Financial trader explains why he left his job in London to fight ISIS


Macer Gifford


A financial trader from London recently explained to NPR why he left his desk job in the City to join the Kurdish YPG in their fight against ISIS in Syria.


Macer Gifford (as he his known) had almost no military experience when he decided to join the YPG, the Kurdish People's Defense Units currently battling ISIS fighters for control of northern Syria.

"I was ready to die and kill," the 28-year-old told the Guardian. "I knew what I was getting myself into. I spent five months there, I saw a great deal of fighting and took part in two large operations. Islamic State shot at me, I shot at them."

Gifford says he was "stirred to action" by the violence he saw online.

"I was sitting at my desk in London, in an ordinary job, working in the city," he told NPR. "Every day I'd flick on my computer screen and see the most horrendous crimes being committed in the Middle East. It just stirred me into action."


"I first wanted to donate money to charity, perhaps even work for a charity," Gifford added. "But then the option came up that I could actually go out and volunteer and fight ISIS, so that's exactly what I did."

Gifford's help in fighting ISIS may have been welcomed by the Kurds: The US training program for Syria to counter ISIS has not yet produced a single fighter, Reuters reported last week, meaning that for now, the Kurds and Syrian rebels are largely going at it alone.

"I'm not a professional soldier but ... an extra pair of hands fighting against Islamic State is always going to be a good thing," Gifford told the BBC.

After doing his research, Gifford says he decided to join the YPG because "it was the YPG in particular who were fighting for democracy."

The US-backed YPG logged a major victory last week when they stormed the key ISIS-held border town of Tal Abyad, wresting control away from the extremists' "most important back door" into Turkey with the backing of US airstrikes.


Gifford noted that the YPG was his best bet, also, because they were not fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad directly.

"Basically, you're not allowed to fight a state, whether that's an enemy of the United Kingdom or an ally," he said. "That's illegal. Me, I went out there just to fight the Islamic State."

Gifford told NPR that he never once questioned his decision, and came back "more satisfied" with life.

"Before I left, I had a flat. I was just about to buy a house. I had a girlfriend. I had a job, a career, and I gave it all up to go out to fight," he said.

"So now I've come back, six months later, I'm very much poorer but a lot more satisfied as a human being, and in myself."


Listen to Gifford's full story on NPR >>

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