With the knowledge of how to shoot a gun, she spent a year battling ISIS on the frontline, teaching other girls how to fight and witnessing the brutal horrors of war.
Now back home, Joanna has told of her experiences from her time abroad – and the striking differences between the Islamic State and President Assad’s ‘killing machines’.
“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, from Copenhagen, Denmark, left college in November 2014 to ‘fight for human rights for all people’.
She firstly travelled to Iraq, before moving on to Rojova in Syria.On her first night on the front line, the young woman witnessed an unimaginable sight – her comrade being shot dead by a sniper who had noticed his cigarette smoke
She was forced to helplessly watch the Swedish fighter die, his blood drenching her new uniform.
In subsequent months, Joanna reportedly discovered she had a talent for shooting and keeping quiet at the right time, especially when faced with Assad’s well-armed forces.
Having learned to fire a gun aged just nine, she also started training young Kurdish fighters, many of whom stunned her with their bravery in the face of possible death.
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.At the beginning of 2015, Joanna was shocked to discover a ‘holding house’ in a village near Mosul, Iraq, where young girls were sexually abused and loaned out to fighters.
She said she was informed that her passport was no longer valid and that if she returned to Syria or Iraq, she could be imprisoned for up to six years under new laws.
These laws are intended to stop ISIS fanatics from joining the terror group in conflict zones.
Joanna is now back studying politics and philosophy in Copenhagen – but can’t help feeling like she has let down the trainee fighters and child abuse victims she left behind.