People for Peace: Sergeant Battsetseg Baatarkhuu — Mongolian Olympian to UN Peacekeeper

Jul 1, 2022

People for Peace: Sergeant Battsetseg Baatarkhuu — Mongolian Olympian to UN Peacekeeper

Every day, United Nations peacekeepers work to protect hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in the world’s most fragile political and security situations. Civilian and uniformed personnel in peacekeeping missions support ceasefires, prevent and respond to violence, investigate human rights violations and abuses, and help build peace, recovery, and development in many conflict-affected countries. As Mongolia marks its 20 years of UN peacekeeping deployment, we spoke to a Mongolian peacekeeper who is currently serving under the blue flag in South Sudan.

Original reporting: Battsetseg Baatarkhuu / Edited by: Crystal Lee

Sergeant Battsetseg Baatarkhuu from Mongolia currently serves with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). It is her third deployment with UNMISS, where she already served in 2015–2016 and 2018–2019. The country’s peacekeeping deployment of female personnel is relatively new, with the first woman peacekeeper from Mongolia joining the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) in 2006. However, with 21.4% women military officers deployed as individuals and 7.8% women in troops, it has expanded substantially in recent years and continues to grow.

Sergeant Baatarkhuu in her office in Bentiu, South Sudan (Photo UNMISS)

“As a sprinter and a marathonian, my career started in 1999 as a sports coach and athlete. I won many medals for Mongolia at national, regional and international athletics competitions but my proudest moment was when I established the Mongolian National record in the 5,000 metres sprint at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, in Australia. This was a defining point for me. I had always aspired to be part of the military because, as in competitive sports, it embraces values of perseverance and courage, so when I received an invitation from the Military Sports Committee to join the military after competing in the Olympics, I accepted it right away. I have now been with the Mongolian Armed Forces since 2001 but continued to train and compete for Mongolia for another ten years.

I decided to challenge myself and joined UNMISS in 2015. As it was my first deployment, everything felt new to me, from the field training to the new environment in South Sudan. Although the security situation was dire, us fellow women peacekeepers continued to encourage and motivate each other during difficult times, especially as our deployment was a lengthy one — one year away from our loved ones. Through this experience, I have gained invaluable operational skill sets — and also lasting friends.

Peacekeeper at heart

Sergeant Baatarkhuu on duty at her observation post in Bentiu, South Sudan (Photo UNMISS)

As a gunner at UNMISS, it is my duty to protect our base with other infantry officers and soldiers. I also conduct routine patrols and interact with local people to help build trust and confidence in the Mission within the local communities. While being a peacekeeper is a demanding job, I am beyond proud of my duty to serve and promote enduring peace.

Women peacekeepers play a significant role in foot patrols. With our presence, local women are often more at ease in engaging with peacekeepers, and are supportive of our work. In fact, when we organize activities mixing civilians and uniformed personnel from the mission, children are also more likely to interact with women peacekeepers than with male peacekeepers. I believe that women peacekeepers make peacekeeping operations more successful, broaden our outreach to local communities, and promote gender equality, human rights, and ultimately, peace.

Some people say that peacekeeping is not a soldier’s job. But for me, a peacekeeper is first and foremost a human rights activist who swears their heart out to others and to peaceful communities.

Sergeant Baatarkhuu on duty at her observation post in Bentiu, South Sudan (Photo UNMISS)