Cosmopolitan

MACER GIFFORD, a former British volunteer with the Syrian Democratic Forces, slams US President

The Gazette Staff

Deep in the Isis stronghold of Raqqa, in northern Syria, I readied myself to fight alongside the Kurdish forces who were battling to liberate the city from its occupiers, the brutal Islamic State.

It was a cool October night in 2017 and around 70 of us were holed up in a building, alternately dozing and chatting as we waited to go into battle.

I was a British volunteer with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Syrian groups, Kurds, Christians and Arabs, all fighting to liberate their land from the heartless barbarity of Isis.

It was a cool October night in 2017 and around 70 of us were holed up in a building, alternately dozing and chatting as we waited to go into battle. Pictured, Turkish army soldiers drive towards the border with Syria near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province on October 8

It was a cool October night in 2017 and around 70 of us were holed up in a building, alternately dozing and chatting as we waited to go into battle. Pictured, Turkish army soldiers drive towards the border with Syria near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province on October 8

It was a cool October night in 2017 and around 70 of us were holed up in a building, alternately dozing and chatting as we waited to go into battle. Pictured, Turkish army soldiers drive towards the border with Syria near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province on October 8

After what felt like an age, I was sent out on the last patrol that evening. We crept forward, deep into Isis-held territory. The streets and buildings were riddled with IEDs, while snipers lurked in the dark windows. Each time a patrol went out, we knew that some of our brave comrades — or all of them — would not be coming back.

Courageous

Suddenly a shot broke the silence. Ocalan, my 22-year-old commander, crumpled to the ground, dead. My friend Demhat, 20, fell too and dozens of fanatical Isis fighters suddenly rushed at us.

Macer Gifford was a British volunteer with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Syrian groups, Kurds, Christians and Arabs, all fighting to liberate their land from the heartless barbarity of Isis

Macer Gifford was a British volunteer with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Syrian groups, Kurds, Christians and Arabs, all fighting to liberate their land from the heartless barbarity of Isis

Macer Gifford was a British volunteer with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Syrian groups, Kurds, Christians and Arabs, all fighting to liberate their land from the heartless barbarity of Isis

We made it to a building where we were surrounded, yet my courageous Kurdish comrades insisted on going out into the crossfire to retrieve the bodies of Ocalan and Demhat.

Demhat turned out to be alive, but badly wounded. I did my best to treat him, but he died in my arms — my hand was on his chest as his heart stopped beating.

In all, 600 SDF fighters would die in the battle for Raqqa, while a further 10,400 would fall in the rest of the campaign against Isis.

And now every single one of them is about to be disgracefully betrayed. In a move so short-sighted that it has shocked even his closest allies, President Trump has announced plans to pull out U.S. troops from the region.

In doing so, he has undermined the Kurds’ hard-fought victory and consigned the region to further chaos.

It is an embarrassment that should shame us all.

I think often of Ocalan and Demhat, and of Kendle, another Kurdish comrade, who went into battle after Isis slaughtered two of his brothers and was killed aged 22.

The Kurds were cheery, stoic and unbelievably bold. They were teachers, hairdressers and shopkeepers who had taken up arms to save their homes and their families from genocide, fighting often with basic weapons against a well-armed enemy — Isis had plenty of money from captured oilfields and looted banks.

It is thanks to their bravery that the last Isis stronghold, Baghuz, was liberated in March this year.

The biggest terror group the world has ever known was defeated. The territory they had seized — equivalent in size to Austria — was liberated and the SDF established control in the free areas of Syria, along the border with Turkey.

Here, the Kurds now live peacefully and promote equality and democracy, protected by the Western Coalition.

This is only right: we have a moral duty to protect people who share our values and we owe them a debt for neutralising the most savage enemy of our age.

It was Isis’s monstrous violence that inspired me to give up my career as a currency trader in the City and travel to Syria in 2014.

I had become sickened by the images I had seen of Isis fanatics such as Jihadi John holding a serrated knife to prisoners’ throats, and of the vile atrocities committed against civilians, including the thousands of Yazidi Christian girls and women who had been sold into sexual slavery.

There, I saw the horrific evidence of Isis’s reign of terror: houses where girls as young as nine were chained up to be raped repeatedly by Isis fighters, mobile phone footage of women and children being executed.

Atrocities

The SDF’s victory put an end to these atrocities. But now the Kurds are to be plunged once more into carnage and chaos.

Courageous though they are, without the protection of U.S. troops, the Kurds now face annihilation at the hands of the Turkish forces, which will inevitably try to claim SDF territory.

Turkey’s autocratic President Tayyip Erdogan does not distinguish between the SDF’s militias inside Syria and the Leftist Kurdish PKK guerrilla organisation which has waged an insurgency in Turkey for decades.

It is highly likely that Donald Trump’s (pictured on Monday, October 7 in Washington) abandonment of the Kurds will have terrible repercussions not only in the Middle East, but on our own shores

It is highly likely that Donald Trump’s (pictured on Monday, October 7 in Washington) abandonment of the Kurds will have terrible repercussions not only in the Middle East, but on our own shores

It is highly likely that Donald Trump’s (pictured on Monday, October 7 in Washington) abandonment of the Kurds will have terrible repercussions not only in the Middle East, but on our own shores

In his blinkered view, the peaceful Kurds who fought Isis pose a threat to Turkey’s very existence.

And so he has spoken openly of his desire to create a so-called ‘peace corridor’ in northern Syria to resettle some of the two million Syrian refugees who fled to Turkey to escape the Syrian war.

This would, of course, be at the expense of the Kurds who live there. It would, in effect, be ethnic cleansing, backed by brute force.

They have already done it in another area of Syria. Last year, Turkish forces attacked Afrin, on its border with Syria, forcing hundreds of thousands of Kurds to flee. The Turks’ enmity towards the Kurds — who have sought autonomy in the region for over a century — has lasted for generations.

But those who think that — as President Trump appears to — hostilities in northern Syria and Turkey are of little concern to us in the West are, unfortunately, wrong.

Indeed, it is highly likely that Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds will have terrible repercussions not only in the Middle East, but on our own shores.

As the Kurds are forced once again to defend their homeland, this time against the Turks, and without the vital protection of Coalition forces, a prolonged and bloody war will be unleashed in the region as Turkey, Iran, Russia and the forces of Syria’s President Assad battle for territory.

Without Coalition air support the Kurds will, for all their bravery, be unable to defend themselves against either the Turks or, more chillingly, a resurgent Isis.

At the moment, there are around 70,000 captured Isis fighters in SDF-controlled prisons. If the Turks invade, the SDF will be forced to deploy all its manpower to defend the Kurdish homeland.

Butchery

They will be unable to maintain control of these jails, enabling the Isis prisoners to escape and join the fighting in Syria once more, unleashing their butchery on the Kurds and others.

Some Isis fighters will undoubtedly make their way to Europe — and perhaps America — where they will wreak bloody havoc, just as they did at Manchester Arena and on London Bridge in 2017.

It is, therefore, the bitter truth that there is a brutal irony to Trump’s proposed withdrawal. Not only does it amount to stabbing the Kurds in the back, but when it comes to the fight against terrorism, he is also shooting the West in the foot. 

Source : Mail Online

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