Father of internationalist Anna Campbell files case against Turkey in European court

Dirk Campbell, father of internationalist Anna Campbell, is leading a campaign to have his daughter's remains, still lying on the battlefield in Afrin, returned to her family in the UK.

In May 2017, 27-year-old British activist Anna Campbell (Helin Qerecox) traveled to Syria to join the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) to fight ISIS. On March 15, 2018, Anna was killed by a missile strike by the Turkish Armed Forces during the massive bombardment of the Kurdish canton of Afrin in Rojava, which Ankara dubbed “Operation Olive Branch.”

Her father, Dirk Campbell, is leading a campaign to have his daughter’s remains, still lying on the battlefield (the exact location of where they lie is known), returned to her family in the UK.

Despite extensive discussions with the British Red Cross and the Overseas Commonwealth and Development Office, the British government refused to take any action. Campbell had instructed law firm McCue Jury & Partners, along with Turkish Counsel, to make formal representations on the issue to the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Requests were also made to the relevant Turkish authorities for Anna’s remains and belongings to be returned to her family. But so far there have been no responses.

In July 2021, an application was filed with the Turkish Administrative Court to enforce the rights of Anna’s father. Turkey refuses to engage substantially. The Turkish state has a long history of non-compliance with international humanitarian law, including indiscriminate air and mortar attacks on residential areas in northern Syria, and failure to respect and protect those killed during the armed conflict.

In a press release, the law firm representing Dirk Campbell said it is not too late for Turkey to change its ways.

“A declaration by the European Court of Human Rights that Mr. Campbell’s rights have been violated and that Anna’s remains must be returned to the United Kingdom would provide his family with the closure they have been seeking for the past four years,” the lawyers said.

To sustain this fight, Anna’s father launched an international campaign to support their demands.

In a statement, he explained, “The Turkish state killed my daughter. (She) was not involved in any aggressive action against Turkey, but was trying to protect the people of Afrin from Turkish attacks. The Turkish authorities have consistently refused to acknowledge this or admit responsibility for Anna’s death.”

The Turkish invasion of the Kurdish region of Syria “is tantamount to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, killing and expelling thousands of innocent civilians and committing war crimes, atrocities and human rights abuses,” Dirk said. The West is now taking action against Russia, but the West has never taken any action against NATO member Turkey for doing exactly the same thing in Syria.”

Anna’s father pointed out that the legal actions against the Turkish government are “for violating my human right by refusing to recover and repatriate my daughter’s body. Although they are in control of Afrin Canton, the Turkish authorities have refused to even respond to my request that they give me safe passage to the place where they killed my daughter. They have refused to engage with me at all.”

Campbell added that the British Foreign Office “has been of no help,” which is why she will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, “where I hope I will get justice and that international attention will look at Turkey’s widespread crimes against humanity.”

To support Anna Campbell’s family’s campaign click here