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Father of woman killed fighting in Syria: ‘I should have done more’

Dirk Campbell spoke ahead of a documentary about his daughter, Anna.

Undated family handout photo of Anna Campbell, a British woman who died fighting in Syria.
Undated family handout photo of Anna Campbell, a British woman who died fighting in Syria.

The father of the first British woman to die fighting with Kurdish forces in Syria has said he will never come to terms with losing her and he “should have done more”.

Dirk Campbell said he and other relatives begged his daughter Anna not to travel to the war-torn country.

Ms Campbell died in March last year after it is thought she was hit during Turkish air strikes while fighting with the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units (YPJ).

The 26-year-old was the eighth Briton to have died in the country.

She flew to Syria via Lebanon in 2017 where she joined the YPJ, an all-female brigade of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which has about 50,000 Kurdish men and women fighting against Isis in the north of the country.

Conflict between Turkey and Kurdish groups had been inflamed and in the week of Ms Campbell’s death, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country’s military had captured the town centre of Afrin, which was previously controlled by the YPG.

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Dirk and Rose Campbell, father and sister of Anna Campbell at a vigil in her home town of Lewes, East Sussex, shortly after her death last year. (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Speaking about her death on ITV’s This Morning ahead of a BBC documentary due to air on Wednesday night, Mr Campbell said: “One doesn’t really come to terms with a thing like that.

“I should have done more.

“She wouldn’t take no for an answer, she was that tough.

“All members of her family and friends said ‘Please don’t do this, it’s a really bad idea, it’s really dangerous’ but I’d been in enough discussions with her to know when arguing was futile.

“Also, I didn’t want to disrespect her opinion.

“I thought what she was doing was important enough for her that I could support her by feeling proud so that she didn’t feel like she was out on a limb on her own.”

Earlier this year Mr Campbell, of Lewes, East Sussex, took his second trip to Syria and discovered she kept a diary when he recovered her belongings which was an almost “day-to-day transcript” of her experience out there.

In May 2018 he accused the Government of “back-pedalling” amid his attempts to find a way to bring her body home over fears it would be left to rot on the battlefield in Afrin.

He said: “She was an amazing woman. Full of life, full of a sort of sense of importance of what she could contribute to life.

“She was about justice, she was about the moral issues. Very resolute (in) whatever she decided to do.”

Anna: The Woman Who Went To Fight Isis airs on BBC2 at 9.30pm on Wednesday.

PA

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