US Occupy activist killed fighting IS in Raqqa

US Occupy activist killed fighting IS in Raqqa
Two Americans were killed in consecutive days in Syria's Raqqa while fighting with Kurdish militias engaged in a battle with IS.
3 min read
13 July, 2017
Robert Grodt, also known as Demhat Goldman, was killed outside Raqqa [YPG Press Office]
An American man who played a key role in anti-capitalist "Occupy" protests was killed fight the Islamic State group outside the Syrian city of Raqqa last week.

Robert Grodt - also known by his nom de guerre Demhat Goldman - volunteered as a medic with the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, a key player in the Syrian Democratic Forces' offensive against jihadi militants in northern Syria.

The 28-year-old was killed on 6 July close to the IS' self-declared capital Raqqa, where the SDF are pushing deeper into the north-east Syrian city.

Another American Nicholas Alan Warden, who served in the US army and French Foreign Legion, died the day before also fighting for the Kurdish militia in Raqqa.

Grodt was a well-known activist in the Occupy movement, which sprang up in 2011 to protest against corporate power and inequality in the US.

He also volunteered with the American Civil Liberties Union, Oxfam and Amnesty International.

Grodt saw the Kurdish struggle against IS as part of his own battle against injustice in the world.

"My reason for joining the YPG was to help the Kurdish people and their struggle for autonomy within Syria and elsewhere," he said in a video.

Grodt was married to an activist he met during an Occupy protest and had a four-year-old daughter with her. In the video, he apologised to his child for being away from home to fight in Syria.

People who worked with Grodt have lined up to pay tribute to him.

"Rob felt strongly enough that he was willing to risk and ultimately give his life," Ronald L Kuby, a civil rights lawyer who worked with Grodt told The New York Times. "It was a powerful vision."

Luke Rutter, a British fighter with the YPG, was also killed on 5 July following an IS ambush outside Raqqa.

He is the fourth British national to die fighting with the Kurdish militia in Syria.

Rutter told his family he was joining the French Foreign Legion before slipping away to fight for the YPG.

In a video the 22-year-old apoligised to his loved ones for lying but said he stood true to the cause of Kurdish freedom.

"Our comrade Soro [Rutter's adopted Kurdish name] was martyred in the right against Daesh [IS] fascism," the YPG said, according to The Daily Telegraph

The People's Protection Units is thought to have dozens of foreign fighters in its ranks, many attracted to the left-wing ideology of the group and its struggle for Kurdish autonomy.

Others have been wooed by the relatively secular outlook of the YPG in its much publicised battle with IS - and Syrian rebel groups - in northern Syria.