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'It Was Kind of Like Seeking Redemption': First Western Woman to Fight Against the Islamic State Is Home

Gill Rosenberg, a native of British Columbia and a former Israeli Defense Force soldier, returned to Jerusalem this week. Doing "something good for a change" had compelled her to fight.

by Ben Makuch
Jul 14 2015, 5:30pm

Photo via Facebook

The Canadian who is believed to be the first Western woman to voluntarily join the fight against the so-called Islamic State — and whom IS militants had falsely claimed to have captured in December — is home in Jerusalem alive and well.

Gill Rosenberg, a native of British Columbia and also an Israeli who served on the Israeli Defense Force, joined the Kurdish Women's Protection Units (YPJ) in late 2014 to aid its fight against IS.

While it's believed she served for a time with the YPJ — a controversial Kurdish fighting group operating in Syrian Kurdistan and helping expel IS from Kobane — Reuters reported Rosenberg also went to fight for Dwekh Nawsha, a Christian militia in Iraq.

"Happy to be home!" said the Facebook profile associated with Rosenberg. "I'll be holding a press conference on Thurs at 11am at the Jerusalem Press Club, Mishkenot Shaananim. See you then."

But details of her undertaking started to spread before then, as Rosenberg took to radio and television stations in Israel on Monday to explain what compelled her to venture to the front lines, and why she decided to come home.

"I think we as Jews, we say 'never again' for the Shoah, and I take it to mean not just for Jewish people, but for anyone, for any human being, especially a helpless woman or child in Syria or Iraq," Rosenberg told Israel's Army Radio on Monday, according to various reports. "But in the past few weeks I think a lot of the dynamics have changed there, in terms of what's going on in the war. The Iranian involvement is a lot more pronounced. Things changed enough that I felt that it was time to come home."

In another interview, she said she sought to "do something good for a change" after having served prison time for her part in a phone scam ring. 

"For me, it was kind of like seeking redemption, or something, for my past," she reportedly told Israel's Channel Two television.

Rosenberg is not the only Canadian to have joined the Kurdish fighting groups in their battles with IS. Former soldiers Dillon Hillier and Brandon Glossop both joined the Peshmerga, the undertrained Iraqi Kurdish army known for carrying out the majority of fighting against IS in northern Iraq.

Just last week, the Daily Mail revealed former Canadian model Tiger Sun is also currently fighting with the YPJ.

As its citizens freelance for armed groups in the region, Canada continues its bombing campaign against IS, striking targets in both Syria and Iraq, while Canadian special forces train Kurdish forces in various warfare.

Canada's Foreign Affairs department has warned citizens against joining the fight on their own.

"The government of Canada has long advised against all travel to Syria and Iraq," a Foreign Affairs spokesperson told VICE News in early January. "Canadians traveling to Syria and Iraq, including those who travel there to join local campaigns in the fight against ISIL, must do so at their own personal risk and must be aware that rescue missions in this dangerous area will not be conducted."

The government has also said that for those Canadians eager to fight, they should instead "join the Canadian Armed Forces".

Follow Ben Makuch on Twitter: @bmakuch