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A Haven Between The Hoops
A Haven Between The Hoops

The invasion of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, in 2014 brought conflict and tremendous heartache to Iraqi Kurdistan, the autonomous region in northern Iraq. Thousands of Kurdish security forces and Peshmerga soldiers have been injured and killed, while government employees and teachers have not been paid in months due to the country's economic strains. For the Kurds, the future is uncertain. But in Sulaymaniyah, a city of about 1.5 million near the Iranian border, things might be looking up for young women athletes. The women’s basketball team at the American University of Iraq-Sulaymaniyah is the longest-running uninterrupted sports program at the university, surpassing the longevity of even the men’s teams. Women’s sports in Iraq are not embraced or widely accepted in the region. Even in Sulaymaniyah, considered to be more culturally liberal than the capital city, Erbil, it is rare to see women participating in physical activity, especially outside. However, the AUIS women’s basketball team is an exception. Initiated in 2008 (a year after the University opened its doors) by students and an American coach, the team currently consists of about 14 players - they practice twice a week and play about one to three games a season. Because women’s college basketball in Iraq is new, there are not a wide variety of teams for AUIS to play against. Before joining the team, most of the girls on the team could not run for longer than two minutes without stopping, but by mid-season most could run for 15 minutes straight. The team captain Gardenia Boskani, 20, states, “For those two hours in one day during practice I really get to rest my mind. I’m not thinking of anything else but basketball. It feels really good.”

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A Haven Between The Hoops
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Web Iraq B-ball-10.jpg
Web Iraq B-ball-11.jpg
Web Iraq B-ball-12.jpg
Web Iraq B-ball-13.jpg
Web Iraq B-ball-14.jpg
Web Iraq B-ball-15.jpg
Web Iraq B-ball-16.jpg
Web Iraq B-ball-17.jpg
Web Iraq B-ball-18.jpg
Web Iraq B-ball-19.jpg
Web Iraq B-ball-20.jpg
Web Iraq B-ball-21.jpg
Web Iraq B-ball-22.jpg
Web Iraq B-ball-23.jpg
A Haven Between The Hoops

The invasion of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, in 2014 brought conflict and tremendous heartache to Iraqi Kurdistan, the autonomous region in northern Iraq. Thousands of Kurdish security forces and Peshmerga soldiers have been injured and killed, while government employees and teachers have not been paid in months due to the country's economic strains. For the Kurds, the future is uncertain. But in Sulaymaniyah, a city of about 1.5 million near the Iranian border, things might be looking up for young women athletes. The women’s basketball team at the American University of Iraq-Sulaymaniyah is the longest-running uninterrupted sports program at the university, surpassing the longevity of even the men’s teams. Women’s sports in Iraq are not embraced or widely accepted in the region. Even in Sulaymaniyah, considered to be more culturally liberal than the capital city, Erbil, it is rare to see women participating in physical activity, especially outside. However, the AUIS women’s basketball team is an exception. Initiated in 2008 (a year after the University opened its doors) by students and an American coach, the team currently consists of about 14 players - they practice twice a week and play about one to three games a season. Because women’s college basketball in Iraq is new, there are not a wide variety of teams for AUIS to play against. Before joining the team, most of the girls on the team could not run for longer than two minutes without stopping, but by mid-season most could run for 15 minutes straight. The team captain Gardenia Boskani, 20, states, “For those two hours in one day during practice I really get to rest my mind. I’m not thinking of anything else but basketball. It feels really good.”

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