ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) — A British volunteer fighter with a Syrian Kurdish guerrilla group who had participated in operations against the Turkish state in Afrin has been confirmed as dead from an apparent suicide.
Jamie Janson (42), from London, had signed up to fight alongside Kurdish fighters in northwestern Syria following the Turkish incursion into Afrin. It has been reported that Janson died of an apparent suicide last week.
Macer Gifford, another former British volunteer with the Syrian Kurds, confirmed to Kurdistan 24 that Jamie Janson killed himself on September 4.
“Jamie was passionately committed and came from a long background of activist work. I think he worked in Bulgaria, in refugee camps for a number of years, and went to Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) because of his beliefs and he got a lot of respect from the Kurds after he went to Afrin.”
During Turkey’s attack on Afrin, a video in which he called on the West to support the Kurds and called on Turkey to stop its attacks went viral.
In a video posted online by the Afrin Resistance in March, Janson called on the world to end its support for Turkey and impose a no-fly zone in Syria to save civilian lives.
Janson also called on the West to stop its “tacit support for Erdogan’s crimes against humanity.” After his return to the UK in May, he was briefly detained and released on bail, after which he stayed with friends.
The 42 year-old’s great uncle, John Profumo, was the notorious Conservative minister and former Secretary of State for War. He is also the grandson of Lord Balfour - a famous First World War pilot.
Gifford said Janson continued to support Kurds in articles for the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian, but “sadly killed himself.”
“Mr. Janson is not the first international volunteer to have committed suicide in such circumstances, and his personal experiences are part of a wider pattern,” Thomas McClure, a Syria-based researcher at the Rojava Information Center, told Kurdistan 24
“War inevitably enacts a heavy psychological toll. During our research, we have spoken to many families, civilians and combatants who are suffering enduring psychological scars as a result of the Turkish invasion of Afrin (…),” he added.
According to McClure, many international volunteers in Rojava - both in military and civilian capacities - report a high level of intimacy, warmth and companionship in their work.
“In contrast, upon return to their home countries, volunteers like Mr. Janson and many others have faced inadequate institutional support and social isolation, and in several cases arrest, police harassment, detention and court cases on terrorism charges.”
He added that mental illness remains stigmatised both here in northeastern Syria and in the UK.
“Both here and abroad, work needs to be done to establish institutional and social standards of care and responsibility to support ex-combatants, refugees, and all those experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts.”
He also noted that Western governments, including the UK, “have a responsibility to support those returning from the fight against ISIS, rather than arresting and harassing them.”
Editing by Nadia Riva