By Iraqi Social Forum and ICSSI Secretariats – August 3, 2017

From 18-20 July, youth gathered in Dokan, Sulaymaniya, to participate in a camp put on by the Sports Against Violence team, in cooperation with the Iraqi Social Forum (ISF). The camp aimed to strengthen and expand communication and collaboration between civil society groups, NGOs and government agencies, both within Iraq and internationally. Its focus was on sports as a means to oppose violence. The camp brought together a total of 39 Sports Against Violence volunteers, 10 of whom were women. As it coincided with the end of final exams, it was able to draw on the energy of volunteers just starting their summer break.
Mornings at the camp began with physical exercises led by coach Samir, followed by small group sessions devoted to trainings in nonviolence, led by Raya Assi. Throughout the day, participants also enjoyed games of football and volleyball, making the camp a unique mix of sport and play, along with discussions dedicated to networking strategies and methods of nonviolent resistance. In the evenings, the groups came together to share with each other their findings during the day.
Ahmed Isam, a camp participant, reflected on his experience saying, “every day of the camp there were competitions or games that involved both women and men, which strengthened and supported women’s role in sports, encouraging them to play freely without feeling restricted.” He added, “The camp was an inspiring event, and a great chance to exchange opinions about issues of violence, and to learn about ways to stand up against it using sports as a tool for nonviolence.”
Issa Jaafer, one of the camp organizers, pointed out that team members worked seamlessly together to determine all the needs of the camp. “We did not encounter any problems that impeded the progress of the camp,” he said, “things were smooth and the camp ended with excellent results.”
Thanks to funding from the Norwegian Karibu Foundation, this camp, a long held dream, could finally be realized. With space provided by ISF, and support from ICSSI — along with the efforts made by both trainers and volunteers — the camp flourished.

Sarah Al Hadi, one of the participants, said: “the camp was a nice start for the summer break, we began our mornings with exercises with coach Samir”. After that, we had a training in strategies of non-violent resistance with non-violence trainer, Raya Asi. During the evening sessions we discussed the issues and activities of our team all together as a group. Interspersed in the sessions dedicated to issues were sports matches such as football and volleyball.” She pointed that “Everything was taken care of for the participants: breakfast, lunch, and dinner, were provided each day, as well as a suitable residence and other services. It was an excellent and unique experience”.
Ahmed Isam, another participant, talked about his experience saying “every day of the camp there were competitions or sport games that involved both girls and boys, which strengthened and supported women’s role in sports, encouraging women to play sports without restrictions.” He added “The camp was an inspiring event and a great chance to exchange lots of opinions and discussions about issues of violence, and how to stand up against it using sports as a tool for non-violence.”

The Sport Against Violence team is one of the active teams in the Non-violence masar (path) for Iraqi Social Forum (ISF). The team works on spreading the culture of non-violence and peace, using sports as a tool to attract youth.