Syrian War

Ideas and Issues International
Anna Campbell (middle)

Little Rock     A bit more than a year ago on my regular Friday morning radio show, Wade’s World, I interviewed a young man in London who had only recently returned from fighting in an international brigade with the YPG, the Kurdish units fighting ISIS along the borderlands in the Syrian War.  One of the taglines of Wade’s World has always been my introduction where I say that, “we talk to the most interesting people in the world and today we’re talking with” and away we go.  In that interview, Alexander Norton used a nom de guerre rather than his real name, uncertain how the British government might view his time on the frontlines in this struggle.

A year later that has now changed.  If I had to pick one reason, it would be because of the attention focused on the death of Anna Campbell, also from England, who was killed in a Turkish airstrike on a Kurdish town along the border.  Tall, blond, and blue-eyed, Campbell’s death has attracted public awareness of the struggle in a way that the earlier deaths of a half-dozen young British men or fighters from other countries has not, including a sympathetic portrayal in The New York Times of all places.  Anna was well known among progressives and, as I was told recently, had likely been an ACORN supporter in the time before she when to Syria.

But, if I had to look for other reasons that Sandy has now come forward a year later, it is because the conflict continues unabated, and the world is looking the other way as the fight increasingly is less about stopping the ISIS fanatic terrorism than it is about Turkish nationalism and paranoia about increasing sympathy for the demands of Kurds for their own state to be carved out of this conflict.  It is also because, as Sandy argued in a BBC interview recently, the British special police have now suddenly taken an interest in fighters on the side of the YPG and have called returnees in for interviews about their activity.  Sandy obviously reasoned that there is no purpose to work underground when the police have come down to seek you out.

I talked to Sandy again before these events turned in this new direction when in London recently.  At the time continuing his political work as always, he was pressed for time because a YPG fighter from Iceland had been killed days before, and he was trying to communicate and support the family, and potentially travel to meet them in Glasgow. Sandy and some other socialists and leftists in Britain and elsewhere speak of this conflict as the “Spanish Civil War of our time.”  The Kurd’s struggle for independence and their advocacy of a different political system, largely expounded by a little known American political philosopher, Murray Bookchin, who advocated something he called “dialectical naturalism” and which others called “libertarian socialism,” that combined socialism, anarchism, and environmentalism in a unique blend, had a special appeal that has been little recognized in North America.  Finally, this struggle may be getting the kind of attention it deserves in the midst of the rest of the sound and fury of these times.

Sandy and others will be stepping out now, because there is a terrible kind of horror that the latest turns in the Syrian conflict have now taken that jeopardize the entire region, involve world powers, and clearly threaten to destroy whatever hopes and dreams Kurds and their supporters have had for a revolutionary future in this area of the world that might also shed light to guide the path for their people and many others.

Video on Anna Campbell

Part 1

Part 2