UK woman Kimberley Taylor 'joins fight against IS'

  • Published
Media caption,

Briton Kimberley Taylor speaks of IS fight in Syria

A British woman who has travelled to Syria to fight so-called Islamic State has said she is willing to die in the battle against the militant group.

Kimberley Taylor, from Blackburn, told BBC News she had joined Kurdish forces known as the YPJ in March last year.

The 27-year-old, who is on the front line in Raqqa, said fighting IS was for "democracy and freedom from extremism".

She is the first known woman from the UK to successfully travel to Syria to join the fight against IS.

Despite fighting in a war zone, she said: "I really don't want to scare my family."

Anti-IS forces have been trying to recapture Raqqa since it became the group's de facto capital in 2014.

Ms Taylor, a former maths student at the University of Liverpool, said she had spent 11 months learning Kurdish and studying regional politics, weaponry and battlefield tactics at the Kurdish Women's Protection Units' (YPJ) dedicated military academy.

"Everyone here sees the YPJ as leaders of the revolution, they're women that we can't compare with anything in the world," she said.

Why would a British woman fight in a foreign war?

By Emma Vardy, the BBC correspondent who interviewed Ms Taylor

For Kimmie Taylor, joining the Kurdish women is about much more than picking up a gun.

She sees the YPJ female fighters as a beacon of hope for the world.

Strong female comrades, battling for freedom, democracy, and equality, in the midst of a terribly troubled region where women have been raped, kidnapped and held as sex slaves.

It is easy to see how one can be inspired. This is a revolution, she tells me.

As I interviewed her, she spoke in Kurdish to her comrades. She has clearly earned their trust and respect.

She is now trying to shine a spotlight on their struggle.

Ms Taylor, who is also known as Kimmie and by the name Zilan Dilmar, said she went the front line with the YPJ in October.

Like their male counterparts in the affiliated YPG, the YPJ has women who fight on the front line.

"The [women] are young, 18, 19, 20, they're taking on this power which seems uncontrollable," she said.

Although willing to risk her life for the cause, she said: "I don't want to die. I have too much work to do."

"It's a necessary thing," she added. "This is for the freedom of all people and this is for humanity."

Ms Taylor's journey to Syria began 18 months ago when she reported for a friend's website on the first anniversary of the massacre in Sinjar, Iraq, in August 2014, where thousands of Yazidi women, children and men were killed and enslaved.

Explaining her motivation to join the fight against IS, she told the story of a friend - an Arab YPJ fighter from Syria - whose village had been ransacked by IS fighters last year.

She said the friend, who was from a pro-Assad family, had seen her eight-year-old sister killed by IS and decided to run away to join the YPJ.

The sister had reportedly been killed for writing "without our leader, there is no life" on a wall, Ms Taylor said.

'In my heart'

Ms Taylor's primary role is to record the YPJ's operations by writing battlefield reports and taking photographs and videos of the action.

She said she sometimes "feels a bit stupid" when filming the fighting, but that "it is a necessary thing".

Ms Taylor described a recent attack on the camp in the early hours of the morning.

"We were all sleeping and I woke up to a lot of loud bangs and immediately took my weapon," she said.

Image caption,
Ryan Lock was one of a number of British men to join the fight against IS in Syria

The attack lasted around three hours, Ms Taylor said.

"We were at one side of the building, and one of the IS members came round the corner and blew himself up."

Although Ms Taylor is the first known woman from the UK to reach Syria to join the fight against IS, numerous British men have done so.

In January it emerged 20-year-old Ryan Lock had died in December as a volunteer fighter for YPG during a battle for Raqqa.