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13 Mar, 2017 14:01

British anti-ISIS veteran crowdfunds his 3rd ‘tour’ to Syria

British anti-ISIS veteran crowdfunds his 3rd ‘tour’ to Syria

A British former soldier wants to travel to Syria for the third time to help the Kurds fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

Steven Kerr, from Northamptonshire, hopes to join the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in their on-going assault on the IS capital of Raqqa.

Kerr, a 58-year-old father of two, quit his job as a warehouse manager two years ago to join the YPG on the frontlines of Syria.

Having served in the British Army from 1978 to 1984, he thought that his military background might help the Kurds in their fight against IS.

I saw the atrocities ISIS were doing on the Kurdish civilians. And I just thought with my military experience I might be able to do something to help,” Kerr told the Sunday Times.

Kerr got in touch with the YPG leadership through Facebook and has spent over 11 months in the combat zone in the past two years.

In his first tour, Kerr helped the Kurdish militia to defend a number of villages along the Euphrates, where he was wounded by a mortar shell.

We used to get mortared constantly, every day and night. You hear the thump of the mortar being fired. Then if you count to 10 and get past 10 you know the round has gone way overhead.

“One night we got to nine and then the side of the building caved in. I got shrapnel in my head, eyes and legs,” he said.

After only two months of recovering in the UK, Kerr returned to Syria, where he again fought with the YPG until April 2016.

The former soldier said that despite the periods of highly intensive combat, including the near-constant sniper fire and mortar shelling, he frequently suffered from boredom while on the frontlines in Syria.

Having to just sit in a village when there’s nothing to do, it can grate on you after a while.

“We found a motorbike and we tried to race it up and down the street. We used to just see who could get to the end of the road before the Dashkas [DShK 1938, Soviet-made heavy machineguns widely used in the Syrian conflict] opened up. It was something to kill the boredom.”

However, Kerr stressed that “it means a lot to the Kurdish community that the Western fighters have gone out there and are trying to help.”

Kerr’s story echoes that of Macer Gifford, another Briton, who left the UK to fight alongside the YPG against Islamic State.

I saw the movement there as a fight between good and evil, between democracy and fascism, very much like the civil war in Spain in the 1930s,” Gifford said about his decision.

I made contact with the YPG on Facebook, they told me to fly to Sulaimaniya, where I would be met by someone who would facilitate my transfer across the border, and so in December 2014 I left my home and just went for it. And it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Gifford added.

Gifford, who previously had a highly lucrative job as a City currency trader and was a Conservative Party councilor, now runs the Friends of Rojava Foundation, which seeks to rebuild the healthcare system in war-ravaged northern Syria.

The ambition really is to become one of the major suppliers of humanitarian aid, or particularly hospital aid, in all of Syria,” Gifford told RT’s Rob Edwards.