The mother of a Gold Coast man who died battling Islamic State has promised the Kurdish community she will carry on with what her son tried to do.
A funeral service was held in Melbourne yesterday for Reece Harding, 23, who was killed last month by an improvised explosive device while fighting with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Hundreds of people gathered at the Kurdish Association of Victoria in Melbourne’s north to pay tribute to the man the Australian Kurdish community hold as a hero. Throughout the service, the mourners chanted in Kurdish: “A martyr never dies, they live through us.”
Michele Harding said she wanted to thank the community for bringing her son home and to let them know that she “will carry on what Reece tried to do”.
She said every time someone spoke to her and said they knew about the YPG, “it makes it a little bit easier losing Reece”.
Dressed in traditional Kurdish clothing, Mrs Harding then spoke in Kurdish and thanked the Kurdish people before saying “long live Kurdistan”.
Kurdish Association of Victoria spokesman Deniz Ozer said Harding was a courageous man who fought to defend the lives of the Kurdish people. “Our women have been raped, our men have been tortured and our children, our children have been massacred,” he said. “It takes tremendous courage and hunger for justice to fight against this.”
Mr Ozer said Harding was a “very selfless person” and read a message from Brisbane man Ashley Dyball, who is still fighting with the Kurdish forces against Islamic State. “Reece was a great man,” Mr Dyball wrote. “His smile lit up ours every day without fail … he loved his family and friends.”
Mr Ozer asked the Australian government to recognise Harding as a hero and not to prosecute other Australians who travel overseas to fight against Islamic State, calling them “freedom-loving humanitarians”.
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