We're still camped in one of the villages that sprawl along the northern banks of the Euphrates River, about ten miles east of Raqqa. But we've moved through so many this week, I don't remember this one's name. To be honest, I can't even remember what day it is anymore, things move so fast. Or so slowly, depending if we're on operation or not.
If the time comes when I'm forced to kill someone in battle, I'm ready.
In the afternoon, a few of the girls and I drove around to check on the positions of another unit nearby and chatted, drank tea, ate sunflower seeds, and smoked. We smoke a lot.I've been with my current infantry tabur [platoon] for two months, since I joined the Wrath of Euphrates operation [to liberate Raqqa], and the girls are already like sisters to me. Most are in their early 20s, and are incredibly sweet, if a little naïve about the world. They're always asking me about life in the West, and think Europe is one big country. They say things like, "So, do you speak foreign?" I'm like, "Which foreign?" They think Europe is this magical utopian land.
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Sorxwîn's probably my best friend. She's one of three commanders who coordinates the front line, and loves nothing more than taking the piss out of me. She's always asking, as she did at lunch, "So when are you going back to Europe? It's nice there, right?" And I always say, "No Sorxwîn, you know I don't like Europe. The system is terrible there, that's why I'm here." She smiles wryly—she thinks it's hilarious that I'd rather be here than in cosy Europe.After supper, we cleaned our weapons and went to bed. There's never enough blankets so we all have to squeeze together, two girls per sleeping mat. And obviously, we sleep next to our Kalashnikovs. Mine is Polish and she's older than me. Made in 1987, she is a little beaten up, with carvings on the butt by previous owners. But she's rust-free and easy to disassemble and clean, and hasn't jammed on me once. If the time comes when I'm forced to kill someone in battle, I'm ready.
ISIS commanders seem to live like kings. They left vast mansions empty, with manicured gardens, ornately-carved wooden doors, tiled floors—even Western toilets! I've not been on a Western toilet in a year so yesterday, after we liberated one town on the banks of the Euphrates River, I took the opportunity, which was nice. Their occupants had clearly left in a hurry; we found gold watches, jewellery, and suitcases filled with clothes. Yesterday, an English guy I know even found a tube of lube on a bedside table. His Kurdish wasn't good enough to explain it in words so he had to act it out for the YPG fighters there. The men thought it was hilarious. The only girl in the room ran out with embarrassment.That's not to say the women of the YPJ are that timid in battle. When the bullets start to fly it's as if a switch flicks inside them, and everyone knows exactly what to do. They run towards the fight, without fear in their eyes. Never have I been prouder to be with the YPJ than when our base was attacked by suicide bombers in February.I woke up at 4AM to the sound of ISIS fighters swarming into our compound, shooting. The girl on guard duty on the roof was shot in the arm but fought on. Only when a piece of shrapnel lodged in her head did she fall back. As we took defensive positions outside, we heard a shriek of "Allahu Akhbar" [God is great] and a man with a black beard ran around the corner and blew himself up. Guts and body parts flew everywhere, and I was showered in blood. I couldn't eat for two days after that. Moments later, a second man was running straight at us. Just as he got to within 15 metres away, a group of girls ahead of me shot him dead before he could detonate his bomb vest. I'm pretty sure I owe them my life.It won't be long until we get to Raqqa now. And we're under no illusions that it'll be the fight of our lives. ISIS have had four years to dig in: Their best fighters are there and they'll have booby-trapped every door, window, and empty shop they can. It'll be a bloodbath, but we'll flush them out—no matter the cost.I'm not scared. I feel safe with these girls. They are so fearless and organised in battle. They aren't just girls with guns, here for show – they are soldiers, as tough and scrappy as any man I know.You can read the first part of Kimberley's diary here, and the final instalment of her diary tomorrow, on Broadly.Illustrations by Nayon Cho.