“This is the second most dangerous place there‘Iraq”. While Kareem – local journalist and interpreter – makes this observation, the gray Toyota we are traveling in is whizzing fast on a road that cuts through the desert along the mountains of Hamrin, in the governorate of Diyala. The first question I would like to ask him, “why?”, Is answered by observing the landscape outside the window: the gaze struggles to keep track of the small lookout towers surrounded by faded and frayed flags, sandbags and barbed wire, raised on mounds of arid land. It is along these valleys that revived militias of the self-styled Islamic State hide and attempt armed assaults on the‘Iraqi army. The presence of‘Isis and a war that never ended seems to be perceived in the‘air. So I just observe: “It could have been worse, it could have been the first most dangerous place there‘Iraq”.
It is along this endless and monotonous road that leads from Baghdad to Sulaymaniyya, in the north-east of the country, that we understand the‘the importance of moving forward, without slowing down and without worrying about any risks and fears. In certain places, in certain moments, it is there‘only possibility. And maybe that’s exactly how Iraqi women I met on this trip do. Like Paiman Berzinge, personal trainer and climber, who runs the Chwar Chra Gym, a gym in Sulaymaniyya, in an area of Kurdistan not far from the border with the‘Iran, where men and women train together.
Any woman who decides to play a sport in this country, however, has to deal with the‘hostility, l‘misunderstanding and insults from a large part of society. Not only that: it is Paiman who says that some girls who had joined his climbing team along the Kurdish mountains were killed, beaten or segregated at home as punishment by their families. Because they find it unacceptable for a woman to spend the night out with a group of men too. “In Iraqi culture, women are still considered a slave,” says Paiman. “When I started my career they were all against me but I always believed in what I did”: he says this with determination, while accusing the government of doing nothing to help‘women’s emancipation, not even punish or persecute the perpetrators of murders and rape. This is why the question with which I decide to greet her, “Are you happy?”, Has a bitter answer: “I can’t be because I know people who are forbidden to leave the house, who cannot play sports, I know women who are insulted, raped, killed, imprisoned and blackmailed “…
Continue reading the article in the weekly The Post Internazionale-TPI: click here
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