SPORT AGAINST VIOLENCE AND BAGHDAD MARATHON: CHALLENGES AND FUTURE PLANS
Elena Laurenti – Nadia Al-Baghdady – Taif Alwachi
ASD Sport Against Violence – ICSSI
Report of the SAV-BM working group – ICSSI Conference – Oslo (Norway)
Sport Against Violence, as an association, has been working, since 2007, in cooperation with the Iraqi civil society on sport and cultural projects. Our original idea was to organize a marathon in the city of Baghdad, to send out a strong signal in favor of the peaceful coexistence among different cultures, religions and ethnic groups and to make people regaining possess of the streets of their own city. This because we believe that sport is not just as a “wellness tool”, but, above all, a powerful educational instrument. So, our aim is to achieve a social change through the body experience, since sport, as well as art and music, represents a universal language able to bring people together, teaching them to respect rules and other players, to act fairy and loyally.
Up to now, mostly because of security reasons, we couldn’t realize the dream of the marathon, but, during the past years, in cooperation with Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) network, we have helped the realization of many races in different Iraqi cities (such as Erbil, Basra, Baghdad), the organization of the International Erbil Marathon, the first SAV event inside the Baghdad University, in parallel with the first Iraqi Social Forum, in 2013.
Unfortunately, the dramatic crisis Iraq is going through has caused a stall in the development of our projects over the past months. This is the reason why the ICSSI conference, held in the city of Oslo from October 27-29, was such a great occasion to discuss with Iraqi and international activists about the future of our projects.
First, we had the opportunity to strengthen the cooperation between our association and the ISF Secretariat, identifying as a priority the reconstruction of a working group, that will also get in contact with the Erbil Marathon Preparatory Committee in order to share future plans and to treasure their previous organizing experience. This network will work sharing updates, ideas, needs, through regular skype meetings and reports.
What has come to light during the discussion is that the challenges we have to face, in addition to the security situation, are the difficulties of raising the awareness of the Iraqi civil society about the value of sport and culture as means to involve people and make them meet and work together, going beyond the different cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds.
We worked on short and long terms goals, identifying the followings:
1)the creation of a network with schools and local communities in Baghdad with the intent to realize small activities during the next months to culminate in a final bigger event, to be held, if it will be possible, in sync with the second edition of the ISF scheduled for next year. As the first step of this roadmap, our Iraqi partners engaged in organizing a mini football championship for a number of local teams in Baghdad at the end of next December.
2) the necessity of creating a network with associations, schools, people in the other Iraqi provinces, proposing the experience of this mini football championship as a first step to go on and enlarge our projects. Our final goal remains the realization of the first Marathon in the streets of Baghdad, that will need an improvement of the political and security conditions and an adequate preparation.
In the end, a request for international solidarity also emerged, both to train the working group about the organization of sport and cultural events, and to participate in the activities that will be realized in Iraq.