Tributes paid to coal site protester killed fighting Islamic State

Tributes have been paid to a campaigner who helped set up a protest site at an open cast coal mine in the UK and was killed in Syria fighting Islamic State.

Sehid Sahin Qerecox, known as Waka, was a popular member of the Campaign to Protect Pont Valley, which fought to prevent a new mine opening in Dipton, County Durham.

The group occupied a protest camp, including through the terrible Beast from the East conditions earlier this year, and the 26-year-old French-born campaigner agreed to help them as a veteran of a similar campaign in the Hambacher Forest in Germany.

After weeks of camping beside the A692, protesters were moved from the site by police and Waka left the UK to join the Kurdish fight against IS in northern Syria.

He was killed alongside two others when they were hit in a rocket attack last month.

News of his death has shocked and saddened campaigners in the UK.

Waka campaigned in County Durham in terrible wintry conditions (Campaign to Protect Pont Valley/PA)

A spokeswoman for the Pont Valley campaigners said: “Waka cared deeply about animals and ecology.

“He was drawn to the Pont Valley to do everything he could against the coal company, he watched the wildlife and greeted everyone who came, wanting to know their motivations about how they lived their life.

“He lived to learn and to participate in teaching.

“Waka was a joy to be around, he thought deeply about everything he did and put his passion into every aspect of his life.”

He was learning Kurdish while at the camp and read about the people’s struggle.

The French environmentalist was an anti-capitalist(Campaign to Protect Pont Valley/PA)

Campaigner Haselin McCarthy, 23, from Birmingham, said: “Waka joined the Kurdish militia, the YPG, because he recognised it as a force that is fighting for the principles he has always stood for; ecology, feminism and anti-capitalism.

“Northern Syria is in the midst of a social revolution that is under attack by Isis in the south and Turkey and its proxies in the north.

“When countries around the world once again turn their back on Kurdish people, Waka took responsibility and went there to fight against forces of oppression and imperialism.”

His father, Salem Medjahed, said: “Waka was an ecologist, a defender of the planet and an animal advocate, a boy who didn’t like violence.

“He didn’t have the cult of the military, he was just a human with a universal awareness.

“I just hope that my son died on the spot without having seen his last hours coming, and that his sacrifice has helped others in their suffering against this war that escapes all logic.”

The Campaign to Protect Pont Valley said it will be inspired by Waka to continue fighting and is seeking a judicial review of the decision not to revoke planning permission for the opencast mine.

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