In June, most Kiwis start daydreaming about a holiday in the tropics but last year Ashlee, a young Kiwi woman from a farming background, went to Syria to fight the Islamic State.
The 24-year-old had no military training and no real connection with the all-female Kurdish militia with whom she'd gone to fight – the YPJ.
Ashlee had simply wanted to "fight against the evil that is ISIS" and within the space of a few emails, she'd paid for a ticket to fly to the Middle East and joined the so-called Rojava revolution.
Five months later, we waited in the arrivals hall at Auckland Airport for hours to meet Ashlee when she came home.
We'd expected Ashlee to be detained, we just had no idea how long it would take – this was new for us. However, when customs officers see the word Syria on an arrivals card, they tend to want to ask a few questions.
Kiwi fighting ISIS in Syria.
Source: 1 NEWS
Going to fight in a foreign war is not your typical O.E. But Ashlee doesn't see the fight against ISIS in Syria as a foreign war.
She told us: "If anyone has a problem with the London bombings, Manchester, Paris, Germany, and think that the fight should be taken to ISIS, well the YPJ are the people who did take the fight to ISIS."
She's not wrong. The female soldiers of the YPJ and their male counterparts in the YPG, backed by American air support, have had more success against ISIS than anyone else.
Source: 1 NEWS
When Raqqa fell late last year the Islamic State lost its capital, and it was YPG and YPJ fighters who watched what was left of the ISIS forces leave on buses. Former London banker Macer Gifford was there, on the roof of a bombed out apartment building, filming the whole thing on his phone.
He's seen just how hard the Kurds are willing to fight for a new Syria – he fought alongside them on the battlefield and continues to fight for them politically.
He describes himself as "a microphone for a lot of Syrian people that didn't ask for this war and have been caught in the middle as world and regional powers fight amongst themselves. This is about solidarity, that's what the international volunteers stand for."
It might be an act of solidarity but, let's be clear, it's also incredibly dangerous. Dozens of international volunteers have died fighting for the YPG – Australians, Britons, Canadians and Americans among them.
Source: 1 NEWS
It's a reality that Soresh, a 24-year-old from Christchurch who is currently in Syria with the YPG, tries not to dwell on.
"It's part of the risk that I took coming here. I mean you try not to think about it really, I guess it's kind of superstitious, but I feel if I think about it too much it's kind of willing it to happen," he said.
This is the first time that kiwis that've fought in Syria have ever gone on camera. These are not mercenaries; they're not getting paid to fight.
They are ordinary people who've volunteered for the most extraordinary tours of duty.
We're thrilled to bring you their incredible stories, and unbelievable footage, exclusively to Sunday, 7.30pm TVNZ1.