Until early 2015, Tim Locks lived a comfortable life running his successful construction business and enjoying the swimming pool it had enabled him to incorporate into his home. Like most of us he was horrified to see the TV reports about ISIS’ atrocities in Iraq and Syria. Unlike most of us, Tim decided to do something about it. He sold his house to raise money, put himself through arms training, bought his equipment on eBay and, in February 2015, headed to Kurdistan to fight ISIS.
Tim is no zealot, he's just an ordinary guy doing an extraordinary thing. In his gripping new book “Fighting ISIS”, he shares his experiences of cultures clashing and bullets flying on the front line with honesty and black humour. Sabotage Times spoke to him about his adventures and inspirations.
“The final push came when I saw what was happening to the Yazidi people trapped on Mount Sinjar, which I thought was one of the most evil acts on the planet. I have always despised bullies of all types and Daesh (the name commonly used for them in the Arab world and the one they dislike most) are the biggest ones out there, with the way they use fear. I couldn’t put my head back in the sand and leave it like that”.
Tim was unimpressed by how little Western governments were doing to tackle ISIS or to help the brave Kurds who were fighting them almost alone. He read a few articles about other Westerners volunteering to help the Kurds and decided “if they can do it, I can do it”.
Tim writes stirringly in “Fighting ISIS” about his exceptional comrades in Iraq, both international and local. Characteristically, though, he does not sugar coat it and admits “I was very naïve when I first went out. I thought 100% of the other volunteers would be there for the right reasons as well. Some are there to help but some are out to make a name for themselves. But that is just another aspect of the experience to deal with”.
Despite being aware that, as a Western fighter, he is a prize target for ISIS to kill or capture, Tim feels “no fears” about what he is doing. He says “the adrenalin certainly pumps when you are under mortar fire. But I am not scared of Daesh because their major weapon is fear. If you show no fear, then you go a long way towards disarming them”.
Nor does he have much sympathy for the view that ISIS volunteers are similarly fighting for a cause they believe in, however misguided. “We are all free to do what is rational or reasonable. But they are very deluded people. There are some lines you cross, that you cannot come back from. No cause justifies putting people in cages and setting fire to them or deliberately killing babies”.
Tim recognises that Western governments have upped their game recently by helping the Kurdish Peshmerga and other groups to squeeze ISIS’s area of operations in Syria and Iraq. He still believes they could do more. But one of the most impressive things about him is his focus on taking responsibility for his own actions to, as he likes to put it, “improve the situation”. Whilst his website, www.improvethesituation.co.uk , provides practical information for would-be volunteers, Tim avoids encouraging others to follow in his footsteps, “I am in no way a recruiter and want to make that clear. Anyone thinking of going out there needs to do their own research. They need to know that they are going to help, not to take over and be very open-minded about what they will find there. I have learned a lot from meeting new people and about different cultures. But it’s frustrating at times and I pulled out what little hair I had left. This is not an adventure holiday. It is a serious, life-changing experience. Mine will never be the same again. You have to be prepared properly for that because, if you go, it is going to take over your life”.
Proving the point, Tim will be heading back to Iraqi Kurdistan after his current breather in the UK. All of the proceeds he makes from “Fighting ISIS” will be ploughed back into the cause.