Shajwan Imad (Iraq) on Olympic Values, National Unity, and Sport

July 25, 2012

Friendship, excellence, and respect are expected to form the society I live in. It’s hard, as an Iraqi citizen, to look at my country and see the absence of these values. Those who live outside might think that we have come a long way concerning peace, security, and ethnic/sectarian divisions. But we have not really accomplished any of these yet. Still, I see no passivity in the spirits of the young minds that will determine the future of this country.
I am an International Studies major in the American University of Iraq, Sulaimania (AUIS). At my university, there are a lot of activities that bring the students together. The most popular events are the athletic events, tournaments, and competitions. We have basketball, football, and volleyball teams for both guys and girls. The first team that was formed was the women’s basketball team that was featured in the award-winning documentary Salaam Dunk. When I think of the women’s basketball team, I think of unity, friendship, and the different girls that came together to form one strong team. The unity that they showed for the past four years has allowed them to win a lot of tournaments and made other girls wish to be on the team as well. The sport that got them closer to each other has turned into an unbreakable bond.

Having such a team in my society and playing a sport that most girls do not play has been a lesson in hope and friendship. It has also been a lesson in how sport can bring different girls with different backgrounds to play on one platform. It has been a lesson in respect and breaking the ice of getting to know each other in a way that most Arabs and Kurds never will. For all these reasons, I realize the Olympic values through this team. The team both travels for tournaments, and has other teams come to play against them. Though the teams don’t know each other, the players get closer on the court. They respect the rules and hence respect each other.

Other teams formed in recent years include the men’s basketball and football teams. They have also won some games against other universities. Teams from universities in Najaf and Karbala recently came to play against our teams. The experience was a memorable point in the athletic life of AUIS. It was the first time that teams from the south visited the university to play against us. It wasn’t important who won or who lost; what was remembered was that those teams met and played according to the rules.

I believe that such activities should be implemented more. They can transform into real life situations where people get together, and they need those values to make them better off. If we realize these values more in sport, we can realize them in our daily lives as well. This observation has led me to propose that the university should host sports tournaments throughout the year. I hope that our teams can travel to other parts of the country to advance these values that the Olympics promote and that Iraq so desperately needs.
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