U.S. Embassy Ankara
March 31, 2023
Ambassador Jeffry L. Flake hosted a reception on Thursday, March 30, 2023, at his residence in Ankara to honor Women’s History Month, and Dr. Zakira Hekmat and Canan Güllü, who were awarded respectively for the years 2023 and 2021 as “International Women of Courage.”
Speaking at the reception attended by women NGO leaders and diplomatic mission representatives, Ambassador Flake said, “The State Department has the Secretary of State’s honor for International Women of Courage. This is done as a way to honor women who fight for gender equity and equality, often at a great risk to their own personal safety and at great sacrifice. It is really a pleasure to be here to honor two incredible women tonight. The two honorees truly exemplify women of courage.”
Zakira Hekmat, who recently received her award at an event hosted by First Lady Jill Biden and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken at the White House on International Women’s Day, took the stage at the reception and said, “I receive the International Women of Courage Award, not just for myself, but for all those who fight for the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and displaced persons. I would like to express my gratitude to the U.S. Embassy to Türkiye and its esteemed staff, who nominated me and allowed me to win this award.” Recalling the difficulties she had faced in Afghanistan and her efforts to advocate for the rights of all refugees and women in Türkiye, Hekmat added, “Together, we can make a difference. We need to build a better world for ourselves and for future generations. And to do that, we need to work together.”
Canan Güllü, 2021 IWOC award winner, said in her part, “I believe in the days when peace, justice, and equality prevail, and I receive this award in the name of this hope.”
The Secretary of State’s annual International Women of Courage or IWOC Award recognizes women from around the world who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength, and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equity and equality, and the empowerment of women and girls, in all their diversity, and often at great personal risk and sacrifice.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and First Lady Jill Biden hosted the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards ceremony at the White House on March 8, 2023. The 2023 IWOC Award ceremony honored a group of 11 extraordinary women from around the world who are working to build a brighter future for all. The award ceremony was held for the first time at the White House in 2023.
Zakira Hekmat, born an internally displaced person in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, completed high school secretly under the Taliban’s first period of control. After winning a scholarship to study in Türkiye, she eventually qualified as a medical doctor in 2018. Throughout her medical studies, Dr. Hekmat volunteered with refugee assistance organizations where she recognized a need to advocate for marginalized refugee groups’ rights and access to services. From a one-room office, she founded the Afghan Refugee Solidarity Association in Türkiye in 2014, where she has since worked tirelessly to advocate for the rights of all refugees and women. Thanks to Dr. Hekmat’s efforts, many Afghans, especially women, girls, and minorities, have received access to refugee protection and asylum.
Canan Güllü has been an activist for more than 30 years and is the president of the Turkish Federation of Women’s Associations, an umbrella organization of women’s NGOs; she leads 186 branches and 52,500 members. Güllü has been a steadfast champion of gender equality, working to promote women’s participation in governance, labor force, and education. In 2007, the Turkish Federation of Women Associations established the first emergency hotline for victims of violence in Türkiye, which continues its operations.
More information about U.S. Department of State’s International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award is available at this link: https://www.state.gov/secretary-of-states-international-women-of-courage-award/