Today we remember the martyr Luke Rutter, also known as Sehid Soro Zinar. Luke was 22 years old when he fell martyr in the liberation of Raqqa, the former capital city of the fascist Isis caliphate.
Luke was born in Birkenhead, Merseyside. Luke described his education as “nothing very significant.” He grew up and worked in the Wirral until 2017, when, at the age of 22, after months of research and consideration, he made the decision to travel to Rojava. Luke travelled across the world to support the people’s revolution and to defend it from eradication by the fascist forces of Isis and the Turkish state.
Luke was well aware that he might never come back, and that if he did manage to return he would face prosecution and harassment from the British government. In order to avoid retaliation towards his family from the government and fascists, Luke told them he was travelling to join the French foreign legion. Heartbreakingly, Luke’s mother only learned that he had been fighting with the YPG when one of his comrades informed her of his death.
Luke spoke of his struggle with this decision in his recorded will and testament, “I lied to people I care about to come here. I said that I was going somewhere else. I apologise massively for that. Apart from that I don’t regret my decision and I hope that you respect it.”
Luke went on to briefly explain why he made the selfless journey, “My reasons for joining the YPG I think are like everyone else’s. I think the YPG, they stand for the best opportunity for peace that this region might have.”
After braving the perilous border crossing into Syria, Luke arrived at the YPG academy with two American comrades, Nicholas Warden (Rodî Deysie) and Robert Grodt (Demhat Goldman) and the trio quickly became inseparable. Another English volunteer who arrived shortly after Luke spoke of their experiences together in training, “When I arrived to Rojava I felt uncertain if I would actually be able to contribute, or if I was just kidding myself, but Luke encouraged me, certain I would not be useless. It was Luke and Robert that first showed me the rudimentaries of using an AK47. We would sit around the room arguing about whether to keep the windows closed (To keep out flies) or keep them open (To try to capture a slight breeze) as Robert constructed a ridiculous ghillie suit made from scraps of old uniforms.”
Luke’s commanders during training had this to say of him, “From the very first day until the end of training, Soro gave the impression that he knew what he was doing and what he had come for, and he was always eager to learn new things. We never saw him yelling at anyone or complaining about anything. He participated actively in the collective life, which is promoted within the YPG. At the end of training in the academy, when asked the usual question addressed to every volunteer: ‘Are you ready to fight?’ He firmly responded ‘Yes’ and said he wanted to fight the fascist organisation of IS.
The English volunteer went on, “Upon their graduation Luke, Robert and Nicholas, due to their close friendship, requested to go to a unit together, and the YPG International commanders granted this wish. Before leaving Luke gave me a small military backpack and some spare medical supplies he had inherited from another friend, which were to prove essential to the International Freedom Battalion during the liberation of Raqqa.
Luke and his friends returned to the Academy a couple of times while I was there in their efforts to be sent to a unit that was going to be sent into the thick of the fighting, something that they eventually succeeded in doing.”
On the night of July 5th, Luke was conducting a patrol alongside Robert and Nicholas, as well as 4 of their local comrades, through a suburb of Raqqa when they came under fire in an ambush. Luke and his comrades returned fire and moved to take cover, when some of them triggered mines in the area and were killed. As they moved to help the injured, Luke and his comrades came under heavy fire from rocket propelled grenades. By the time others from their unit were able to flank the isis ambush and get to the patrol, only one was still alive. Luke and the other internationalists had fallen martyr, alongside three of their local Arabic comrades.
This type of ambush attack was a common tactic of the fascist isis forces towards the end of the war. Much better equipped than the SDF and YPG forces, but faced with the knowledge that they were on the losing side, Isis began planting thousands of mines, digging elaborate tunnels throughout all of their strongholds, and stockpiling vast amounts of explosives; determined to wreak as much havoc and damage as possible upon not only their military opponents, but also the returning civilian population. In the operation to liberate Raqqa City, roughly 90% of YPG and SDF martyrs fell from IEDs and rockets, another 7% from sniper attacks, and only 3% from ordinary combat.
A statement from the Kurdish YPG command said Luke would be “remembered by our people… as a hero who sacrificed his life for the sake of protecting the values of the free world. Comrades Demhat, Rodi and Soro, like all their other comrades, joined the fight to end Daesh barbarity and sacrificed themselves for a common and free life for all peoples,” said the YPG, using the trio’s Kurdish names.
“Revolutionaries who have strived in their own countries for the freedom of humanity see Rojava as the hope for emancipation for humanity and are joining the revolution, since the Rojava revolution began. Internationalist fighters who join in the revolution at the very first fronts and who have been martyred have gifted the Rojava revolution to the peoples of the world. 3 of our 6 comrades who fought in the very front lines against ISIS fascism and were martyred were internationalist fighters. Comrades Demhat, Rodî and Soro, like all their other comrades, sacrificed themselves and fought until the end to put a stop to ISIS barbarism and to make sure all the peoples of the world, not just the peoples of Rojava, can have a common and free life.”
The body of the 22-year-old from Birkenhead arrived at Manchester Airport at 13:00 on the 30th of August.
Kurdish and English families alike in the North West showed their gratitude to Rutter for his sacrifice with chants, flags and photos of him pinned to their clothing, carrying roses to pay their respects to a man they see as a hero.
The crowd chanted “Sehid Namirin – Martyrs Never Die” as Luke’s body was driven past. People laid flowers onto the bonnet and roof of the vehicle, which transported him to a private funeral for his family and close friends in Birkenhead.
Prior to his body’s departure from Rojava, a funeral ceremony for the YPG’s 4 recent internationalist martyrs, Martyr Demhat Goldman (Robert Grodt from US), Martyr Soro Zinar (Luke) Martyr Rodi Deysie (Nicholas Warden from US), and Martyr Zafer Qereçox (David Taylor from US) was held in Derik.
Hundreds of people attended the ceremony, which began with a military exercise saluting the martyrs. A minute’s silence was followed by speeches in Kurdish and English.
Mothers carried the photographs of the fallen comrades as the martyrs’ friends carried those fallen on their shoulders to the border crossing in Semelka.
A speech was made by Heval Cesur Herekol on behalf of the General Command of the Internationalist Battalion
We publish the speech below:
Every single martyr for us is a promise for the victory. Our struggle against the terrorism of oppression and tyranny is a struggle that is in the name all humanity. Our struggle surpasses borders. We are fighting against the enemies of humanity. Serok Apo who lit the fire of freedom and revolution in Kurdistan once said that the movement is the movement of martyrs. Martyrs are our guides, our compasses, and our inspirations.
With the martyrdom of Şehid Demhat, Şehid Soro, Şehid Rodî, and Şehid Zafer; we renew our promises for victory of freedom and revolution. They have come from lands that are far away and wanted to know about the truth of fire. Through the struggle, they discovered that the fire illuminates, warms, and burns. They revolved around it with their courage and dignity without hesitation and were united with the fire. They are like thousands of others the only ones who know now the truth about the fire and will illuminate our path on the way to victory. In the very presence of them, we promise that we will never deviate from this path.
They have taken their places in the hearts of martyrs’ mothers and of the people of Rojava. We are proud of them. I myself met Şehid Demhat at the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York. He was a wonderful comrade and a true revolutionary who met the mother of his now four year old daughter while treating her as a street medic. When their daughter was born, she was called as ‘the child of the revolution.’ When he made the decision to join the Rojava Revolution, he knew that he might have to make the sacrifice he made. For him this sacrifice was not just about fighting fascism in the form of Daesh. It was also about providing peace not only for Rojava but also for all the Middle East and beyond.
When Şehid Soro joined YPG he said that he did this because YPG stands for the best opportunity for peace in the Middle East. He showed a great interest in the subjects and participated actively in the academy. In the collective life of YPG, he always helped his comrades and was respected by all. We have never seen him yelling at someone, complaining about anything. He deeply knew about peculiarities of the Middle East and was always eager to learn new things.
Şehid Rodi had already fought against the enemies of humanity in other parts of the world. But when he came to know about YPG, he also wanted to learn about Rojava Revolution. He was a true disciplined soldier and was a source of inspiration for all his comrades. He was generous in sharing his experiences and was self-giving in sharing responsibilities. He was a source of morale for everyone around him with his joy and sense of humor.
Şehid Zafer was also a wonderful comrade with high ethical and intellectual standards. He was honest and courageous. His integrity was impressive. His humility was inspiring. He had said that ‘The Rojava Revolution is honorable because it wants to grant equal protections and freedoms to women and minorities. This is unique in the region.’ He had gladly taken Qereçox as his second nom de guerre and heroically carried to the end.
We, as their comrades, will always be proud of them and will follow in their footsteps. There are already internationalist comrades who have taken their names. The fire of freedom and peace will continue to flame and spread to the Middle East and beyond. With this hope, courage, and determination; we say again Şehîd Namirin! Bîjî YPG! Biji YPJ!”