Calls for a memorial to Sheffield student who died fighting in Syria

A petition has been launched calling for a memorial to a Sheffield student who was the first British woman to die fighting with Kurdish forces in Syria.

Monday, 25th February 2019, 12:17 pm
Updated Monday, 25th February 2019, 12:27 pm
Undated handout photo issued by the Kurdish Women's Protection Units (YPJ) of Anna Campbell, a British woman who died fighting with the Kurdish armed unit in Syria. Ms Campbell is the first British woman, and the eighth Briton so far, to have been killed in Syria while working with Kurdish forces.Photo: YPJ/PA Wire

Anna Campbell, a former Sheffield University student, died in Afrin last March while fighting with the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units. She flew out to Syria via Lebanon where she joined the YPJ, an all-female brigade.

Kevin Ryan has launched a petition on Sheffield Council’s website calling for a permanent plaque to her in the Peace Gardens, next to the International Bridges memorial.

The petition, which has 70 signatures so far, says: “Anna came to Sheffield in 2010 to study at the University of Sheffield. As a student, she was active in the fight against the coalition government’s proposal to triple tuition fees, along with other causes rooted in animal rights, social justice and the pursuit of human dignity.

“Anna’s commitment to the pursuit of human dignity led her to travel to Syria as a volunteer with the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) in their anti-fascist struggle against Islamic State and for the freedom of the people of Rojava.”

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In a YPJ video filmed before she left for Afrin, Anna told the camera how she was known by her nom de guerre of Helin Qerecox.

She said she was “happy and proud” to join her friends and defend against fascism. She said she joined because she wanted to support the revolution, participate in the “revolution of women” and the “weaponised fight against the forces of fascism”.

The petition adds: “Upon her death, the YPJ announced ‘Our British comrade Helin Qereçox has become the symbol of all women after resisting against fascism in Afrin to create a free world. We promise to fulfill martyr Helin’s struggle and honour her memory in our fight for freedom’”

The petition, which is supported by the Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign, adds: “Sheffield has a  long history of commemorating its rebels, activists and freedom fighters.

“Today, a memorial exists in the Peace Gardens to commemorate the gallant men and women of the International Brigades who left their home shores to fight against fascism during the Spanish Civil War.

“We, the undersigned, believe this city should honour another hero who gave everything to fight for freedom in distant lands.”

Anna’s passion for politics was sparked while she was studying at university in Sheffield.