Dusseldorf, Germany - On Friday, Nihad Salim Latif Qoja, mayor of Kurdistan’s capital city Erbil (Hewlêr), was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. The German-Kurd was awarded for his decade-long “commitment to the German-Kurdish friendship.”
In Dusseldorf, Northrhine-Westphalia Minister Franz-Josef Lersch-Mense said: “The Federal President has distinguished Mr. Qoja for his outstanding commitment to political, humanitarian and cultural activities. Since he fled from Iraq to the city of Bonn more than 36 years ago, he has been an important bridge builder between Germany and Kurdistan.”
The minister recounted Qoja’s achievements, such as the opening of the German school in Erbil, the establishment of German companies in the Kurdish capital and the construction of the "European Technology and Training Center" in Erbil. He said: "With so much commitment, it becomes clear: Nihad Qoja has placed his professional and private life in the service of the German-Kurdish friendship and thus earned special merits for the Federal Republic of Germany."
Germany awards its Order of Merit to German and foreign citizens, who make an outstanding contribution in the fields of economics, social affairs, politics, science or in the field of charitable activities. It is the highest medal of the Federal Republic.
Relations between Berlin and Erbil have improved dramatically in the last years, especially after Saddam Hussein’s fall. In a historic decision, Germany’s parliament decided in September 2014, for the first time since the founding of the Republic, that it will support Kurdish Peshmerga forces with arms shipments and a military training mission. The Central-European nation is home to around 1.2 million Kurds.