Dec 08 2017

British banker who fought with Kurds says West needs to deal with Turkey

A British investment banker who left his job in the City to fight for the Kurds in Syria against Islamic State (ISIS) said Britain and other Western powers need to stand up to Turkey and “do what’s right by the Kurdish people”.

Turkey’s refusal to allow the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) into peace talks on Syria and the waning power of the Free Syrian Army, which Ankara supports, means the reality on the ground is not reflected in peace talks, Macer Gifford, 27, told the Independent newspaper.

Both wars are coming to an end. The SDF are beating Isis and Assad is beating the FSA. There are now two major forces emerging here, but because of the pressure from Turkey the West are locked on to the idea that the FSA is the main opposition against Assad. The reality on the ground is very different to what’s being represented in the peace talks.

Shocked at the British government’s inaction at islamic State's mass killing of Iraq's Yazidi minority, Gifford quit his job, cancelled plans to buy a house, broke up with his partner and joined the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) in Syria.

Gifford said he became well-versed in the ways of the movement after crossing the Iraq-Syria border and waiting six weeks for his first taste of battle, along with battle-hardened soldiers and ideological volunteers.

The most impressive thing about the YPG is being able to go into an area – regardless of its religious, tribal or ethnic background – and then immediately relinquish power and give it back to the community in the form of local councils… Kurds generally have positive ideas for the region. ISIS are nobodies: just thugs with weapons who’d butcher anything in their sight.

Gifford, a former Conservative Party councillor candidate, is now back in Britain after the SDF captured the ISIS capital, Raqqa. He sees himself as a kind of ambassador for the region of Rojava, or Syrian Kurdistan, the Independent said.

Kurds’ view on democracy and life are very refreshing,” says Gifford. “It was very egalitarian, even on the front line. Things were decided in a democratic fashion – it was even possible to vote out commanders if they weren’t deemed to be doing their jobs properly.