By: Sultan Ahmed Taleb – Baghdad
On March 11th, 2013 Iraqi civil society hosted a race in preparations for Marathon Baghdad 2013. The event was hosted in Physical Education College – University of Baghdad with more than 300 participants. An Italian delegation composed of members of Sports organizations took part in the race. The race was 2 kilometers for amateurs and 4 kilometers for advanced runners. The race included the participation of civil society organizations, media, college professors and in addition to young Iraqi volunteers. The idea of establishing an International Marathon for Peace originated in Italy since 2006. Italian athletes have worked together with members of the Iraqi community in Italy as well as Italian and international organizations. They have worked on several activities and workshops to develop the sports for peace campaign.The first international marathon was in Erbil 2011 and a second one in 2012 as an test to establish a large Marathon in the capital Baghdad with the main objective of spreading the culture of peace and non-violence in Iraqi society.
The main objective of the race was to deliver a message of peace to all Iraqis and that sport is one of the most important factors that unite and motivate them to leave their differences behind and reduce the negative impacts of the political situation. College professors and athletes participating in the race handed over trophies and medals. The main idea of the race was that there was no loser in it, all the participants were winners in fostering the culture of peace and non-violence and the idea that Baghdad deserves to regain its glory as the capital of peace.
Reflections from the Italian Delegation
We finally have made it back to Baghdad! This time, a delegation from Italy traveled to Baghdad to organize the Italian participation in the Marathon later this year. We need to share in the joy of this event, to assess the situation together, to compare the sensations to deal with the “second phase”.
Members of the Italian delegation found Baghdad as a city that is rising its head, beginning to enjoy its own streets, not just restaurants and shops, but also cultural centers, theatres, coffee shops. On Friday we were walking down the street called “Book Street”: a lot of joyous people crowded the street browsing through the books on display, chatting and sipping tea. Then we walked to a park along the Tigris, where there was the Press and Information Festival, organized by civil society: full of music, food, and information booths and as many as 24 free national newspapers!
It is good to know that we are working for peace in Iraq in our own small way. On Monday the third race took place in Baghdad University! We saw a lot of effort on the part of the organizers, but also a big chaos and a big celebration; a great desire to get closer, to talk, to exchange feelings and a lot of people with a real to participate! The delegation also met government institutions like the Baghdad Governorate’s, Ministries, UN, and civil society. All of them are supporting efforts to hold the Marathon. This is a big opportunity to open the “city walls” and let the world know the face of the new (or old, ancient) Iraq. Now we are ready to organize the next trip: it will be for open minded and adaptable people that are not looking for technical results but for an opportunity to share strong and incomparable emotions.
Italian Association for Baghdad Marathon