Family of Canadian killed while fighting ISIS in Syria still searching for answers
Before John Robert Gallagher left Canada to fight ISIS he published a post on Facebook: "Why the War in Kurdistan Matters." In the essay he writes, "I'm prepared to give my life in the cause of averting the disaster we are stumbling towards as a civilization."
Yesterday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Gallagher was killed by an ISIS militant while fighting alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces. Gallagher is the second Canadian to die fighting ISIS. He was 32.
Shelagh Besley, Gallagher's aunt, tells As It Happens host Carol Off the family is overwhelmed and left with many unanswered questions. Here is an excerpt from their conversation.
Carol Off: Ms. Besley, first of all, I'm so sorry for your loss. How is your family holding up?
Shelagh Besley: Everyone is doing okay. We're all kind of in limbo and overwhelmed at the moment.
CO: What did [Gallagher] tell you about what he was going to be doing overseas?
CO: He has very engaging posts on his Facebook. There's a curious one that I want to ask you about. He says, "I'll cross half the world to put a bullet in my fellow man. I'll skip dinner so I can feed a stray cat. Even I find my values strange sometimes." What does that tell you about him?
SB: It's very hard. It's very overwhelming and you're left with a lot of questions but right now there's no concrete answers. We have no idea how long any process takes to bring him home, how long that will be. It's very hard when all you're left with is questions at this moment.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
Besley says many of the details surrounding her nephew's death are still unclear. She confirms that Gallagher's mother, Valerie, was informed by the People's Protection Unit (Kurdish paramilitary force) that he was killed by a suicide bomb. According to Besley, Valerie has also been contacted by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs but the family is still waiting for further information and a formal identification.
To hear the full interview please click on the Listen audio link above.