Danish Student Talks About Fighting ISIS In Iraq

| by Jordan Smith
Joanna Palani in traditional headscarf she wore while fighingJoanna Palani in traditional headscarf she wore while fighing

A 23-year-old Danish student has revealed her experience of traveling to Syria and Iraq to fight ISIS.

Joanna Palani, who is of Kurdish origin, left Copenhagen in November 2014 to fight with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, according to Vice.

She later joined Peshmerga forces in Iraq, which are currently being trained by western militaries to take back ISIS-held territory.

Palani explained how she witnessed a fellow fighter being shot to death on her first night after an ISIS militant noticed him smoking.

"I told him he shouldn't be smoking on the frontline — but he didn't take me seriously," she told Vice in an interview published on May 25. "I wasn't taking it seriously when I first came there. But after the first attack I did. I took it seriously indeed.”

Palani suggested ISIS fighters were easier to kill than Syrian government troops.

"ISIS fighters are very good at sacrificing their own lives, but Assad's soldiers are very well trained and they are specialist killing machines," she added.

In a previous interview, Palani said she decided to join the war to fight "for human rights for all people," the Daily Mail reports.

“The Kurds are fighting for democracy and Western values," she added. "If I get captured or killed, I will be proud of why I was killed."

Other reports have challenged the perception of Kurdish forces as defenders of human rights and democracy.

An Amnesty International report published in January accused Peshmerga forces of war crimes, including destroying Arab villages during an offensive against ISIS, ABC News reports.

“In some villages, nothing is left, not even a single house,” Amnesty International’s Donatella Rovera said.

“Under international law, such deliberate destruction is very clearly a war crime,” she added.

The United Nations also released a report that month which said ISIS is using child soldiers as young as 9.

Palani told Vice her military experience came to an end when she went home during leave.

“The Peshmerga gave me 15 days off," Palani said. “After arriving in Denmark the police sent me an email after only three days. It said my passport was no longer valid, and would be revoked if I was to attempt to leave the country. If I was to go back I could go to jail for six years.”

She has still not made a final decision on whether to return and lose her passport or remain in Denmark. She said right now, she is reluctantly studying politics and philosophy at a university in Denmark.

Sources: Vice, Daily MailABC / Photo Credit: Sarah Buthmann via Vice

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