Fighting before dating
He is acutely aware of the danger facing him, having seen numerous friends including fellow volunteers from the UK killed in battle, sometimes watching them die in his arms.
A least four British men have so far been killed while fighting alongside the YPG and there is mounting concern for those who remain, including members of the former Bob Crow Brigade and the first female volunteer from the UK, Kimmie Taylor.
“Isis doesn’t know where the next attack is going to strike and they can’t put together that much of a coherent defence,” he adds.
“For the past 40 to 50 days I’ve only spent four or five days off the front, so my world is just my position and the people in my unit.” Mr Gifford has posted footage online showing Isis mortars falling just metres away from his position.
It’s a very long time and if I had any significant doubts, I came to terms with them a long time ago.” Isis used the most recent edition of its propaganda magazine to threaten “the Crusaders and their murtadd [apostate] proxies”, while apparently admitting that Raqqa would fall.
A militant said to be Isis’ commander in the city said his militants would fight “down to their last drop of blood” and described death as a “good outcome”.
“Parties to the conflict must protect them and facilitate safe passage for civilians.” Women’s emancipation is at the forefront of the Kurdish sociopolitical agenda, and the YPJ, or women’s fighting units, have a frontline role in taking on Isis (International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces) Humanitarian groups including Amnesty International have also raised concern over the YPG’s alleged human rights abuses and use of child soldiers – both of which the group denies – as well as accusing the US-led coalition of “disproportionate” bombardment.
“A group that kills women and children, butchers gay people by throwing them off buildings and does the most horrible and unspeakable things ...
“Coming out here was just something I wanted to do, that I felt had to be done,” he says.
“I wanted to fight Isis, I wanted to show that the people who are going to destroy Isis and heal the country already existed inside Syria, because at the time I went there was a lot of talk of raising armies by the Americans and Brits.
He expressed frustration at the fact the US-led coalition had not bombed one key piece of weaponry but suspected it could be surrounded by civilians deployed as “human shields” by Isis.
Around 300,000 civilians were living in Raqqa at the start of the offensive and the UN estimates that at least 20,000 remain – half of them children.