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'
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.
“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.