Sunday, August 9, 2009

Iraq: Women Wrestling Team

From Sam Dagher @ New York Times:
It doesn’t happen much in the Arab world, but a coach here decided in January to start an all-female wrestling team, the first ever in Iraq. The wrestlers love it and already dream of competing in the Olympics.

But there are many in this town south of Baghdad, which like much of Iraq is religious, conservative and governed largely by tribal tradition, who want the dozen girls and young women on the team to stop wrestling immediately. One tribesman has said they should be “slaughtered” if they continue. A Shiite cleric says the team should be banned because wrestling can lead to promiscuity and “transgressions” against Islam.

As a result of the pressure, four wrestlers have quit. But the rest, for the moment empowered by the post-invasion promise of greater democracy and equality, are defying the threats.

But it is the women who have touched a nerve, perhaps partly because of their ambitions. Three other teams were set up in Iraq after Diwaniya’s was formed with the backing of Iraq’s wrestling federation. In June, all the teams took part in a championship, which the Diwaniya team won, qualifying for an Asian tournament in September in freestyle wrestling.

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