Hana Raza owes her early introduction to nature to the Iraq-Iran war. When she was born, her parents were living in one of the main Peshmerga camps on Sargalw Mountain. When she was only four months old, the camp was bombarded by chemical weapons. The mountains gave her and her family refuge. Hana is now a conservationist working to protect Iraq’s natural beauties in the midst of the turmoil that has enveloped her country. She preserved through worsening recession, limited budgets, and dismal security conditions in many war-afflicted areas in order to conduct surveys of the countries fauna and flora.
“Growing up and living in a region of the world where instability and war have been the immediate reality, I have always found that the bigger picture has been lost on my nation: that species conservation and the preservation of ecological stability is the uniting concern of mankind; that conservation is necessary for the future well-being of the entire planet.”
Vision and Approach
After four decades of war in Iraq, it was thought that the Persian leopard followed the Asiatic lion and cheetah into local extinction. Nevertheless, Hana and her team found evidence of the existence of the rare Persian Leopard on one of the mountains of northern Iraq. Hana’s project represents the first stepping-stone towards a transnational Persian leopard protection endeavour in Iraq. Together with her team, she managed to survey over 200 sites throughout Iraq and assess the ecosystems and habitats, in the process becoming the only reliable source of information on biodiversity in Iraq.
“Hana’s application gives me hope for our messed-up world. If a woman can spearhead innovative, dynamic conservation initiatives in Iraqi Kurdistan, then many things are possible. She is clearly willing to do the difficult thing, including seeking collaboration with conservationists in neighbouring Iran. Her work with communities and enforcement officials appears to have led to increasing wildlife populations where you would not expect them.” – 2017, Simon Stuart, International Selection Committee