How Some Female Athletes Find A Safe Haven

A Safe Haven In Midst Of War

iraq The ISIS  invasion by the Islamic State  last summer left Kurdistan with heartache.  Thousands of members of the pesh merga, the Kurdish security forces, have been killed and injured, and government employees and teachers have not been paid in months. The future is uncertain for the the autonomous region in northern Iraq.

In Sulaimaniya, a city of about 1.5 million near the Iranian border, things are lightening up for young women.

Women’s sports in Iraq are not widely embraced or, in most areas, even accepted. Sulaimaniya  is considered to be more culturally liberal than the capital city, Erbil. It is rare to see women participating in physical activity, especially outside.

Initiated in 2008 by students and an American coach, Ryan Bubalo, the team is the longest-running uninterrupted sports program at the university, surpassing the longevity of even the men’s teams.

“It’s not easy to get the girls to come to practice, because they are not used to being committed to sports,” said Beyan Salah Taher, 23, the team’s most experienced player. “To have an actual team is rare.”

The team lost its first game of the season against the University of Kurdistan Hawler, 44-18 in March. The courage these women have is noteworthy.

“We are at war, we have soldiers fighting, dying every day,” the team captain Gardenia Boskani, 20, said. “ISIS is only a few hours away from us.”

How do you go on with your life when your neighboring cities are at war with each other?

She said: “For those two hours in one day during practice I really get to rest my mind. I’m not thinking of anything else but basketball. It feels really good.”

Source: NY Times