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  1. ITV Report

‘My skin still smells of death’: The Briton working the front lines of the Kurdish crisis in Syria

Dani Ellis went to Northern Syria 10 months ago to work on an ecological project.

In the last two weeks, the 29-year-old from London has found herself caught in the middle of Turkey’s war against the Kurds, digging bodies from destroyed buildings.

She was part of a Kurdish humanitarian convoy attempting to reach the injured in the besieged town of Ras al-Ain but was forced to turn back when organisers said they feared a massacre of those trying to get in.

However, in a nearby village they found the human carnage of airstrikes.

She told ITV News correspondent Emma Murphy that her body and clothes smelt “of death” having been surrounded by some of the hundreds of dead.

“We spent our afternoon helping move rubble, removing the bodies, unidentified body parts… which was very hard,” Dani said.

“Some of these bodies were essentially liquidised by the force of the blast.

“My clothes, my skin still smells of death. It’s a very unpleasant sensation.”

Dani Ellis on the frontlines of the Kurdish crisis. Credit: Dani Ellis @lapinesque

She said they were forced to leave many bodies behind, but was moved by the solidarity of the community

“People who I wouldn’t have expected to have medical experience or emergency experience – mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, news crews, were lifting concrete away, smashing concrete up and removing body parts and wrapping them up neatly,” she recalled.

“It was quite an intense, emotional outpouring in a very physical way. People were not crying. People were just getting on with it.”

Smoke billows from a fire in Ras al-Ain, Syria. Credit: AP

However, she said it was “naïve” of her to think of this experience as anything out of the ordinary.

“People had seven years of dealing with this now. Ordinary people have spent the best part of a decade digging bodies out of rubble and dealing with their loved ones dead and dealing with death and destruction,” she said.

“Many of the cities here have been reduced to rubble by either ISIS or airstrikes.

“For a lot of people, it was just business as usual.”

Undeterred by what she has seen, Dani is attempting her journey again and documenting her experience on her Twitter.