Student takes gap year to fight ISIS, says they're 'easy to kill'

A student has returned from a gap year in Syria, which she used to fight ISIS.

Joanna Palani, a politics and philosophy student in Copenhagen, took a break from studying to travel to Syria to fight Jihadis, and teaching other women how to fight.

The student was just 22 when she gave up her life at a college in Copenhagen to join the fight against ISIS, leaving Denmark to "fight for human rights for all people".

Joanna, writing her name in bullets on her Instagram account. Because that's the kind of thing you do when you're a badass.

ISIS are "very easy to kill"

Most people come back from gap years with daring stories about how they skydived from 12,000 feet whilst strapped to a qualified instructor. Joanna came back with stories of dodging sniper fire, and fighting "killing machines" in war-torn Syria.

"ISIS fighters are very easy to kill," she told Vice, whilst laughing.

"ISIS fighters are very good at sacrificing their own lives, but Assad's soldiers are very well-trained and they are specialist killing machines."

Joanna spent the first few days of her gap year in Iraq, before moving to Syria. On her first night on the front line with the People's Protection Unit (YPG), she saw a fellow fighter shot dead by a sniper who had noticed his cigarette smoke.

In the months that follows, Joanna says she discovered she had a talent for shooting. Having begun learning to fire a gun at age nine, she also started training other young Kurdish fighters.

The young fighters were reportedly left stunned at her bravery in the face of death.

Her instagram photos are a bizarre mix of selfies and shots of military equipment used for killing terrorists.

Horrors of Syria

Joanna left to fight in Syria in November 2014 to "fight for human rights for all people".

"Even though I am a fighter it is difficult for me to read about how a ten-year-old girl is going to die because she is bleeding from a rape," she told Vice.

During her year fighting militants she saw these horrors first hand, and was shocked to discover a "holding house" in Mosul, Iraq, where young girls were sexually abused by militant fighters.

She told Vice how one 11 year old victim was pregnant with twins. The pregnancy later killed the girl.

She witnessed many other horrors during the time she spent in Iraq and Syria, including abuse she witnessed by Assad's forces.

Back home

Joanna, from Denmark, has now returned home to study politics and philosophy, but says she feels like she has let down trainee fighters and child abuse victims by leaving them.

Since returning, she has received an email from the Danish police informing her that her passport is no longer valid, and if she returns to Syria or Iraq she could be jailed for up to six years.

These laws are designed to stop people from fighting on the side of ISIS, not against them.

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