Kurdish Australians have wept alongside Reece Harding’s family at a traditional Kurdish funeral for a young man killed while fighting in Syria against Islamic State.
Up to 1000 people, almost exclusively Kurdish, attended Sunday’s funeral for the Gold Coast man who died last month when he stepped on a land mine while supporting the Kurdish YPG, People’s Defence Units.
The mourners included Reece’s mother Michelle, father Keith and younger brother Jordan, who followed his coffin into the Kurdish Association of Victoria’s community centre in Pascoe Vale.
The coffin was decorated with flowers, draped in the YPG flag and led by a girl who carried a portrait of fair-haired, blue-eyed Reece dressed in his Kurdish battle fatigues.
Kurdish mourners applauded and shouted chants, including one that translates as: “A martyr never dies, they live on through us.”
KAV spokesman Deniz Ozer said the centre was now as much Reece’s as any member of the Kurdish community’s.
“Reece is our brother and we now consider him, just like all of us, an Australian Kurd,” he told the packed auditorium.
“Furthermore, Reece is not just our brother, but he is our hero.
“Reece will live forever in our hearts.”
Kurdish community leaders from as far as Western Australia praised Reece’s battlefield service before a touching photographic tribute to him
Michelle Harding sobbed along with many mourners and was comforted by a loved one as an image of a framed portrait of her son flashed on the screen.
Soon after, supported by her husband and remaining son, she took to the stage.
As mourners wept, she thanked the Kurdish community.
“I wanted today to be about the loss of children, not just Reece,” she said.
“Some of you have lost so many. Everyone has lost relatives, but … I spoke to someone that has lost three sons, and I just want you to know that I will carry on what Reece tried to do.
“It makes things a little bit easier, losing Reece, that we now understand the difference with the Kurdish nation and we understand a bit more about what a noble, respectful, kind people you are. I truly thank you.”
Reece will be laid to rest on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
By Jamie Duncan
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