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Irishman stopped at Gatwick Airport on his way to fight Isis in Iraq

'I felt morally obligated to not just be a casual observer and have an opinion on Facebook, but to actually volunteer'

By Maria Flannery

Published 21/10/2016

David Hayes was due to fly to Turkey and on to an Assyrian base near Mosul, Iraq
David Hayes was due to fly to Turkey and on to an Assyrian base near Mosul, Iraq

A Limerick man who attempted to travel to Iraq to fight Isis was detained by airport security in London before his flight was due to depart.

David Hayes was due to fly to Turkey and on to an Assyrian base near Mosul, Iraq, where he would take up arms in the fight against Islamic State.

The Kileely man has been left “disheartened” after being detained by anti-terrorism police in Gatwick Airport, who said that despite his “honourable intentions” they could not permit him to travel.

He was detained for several hours at the airport, where he was questioned by plain-clothes airport police.

Mr Hayes said that he feels a “strong moral obligation to help the people who are suffering under Isis atrocities”, and he sees the Assyrian militia Dwekh Nawsha as a way to join the fight.

Speaking before his flight, he explained his reasons for wishing to join the Christian military group.

“I’ve been observing what Isis are doing in Syria and Iraq and throughout the world,” he said.

David was struck with the urge to take action when he saw a disturbing photograph of a child who had been killed by so-called Islamic State.

“When I saw that, something in my heart just said I have to do something,” he said.

“I felt morally obligated to not just be a casual observer and have an opinion on Facebook about it, but to actually volunteer.

Iraqi forces deploy in the area of al-Shourah, some 45 kms south of Mosul, as they advance towards the city to retake it from the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi forces deploy in the area of al-Shourah, some 45 kms south of Mosul, as they advance towards the city to retake it from the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
Kurdish security forces take up a position as they fight overlooking the Islamic State-controlled in villages surrounding Mosul, in Khazer, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Mosul, Iraq, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. Iraqi government and Kurdish forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition air and ground support, launched coordinated military operations early on Monday as the long-awaited fight to wrest the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State fighters got underway.(AP Photo)
Smoke rises from Islamic state positions after an airstrike by coalition forces in villages surrounding Mosul, in Khazer, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Mosul, Iraq, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. Iraqi government and Kurdish forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition air and ground support, launched coordinated military operations early on Monday as the long-awaited fight to wrest the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State fighters got underway.(AP Photo)
A peshmerga convoy drives towards a frontline in Khazer, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Mosul, Iraq, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. The Iraqi military and the country's Kurdish forces say they launched operations to the south and east of militant-held Mosul early Monday morning. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
A Kurdish peshmerga fighter prays on the frontline during the battle against the Islamic State group as Kurdish forces advance towards villages surrounding Mosul on Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. The Iraqi military and the country's Kurdish forces say they launched operations to the south and east of militant-held Mosul early Monday morning. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
A peshmerga convoy drives towards a frontline in Khazer, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Mosul, Iraq, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. The Iraqi military and the country's Kurdish forces say they launched operations to the south and east of militant-held Mosul early Monday morning. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
A peshmerga convoy drives towards a frontline in Khazer, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Mosul, Iraq, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. Iraqi government and Kurdish forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition air and ground support, launched coordinated military operations early on Monday as the long-awaited fight to wrest the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State fighters got underway.(AP Photo)
A picture taken from the top of Mount Zardak, about 25 kilometres east of Mosul, shows smoke billowing on the outskirts of the Iraqi city of Nineveh, during an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. Thousands of Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces advanced on jihadist-held villages east of Mosul as part of a broad operation to retake the city from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMEDSAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqis gather at the site of a car bomb explosion targeting an Iraqi army checkpoint in Yusufiya, south of the capital Baghdad, on October 17, 2016. The attack came just hours after Iraqi forces launched an offensive to retake second city Mosul, in the north of the country, from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SABAH ARARSABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Iraqi government forces looks at a damaged vehicle at the site of car bomb explosion targeting an Iraqi army checkpoint in Yusufiya, south of the capital Baghdad, on October 17, 2016. The attack came just hours after Iraqi forces launched an offensive to retake second city Mosul, in the north of the country, from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SABAH ARARSABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi government forces stand next to a damaged vehicle at the site of car bomb explosion targeting an Iraqi army checkpoint in Yusufiya, south of the capital Baghdad, on October 17, 2016. The attack came just hours after Iraqi forces launched an offensive to retake second city Mosul, in the north of the country, from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SABAH ARARSABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters fire a mortar shell from the top of Mount Zardak, about 25 kilometres east of Mosul, as they take part in an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. Thousands of Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces advanced on jihadist-held villages east of Mosul as part of a broad operation to retake the city from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMEDSAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters deploy on the top of Mount Zardak, about 25 kilometres east of Mosul, as they take part in an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. Thousands of Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces advanced on jihadist-held villages east of Mosul as part of a broad operation to retake the city from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMEDSAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - A picture taken from the top of Mount Zardak, about 25 kilometres east of Mosul, shows Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters watching smoke billowing in the Iraqi city of Nineveh, during an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. Thousands of Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces advanced on jihadist-held villages east of Mosul as part of a broad operation to retake the city from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMEDSAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - A picture taken from the top of Mount Zardak, about 25 kilometres east of Mosul, shows smoke billowing in the Iraqi city of Nineveh, during an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. Thousands of Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces advanced on jihadist-held villages east of Mosul as part of a broad operation to retake the city from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMEDSAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters fire a multiple rocket launcher from the top of Mount Zardak, about 25 kilometres east of Mosul, as they take part in an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. Thousands of Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces advanced on jihadist-held villages east of Mosul as part of a broad operation to retake the city from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMEDSAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters fire a multiple rocket launcher from the top of Mount Zardak, about 25 kilometres east of Mosul, as they take part in an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. Thousands of Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces advanced on jihadist-held villages east of Mosul as part of a broad operation to retake the city from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMEDSAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters hold a position on the top of Mount Zardak, about 25 kilometres east of Mosul, as they take part in an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. Thousands of Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces advanced on jihadist-held villages east of Mosul as part of a broad operation to retake the city from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMEDSAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
A picture taken from the top of Mount Zardak, about 25 kilometres east of Mosul, shows smoke billowing in the Iraqi city of Nineveh, during an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. Thousands of Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces advanced on jihadist-held villages east of Mosul as part of a broad operation to retake the city from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMEDSAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters arrange boxes with mortar shells on the top of Mount Zardak, about 25 kilometres east of Mosul, as they take part in an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. Thousands of Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces advanced on jihadist-held villages east of Mosul as part of a broad operation to retake the city from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMEDSAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters deploy on the top of Mount Zardak, about 25 kilometres east of Mosul, as they take part in an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. Thousands of Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces advanced on jihadist-held villages east of Mosul as part of a broad operation to retake the city from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMEDSAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
An Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighter holds a rocket on the top of Mount Zardak, about 25 kilometres east of Mosul, as he takes part in an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. Thousands of Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces advanced on jihadist-held villages east of Mosul as part of a broad operation to retake the city from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMEDSAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - Iraqi forces deploy in the area of al-Shourah, some 45 kms south of Mosul, as they advance towards the city to retake it from the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced earlier in the day that the long-awaited operation to recapture Mosul was under way. / AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYEAHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - Iraqi forces gather at the Qayyarah military base, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul, on October 16, 2016, as they prepare for an offensive to retake Mosul, the last IS-held city in the country, after regaining much of the territory the jihadists seized in 2014 and 2015. / AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYEAHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
A handout picture release by Save The Children shows Ali, a five-year-old displaced Iraqi boy playing as they wait to be screened at the Dibis checkpoint northwest of the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on October 16, 2016 after they fled the Islamic State (IS) group held Hawijah area. Iraqi forces launched an offensive to retake Mosul and deal a death blow to the Islamic State group's "caliphate" in the city where it was declared two years ago. / AFP PHOTO / SAVE THE CHILDREN / Ruairidh VILLAR / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /SAVE THE CHILDREN/ RUAIRIDH VILLAR" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS RUAIRIDH VILLAR/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi forces gather in the area of al-Shourah, some 45 kms south of Mosul, as they advance towards the city to retake it from the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced earlier in the day that the long-awaited operation to recapture Mosul was under way. / AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYEAHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi forces deploy in the area of al-Shourah, some 45 kms south of Mosul, as they advance towards the city to retake it from the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on October 17, 2016. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced earlier in the day that the long-awaited operation to recapture Mosul was under way. / AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYEAHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters hold a position on the top of Mount Zardak, about 25 kilometres east of Mosul, on October 17, 2016. Thousands of Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces advanced on jihadist-held villages east of Mosul as part of a broad operation to retake the city from the Islamic State group. / AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMEDSAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi policemen stand at attention with gasmasks at the Qayyarah military base, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul, on October 16, 2016, as they prepare for an offensive to retake Mosul, the last IS-held city in the country, after regaining much of the territory the jihadists seized in 2014 and 2015. / AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYEAHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi policemen clean their weapons at the Qayyarah military base, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul, on October 16, 2016, as they prepare for an offensive to retake Mosul, the last IS-held city in the country, after regaining much of the territory the jihadists seized in 2014 and 2015. / AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYEAHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images

“So that’s what I said to the Assyrian people, I told them that I want to volunteer and put myself forward.

“That was two years ago, in 2014,” he said.

The Dwekh Nawsha is a military organisation set up to defend the Assyrian Christian minority in Iraq’s northern Nineveh province. The group also works to retake land controlled by Isis, and they fight alongside the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi armed forces against Islamic State.

A descendant of 1916 Irish rebel leader John Devoy, David likens his cause to that of the Irish rebels.

“The most vile organisation ever to spring up in mankind’s history, in my opinion, is Isis. And the Assyrians are fighting for their survival. So I believe that I’m representing Ireland as well,” he said.

“I have to commit to four months, you’re asked to commit to three months. You can’t just land as a volunteer and after two weeks decide you’re out, that it’s not for you.

"I’m a little bit scared, yes. I’m a little bit nervous, but I feel duty bound to go ahead and do it,” he said.

Although stopped from travelling this time, David Hayes remains hopeful to join the militia.

“No, I haven't given up in regards to Isis or any grouping that threatens our way of life and who oppress and murder others.”

This week began with news that an operation has begun to retake Mosul by Iraqi armed forces and allies, including Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and several paramilitary groups representing religious minorities, including Shia Islam and Christian militias.

David was at least the third volunteer to have been stopped in Gatwick in two weeks, with one of those going to fight for Isis.

Irish Independent

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