A 19 year old German communist has become the first woman to die fighting against Isis in the Middle East.
Ivana Hoffman died on Saturday while defending the Syrian town of Tel Tamr alongside the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) their spokesman Nawaf Khalil said.
According to the Daily Mail, the member of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party in Turkey joined the YPG fighters about six months ago: one of an increasing number of westerners who are taking up arms or training those fighting Isis in the region.
She becomes the third Westerner, and the first female foreign fighter, known to be killed. Her death comes after former British soldier Konstandinos Erik Scurfield and Australian Ashley Johnston died in Hasakeh in the last fortnight.
Hoffman, born in Germany to South African parents, was one of at least 40 Kurdish fighters and jihadists who have been killed in the battle for Tal Tamr, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
According to a statement by the MLKP, which referred to her by her nom de guerre Avashin Tekoshin, she died in pre-dawn clashes with Islamic militants on March 7.
‘Our comrade Avashin had been at the front using her weapons to resist the bloody onslaught of the ISIS gang against the Assyrian villages in Tel Tamr for days,’ the statement said.
‘During these clashes, dozens of gang members were killed. Our comrade Avashin fought to the last bullet together with the fighters of the YPG.’
It is not known how many other MLKP members have also travelled to Syria but German authorities say some 650 people have travelled from the country to join the militant fighters. They have not said how many are estimated to have joined Kurdish or Christian groups opposing ISIS.
In an interview with German newspaper Die Welt, the head of Germany’s military intelligence agency, Christof Gramm, said that about 20 former soldiers had travelled to the conflict.
A video was posted on Facebook on Monday morning paying tribute to Hoffman, showing a woman with her face covered by a scarf, holding a weapon and speaking German.
In the video she refers to Daesh, the Arabic Acronym for IS, and Rojava, a Kurdish word which means the area in north and north east Syria now largely run by Kurds.
“Behind us is the territory of Daesh,” she said. “We’ve been here for a week. For one week we’ve been holding our base to defend the Rojava revolution.
“I decided to come to Rojava because they are fighting for humanity here, for rights and for internationalism that the MLKP represents”
“We are here as the MLKP to fight for freedom. Rojava is the beginning. Rojava is hope,” she added.
The news was not immediately confirmed by Berlin with a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry, Sawsan Chebli, saying she was unaware of reports about the young woman’s death.
Women account for around 35 per ent of the fighting force of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and receive the same training as men.
An increasing number of Westerners, particularly ex military personnel, are looking to travel to join the groups fighting IS even though there have been warnings they could face charges under counter terrorism legislation since they are not fighting on the side of a state.
In an anonymous interview with the BBC, one veteran said he is preparing to go to Syria to help train the Peshmerga fighters.
He said he wanted to go as it is a fight against terrorism and compared Islamic State to the 12th century fighter Saladin.
“Look at Saladin, many years ago, he roamed all of Asia through his violence terrorising people, don’t you think that’s what ISIS is doing?” he asked.
Pressed on his desire to go and fight he said he wanted to make Syria “a better place for people who want to live there”.
“It’s not Syria’s war either” he said when asked why he was getting involved in a foreign conflict. “It’s the terrorists. Terrorism is just wiping out Syria, trying to take as much land as they possibly can.”