In the capital of the Kurdistan Region, where the land itself seems to whisper stories of indomitable spirits, one young fighter has ignited a blazing path of glory in the world of kickboxing. His journey reads like an epic saga, transcending mere dreams to etch his name in the annals of kickboxing history.
Hakar Hazhar Bapir, the fearless warrior known to the world as Hakar Gardi, was born in the vibrant city of Erbil in 1998. His journey into the world of combat sports commenced in 2009 when he first stepped onto the taekwondo mat.
The seed of determination was sown deep within his heart. With every training session, he grew stronger, more disciplined, and more focused. His destiny, it seemed, was to be written in the fists and feet of a fighter and, in 2014, he embraced the fiery realm of kickboxing, which launched his ascent to greatness.
As a fresh face in the world of kickboxing, Hakar's journey was nothing short of meteoric. “I dipped my toes into the tournament waters in early 2015,” Hakar recounts with the fire of ambition in his eyes. “My first taste of victory came at the Erbil boxing tournament, where I clinched the champion’s title not once, but twice.”
But this was only the beginning. Hakar’s odyssey quickly transcended borders. He soared to the pinnacle of the sport, claiming first place not only in Iraq but twice at the prestigious Iranian boxing championship. His victories extended to a number of international arenas, with the flag of Kurdistan flying high in Iraq, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. His meteoric rise was marked by the accumulation of an impressive nine international belts, showcasing his prowess on the global stage.
In 2020, Hakar reached the zenith of his journey, securing his first championship belt, an honor he defended successfully in 2021. In 2022, he made history by triumphing in the KRI, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. Hakar Gardi was now a global sensation, a relentless force in the world of kickboxing.
Mixed martial arts
But Hakar’s story goes beyond the confines of a single discipline. In 2019, he ventured into the world of mixed martial arts (MMA), where he displayed his versatility and unwavering dedication. In 2020, he achieved a milestone that had never been reached before, becoming the first fighter in Iraq and the KRI to claim the MMA title, solidifying his status as a multi-faceted athlete.
Hakar reached a new stage of his career in 2022, when he fearlessly ventured into the Asian Championship Super Hero Fight Night in Afghanistan, competing against formidable warriors from the KRI, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Against all odds, he emerged victorious, hoisting the championship belt high, a symbol of his unwavering resolve and exceptional skill.
This year, Hakar’s journey led him to Baghdad, where he faced off against opponents from all around the region. It was this stunning performance that caught the discerning eyes of the World Kickboxing and Karate Association (WKA), ultimately leading to his selection to compete against the world. Then, at the WKA's 2023 World Championships in Indonesia in June, Hakar defied all expectations by finishing in second place, earning him international recognition and respect.
Hakar’s path to victory was far from easy. He faced countless obstacles and challenges as he fought to represent Kurdistan on the global stage. “Many times, when I participated in tournaments, I wanted to participate as a Kurd to represent Kurdistan, not as an Iraqi. This has caused me problems many times,” Hakar reveals. But his unyielding commitment to his heritage and identity compelled him to stand firm in the face of adversity.
One of the most remarkable instances occurred in Afghanistan, where he was asked to fight under the Iraqi flag. Hakar refused, making it abundantly clear that he would only compete as a Kurd representing Kurdistan. After intense negotiations, he won the right to raise the Kurdistan flag, an emblem of his identity and unwavering determination.
Hakar’s journey has ignited a fire in the hearts of young athletes in the KRI, who now look up to him as a living legend. He hopes to inspire them and to demonstrate that dreams are attainable with dedication and hard work.
As he looks to the future, Hakar's vision remains unwavering. “My dream is to always uphold the Kurdish name, the name of Kurdistan, and the sacred Kurdistan flag. Just as my father, who is peshmerga, tries to protect the country with his life, I will serve my country by winning titles.”
He dreams of ascending to the pinnacle of kickboxing and securing a contract with Glory Kickboxing, one of the most prestigious K-1 kickboxing companies in the world. His message to the world is resounding: “I want to tell every Kurd and the whole world that as a Kurd, I have achieved what I wanted, and my dreams and hopes will never die. I have always said that success is not given but achieved, and I am sure I will achieve it.”
In Hakar we find the embodiment of the indomitable spirit of the Kurdish people and a symbol of courage in the face of adversity. As he continues his relentless pursuit of greatness, he carries the dreams and aspirations of his homeland, Kurdistan, in his heart, representing the true essence of a champion. Hakar Gardi has become a name that reverberates around the world, a beacon of inspiration for those who dare to dream and fight for their place in history.
Roza Gardi is a journalist and photographer with six years experience in the field.