Lt. Kochar Saleh Haji receiving the Global Hope Coalition award. Photo: Rudaw video
NEW YORK – A female Peshmerga has received a UNESCO award acknowledging “everyday heroes” in the campaign to fight violent extremism and intolerance.
Lt. Kochar Saleh Haji, who has been a Peshmerga for eight years, was one of 10 recipients from around the world to receive the Global Hope Coalition award.
“Our fight against the terrorists of ISIS was not only to protect the people in Kurdistan Region, but also to defend humanity and religious freedom,” said Haji, thanking UNESCO for the honour.
“A large number of Peshmerga fighters in the Kurdistan Peshmerga force sacrificed their lives to protect ethnic and religious minorities from the brutality of ISIS. The genocide committed against Yezidis, Christians, and others will never be forgotten. As we speak there are around 3,000 Yezidi women and girls still in ISIS captivity,” she told the UNESCO Global Hope Coalition Summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
She said the Kurdistan Region was proud of its ability to provide safety for 1.8 million refugees and internally displaced persons, welcoming them regardless of ethnicity or religious background because “religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence are deeply rooted in our culture.”
She dedicated her award to the nearly 1,800 Peshmerga who gave their lives in the war against ISIS “and to all freedom fighters defending justice, humanity, and civilization against tyranny and extremism.”
Addressing the issue of the Kurdistan independence referendum, she asked the international community to support dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad in order to find peaceful resolution to the problems.
“And I would also like to encourage the international community to respect and recognize the will and the voice of the people of the Kurdistan Region,” Haji concluded.
The Global Hope Coalition is a new international initiative to fight violent extremism and intolerance, and build bridges across cultures.
"If there is one lesson we learned in the struggle for human rights, it is the importance of hope,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “Today, more than ever, we need new heroes to inspire hope to defend the values and freedoms that make us who we are.”