For years now, any news about Iraq spread on media have been only talking about bombs, terrorism and war. In one word, about violence. What we don’t have to forget is that Iraq is not only this. There is a civil society that continue to live and fight for a better future. We want to support them, saying that another Iraq is possible.
Starting from this consideration, in parallel with the organizational process of the Iraqi Social Forum, which we share the same values and objectives with, we have imagined the possibility to make a sport event in Baghdad, working together with the Iraqi civil society. The reason why we want to use sport to achieve social and political goals is that making sport activities doesn’t only mean doing well and having a healthy lifestyle, but also cultivating important and edifying values, such as loyalty, brotherhood and cooperation among people.
We think that the organization of a big sport and social event in Baghdad, named Sport Against Violence (SAV)-Baghdad, will be a way to spread a message of hope worldwide. Our aim is to build a peaceful future for Iraq, strengthening the sporting branch and offering a common arena where people can discuss, confront each other and share different experiences.
SAV-Baghdad will be also, in our mind, the possibility to spend an unusual day, dedicated to sport, integration and dialogue among different cultures, recovering possession of a territory unavailable for citizens since the beginning of the war.
According to us, sport could be therefore a useful means to get in touch with Iraqi people supporting their fight for peace and for human rights defense: we hope that the organization of such an event will be the first step to let Baghdad change back to be the City of Peace (Dar-al-Salam).
SAV-Baghdad will be held on September 26th, as an introductory moment for the Iraqi Social Forum, combining sport and culture. The idea of spreading sport in Iraq, as a means to stimulate networking, cooperation and peaceful coexistence among different people has evolved during the past years: it arose in 2007 as the dream of giving an opportunity to people of different cultures and ethnic groups to share something, to sympathize among them, to open up themselves to the world. The main project, that will be finally realized in 2014, is to run a marathon in Baghdad.
It has been developed according to the following strong aims:
– we run to make a free and democratic Iraq;
– we run because sports promote friendship;
– we run for freedom;
– we run for the equality of Iraqis, all with the same rights and responsibilities;
– we run so that Baghdad will be once again a city of peace.
In 2009, after two years of study, we had the opportunity to submit this project to the Iraqi civil society, on the occasion of a Conference held in Rome, attended by several representatives of Iraqi NGOs, grouped under the acronym LAONF (nonviolence). It has been received positively and we have been invited to present it in the city of Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan).
From that moment we have made seven trips to Erbil, one to Basra, two to Baghdad. The wider principle, strongly linked with the reconstruction of the civil society, that is crucial in this project is the importance of sport for everybody. Up to now, it hasn’t been possible to run the marathon in Baghdad, mostly for security reasons, but, nonetheless, we have contributed to organize shorter races in different Iraqi cities – a 10 km race in Erbil in 2010, two editions of the Erbil Marathon in 2011 and 2012.
a race in Basra,
three races inside the University of Baghdad-
as well as seminars and training courses, both in Iraq and in Rome, for the organization of sporting events, and to the establishment of the Erbil and Baghdad running Clubs, that have committed to run weekly together and to update their training programs depending on the results achieved.
Moreover, this year there will be the third edition of the Erbil International Marathon, an event that has been increasingly strengthened, since both the past editions saw a massive and enthusiastic participation of international civil society: the first one, in 2011, was attended by 1.300 runners, the second one, in 2012, by 5.000 runners from 59 different countries. Erbil Marathon-2012 All these experiences have led us to get in an increasingly close contact with Iraqi civil society, sharing ideas and projects and beginning to work together according to our common aims and values.
What we would like to achieve is the participation of as many different people as possible, from all the cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, belonging to different ethnic groups, as well as with different physical abilities.
We are working to get the attention of the Iraqi people, highlighting the importance of sport both as a vehicle of well-being and of peaceful and nonviolent messages, with the strong engagement of the Iraqi NGOs, that are very active locally.
In addition to the Baghdad Marathon project, the idea of Sport Against Violence-Baghdad is also borrowed from a similar sporting and cultural event, organized in Rome since 2008, aiming to combine the values of sport, culture and cooperation, in order to promote both a shared and active participation in social life, a real understanding of different cultures and a concrete civil commitment in support of those who live in difficult contexts.
SAV has also been conceived as an occasion to share experiences between people from civil society, three days dedicated to sport and cultural activities, aiming to provide an opportunity and a space where people can dialogue and confront in order to build a sensitive and committed civil conscience and to share the pleasure of conviviality.
The idea of this manifestation has developed starting from the consciousness of the lack of attention to sport often found within the civil society, and, at the same time, to social issues among sportsmen.
Finally, what we believe is that another Iraq is possible, if as much people as possible give a contribution. That’s the reason why we invite everyone to follow up the organization of Sport Against Violence-Baghdad and of the Iraqi Social Forum.
Elena Laurenti, Sport Against Violence.