INTERVIEW | “My son will be proud of me”: a servicewoman from Kazakhstan about participation in the UN peacekeeping mission

ИНТЕРВЬЮ | «Мой сын будет гордиться мной»: военнослужащая из Казахстана об участии в миротворческой миссии ООН

Sergeant of the medical service of the Center for Peacekeeping Operations of the Republic of Kazakhstan Ardak Kurtibaeva. INTERVIEW | “My son will be proud of me”: a servicewoman from Kazakhstan about participation in the UN peacekeeping mission Peace and Security

Earlier this year, a contingent from Kazakhstan arrived in the Golan Heights for the first time to support the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). There, peacekeepers carry out tasks to maintain a ceasefire between the parties to the conflict in accordance with the mandate of the UN mission. 

Sergeant of the medical service of the Center for Peacekeeping Operations of the Republic of Kazakhstan Ardak Kurtibaeva, a military medic with 10 years of experience, became one of seven Kazakh women sent on this mission. She spoke to Evgenia Kleshcheva of the UN News Service about her work and the important role of women peacekeepers in conflict situations.

EK: Can you tell us about yours? roles, where you are now and what you are doing?

AK: At the moment, our Kazakh company of peacekeepers is in the Golan Heights. This is 139 people, and among them there are seven women soldiers.

My role as a medical instructor, my responsibility is to provide first emergency medical aid to the platoon if necessary.

EK: Tell us about your journey, how you decided to come to peacemaking and how did your family react to it.

AK: In general, I heard about peacemaking when I was taking language training in city ​​of Almaty. We studied English, and then in the same group with me there were military personnel who had been on missions in Western Sahara and Lebanon. And I was very interested, I asked them how one could get into these missions. And after that I expressed a desire to participate in missions and was included in the contingent.

We prepared for the mission for six months. Our training took place in Kazakhstan at the training ground at the Peacekeeping Operations Center.

This included language training, medical training, including first aid in the field, patrolling, checkpoints, and convoys. And so, after training, I passed the selection and am currently serving as part of the mission.

EK: The selection was difficult?

AK: Of course, the selection was difficult, because the selection requirements were knowledge of English and physical fitness.

You must also be prepared psychologically for this, because where we have come is considered a place where wars are going on. Therefore, psychological preparation was difficult. 

As for my family and friends, we can say that my parents are already accustomed to my business trips, because before this mission I was still on a business trip in Lebanon, in Beirut. I was also on a long business trip for six months in the Republic of Pakistan, the city of Islamabad. And other business trips – in Kazakhstan.

My parents, my family and friends support me, because this is my choice. And I always want to contribute to peacekeeping and useful projects.

EK: What did you do before you joined UN peacekeeping missions ?

AK: I served for 10 years in the main military clinical hospital in Astana.

I had the position of operating room nurse. At the moment, I have transferred to the Peacekeeping Operations Center and am occupying the position of a sanitary instructor-lecturer in medical training.

EK: Do you feel that women – it’s more difficult for peacekeepers, have you encountered any stereotypes? 

AK: Since we now live in an era of gender equality, since our republic supports gender policy, a gender perspective is also supported in peacekeeping, so I don’t see any, how to say, difficulties for women and, I hope, I won’t encounter them.

The UN supports gender policy, so everything is fine, everything is calm, there is no discrimination.

EK: What are your plans for the future? Do you want to stay in peacekeeping, how do you see the development of your career and this field of activity in general?

AK: Yes, of course, after the successful completion of this mission, I would like to participate in other missions, for example, in Africa. Why not make your contribution to peacekeeping?

In the future, after gaining experience in peacekeeping, I will share it with future peacekeepers in the process of teaching as an instructor.

I believe that peacekeeping is a very noble cause. The role of a woman peacekeeper in missions is very important. Why? Because basically in every war and clashes the local population suffers, mainly women and children. And a woman peacemaker will be trusted more by suffering women and children, they will be more open with them.

And this is very good for collecting information and for stopping, for example, violence among women and children. Therefore, I believe that being a woman peacemaker is a very noble cause.

EK: What would you say to young women and young people in general who are thinking about such a career? 

AK: I will repeat once again, this is a very noble cause.

Why not help the affected people who live during the war, provide them with some support. It’s an honor for me. It is also an honor for me to represent my country on the international stage.

I would advise that if the younger generation wants to connect their lives with peacekeeping, just go ahead, this is a very good way to get out of the zone comfort, learn something new, new traditions, new places. This is a very good experience for the future, and it is very commendable. 

For example, I have a son, and I think my son will be proud of me, so that his mother is a peacemaker, that she provides assistance to those affected by the war. So don’t be afraid of anything, try yourself in different projects.

EK: What moments of interaction with local residents especially caught your attention?

AK: Of course, local residents, their life is completely different from how we are used to living: we are used to living in peace, we fall asleep in peace, we wake up , we are not afraid that now someone will blow us up, that someone might shoot us.

People here live in fear, they want to live in peace, they want for the war to stop, they want to believe in the future, they want their children to live in prosperity, in independence. Therefore, I believe that we live very well in Kazakhstan, compared to people who live during war and see war.

Read also :

INTERVIEW | “Here I am doing something meaningful”: the experience of a female peacekeeper from Kyrgyzstan in South Sudan


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