A 22-year-old former IT worker has been shot during a gun battle with Islamic State extremists but says he’s determined to stay in Syria.
Video gamer Jac Holmes, from Dorset, travelled to the country in January to join the People’s Protection Units (YPG), despite desperate pleas from friends and family.
Mr Holmes, who had no military training before heading to Syria, has spoken of his decision to leave home and the challenges of living in a war zone during a frank interview with MailOnline.
Frontline: A picture of Jac Holmes wearing army fatigues bearing the flag of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and carrying an AK-47 was uploaded to his Facebook page
Training: The 22-year-old from Dorset had no military training when he left his home for Syria in January
‘I was learning about the whole Syrian civil war and seeing the grim situation as it developed over the past six months before I came here.
‘Every day there was a new atrocity, whether it be perpetrated by Assad or the likes of Daesh (Isis),’ he said.
‘I got sick of seeing what was going on while the British government and the rest of the West did nothing and most people knew nothing of the situation in the region, so I took it upon myself to come out here and do whatever I could to assist the people in their struggle.’
In February, it was revealed Mr Holmes, who had been living with his father in Parkstone, Dorset had quit his job working on the service desk for an outsourcing firm which provides services to Bournemouth Council, and travelled to Syria shortly before his 22nd birthday.
An initial attempt was foiled when he was deported from Erbil airport in northern Iraq. A week later he flew to Iraqi Kurdistan, where he was met at the airport by a contact and taken to a safe house in the city of Sulaymaniyah.
From there, fighters smuggled him over the Syrian border and took him to a camp in the war-torn country.
‘I’ve been in various small skirmishes at range and was involved in heavy fighting in Tel Nasri, a large Christian village controlled by Daesh, where I was shot in the arm and injured.’
Injured in action: Jac Holmes was shot in the arm while fighting Islamic State militants in Tel Nasri, Syria
A friend of 14 years, who asked not to be named, told MailOnline that people tried to stop Mr Holmes making a ‘stupid decision’.
‘He said there was nothing for him left to do here when there was all the suffering,’ the friend explained. ‘I was shocked. It’s quite difficult to change his mind once he’s made it up.
‘I did try to explain to him how dangerous it was. I think everybody tried to stop Jac going. I know his dad wasn’t particularly happy about him going.
‘A lot of our friends thought it was a stupid decision – they slated him for it.
‘He is a 22-year-old boy who has gone out there to make a difference – what he is doing is a good thing but he has gone about it the wrong way.’
But the friend added: ‘Is he or is he not doing something wrong? I know if he comes back he is going to be arrested.
‘He is saying he is happy to be out there as long as something exciting is happening.
‘I think it must be awful not to have family and friends there – I think you need your support network. I do miss him. It seems like there is a hole that I can’t really fill.’
Determined: Jac Holmes (pictured) contacted a pro-Kurdish rights campaigner before he left Britain, who said Jac was ‘completely and utterly set on it’
Mr Holmes said: ‘I’ve only used the internet maybe three or four times in my nearly four months over here, but I have been in contact with my family and friends via text.
‘Most of them support me in what I’m doing and just wish for me to come home safe. I’d like to stay in Rojava until the whole region is liberated, after that I’m not sure what I will do.
‘I may go home for a while to see friends and family and relax but I do feel attached to this region and would like to see how it develops and be involved in its development in the future.
Mark Campbell, a pro-Kurdish rights campaigner, said Mr Holmes, nom de guerre Soresh, meaning revolution in Kurdish, sent him messages before making his trip to Syria.
‘Jac contacted me on Facebook about a month before he went,’ he said. ‘We just chatted and he was saying he wanted to go. I’m a father-of-two sons myself and thought he was a little bit young.
‘I was just thinking of his parents and I was trying to dissuade him but he was completely and utterly set on it.’
‘One-man army’: Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, became the first Briton to be killed fighting the terror group in Syria
Mr Campbell added: ‘He feels strongly that Isis is the greatest threat in modern times. I’m worried about Jac. I hope he’s behind the lines but he’s probably pushing himself. I think he is one of the only ones that doesn’t have any military training either.’
But Lloyd Mcguigan, another friend, told MailOnline: ‘I am super proud to have someone who is a friend that is willing to dedicate themselves to a cause that they have so much passion about.’
Mr Holmes, who previously said he is prepared for the possibility of being taken hostage, is urging western governments to help the Kurdish people.
‘I think the rest of the world, especially the governments, need to send people here and see what it’s like and see that we need to help these people in every way we can, especially in Rojava,’ he told Ronahi TV.
‘There are a lot of things governments everywhere could do here to assist them.’
Professor Anthony Glees, director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, said: ‘He should definitely not be risking his life in this way if he can live with himself by walking away.
‘Dismantling Isis and stopping the butchery is a job for governments and government boots on the ground.
‘We, the USA and the UK in particular, are responsible for what is going on in Iraq and we should be sorting it, not leaving it to individual bravehearts like Jac.’
Fighter: Tim Locks, a bouncer from Berkshire, sold his house to join the fight against ISIS in February
Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, became the first Briton to be killed fighting the terror group in Syria when he was brought down by mortar fire on March 2.
He was with Kurdish forces in the frontline village of Tel Khuzela in Syria.
Mr Scurfield has been described as a ‘one-man army’ who was ‘very angry about the Middle East’.
He is believed to have flown to the region after becoming horrified by the atrocities carried out by Isis and his fellow fighters said he was the first to volunteer for ambushes and assaults.
His family was under the impression he had left Britain in November last year to provide ‘medical and humanitarian support’ as an expert in battlefield medicine.
In February, a bouncer from Berkshire revealed that he had sold his home in order to join the fight against ISIS.
Tim Locks joined up with Dwekh Nawsha, a Christian military group based in Iraq which is opposed to Islamic extremism.
IS JAC HOLMES COMMITTING A CRIME BY FIGHTING WITH THE KURDISH YPG?
Professor Anthony Glees, the director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham, discusses whether Jac Holmes’ actions are illegal.
As I understand it, the legal position vis-à-vis foreign fighters is complex. In Victorian England it was an offence to swear allegiance to a foreign power but it’s not against the law to be a mercenary at present – several years ago the government did think about introducing legislation but it never happened. It is, of course, an offence to join a terrorist organisation.
There are United Nations rules against citizens of one state fighting for foreign powers, but they are never enforced.
Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) soldiers heading to their strongholds in Kobani earlier this year
Jac says he’s fighting for the YPG for the Kurds in the Kurdish region of Syria. We in the UK do not regard the YPG as a terrorist organisation, and we regard the Kurds as our allies.
However, the Kurdish fighters we support are the Peshmerga and the Peshmerga do not fight with the YPG or want to support them.
It is true that some people regard the YPG as being close to the PKK, and we in the UK, our friends in the US and in Europe, all regard the PKK as a terrorist organisation. The Turks, in particular, are determined to destroy the PKK.
Many states employ mercenaries of one kind or another, from the Swiss Guard to the French Foreign Legion and the Gurkhas. Similarly, I understand that whilst it may be illegal to fight for a foreign power for money, it may not be illegal to do so out of religious conviction.
So, if Jac were to make it back to the UK, he might be put on trial but fighting for the Kurds would, I suspect, probably not be considered an offence and if he were put on trial, I’d doubt that in the present circumstances an English jury would convict.
At the same time, we should not ignore the fact that Jac is fighting for the right cause; Isis jihadists are totally on the wrong side.
Jordan Matson, 28, far right, a former US Army soldier, takes a break with other fighters from the YPG in Sinjar, Iraq