Northern Iraqi Girls Play Basketball Is Inspiring

If you think you have a good excuse for skipping your post-work workout this evening, think again. The latest documentary by director David Fine will show you what other women in the world are really up against when it comes to embracing their athleticism and getting a good sweat on. Salaam Dunk is a documentary about the first-ever female basketball team at the American University in Northern Iraq. And, for these girls, playing sports is more than just getting a good workout in. It’s a way to help them forget about the dangerous situations they face on a daily basis, to become more modern females, and to break free from the traditional roles that women are held to in most of Iraq.

But perhaps what makes this documentary even more inspiring is the fact that the young women started this basketball team on their own. There was no coach behind them looking to steal their glory. (Although they do have a coach, and he seems more interested in the women finding their own glory than any coming his way.) In a world where women in sports are not only not accepted, they’re not allowed, the fact that these women are determined to keep playing is pretty amazing.

I mean, sure, the team lost every game in their first season, but to watch these girls learn life-changing lessons like determination and persistence through the game of basketball is truly an incredible thing. These girls keep pushing and keep playing in spite of injuries and losses, and in spite of enormous stakes. For many of them, the sanctity of the basketball court is the only place where they can practice. Their coach tells the story about when he first arrived and took girls on a run around the school’s gardens. The girls refused. If people saw them running, one girl said, “they would talk about it in the news.”

This basketball team is clearly doing a lot for this group of girls. But perhaps the most significant thing it's doing is helping them to forget their worries off the court. One player talks openly about how playing basketball helps her to forget all of her troubles, that when she is playing she is able to clear her mind and think of nothing else. Sports, in this way, give her something that nothing else in her life does. Now if that doesn’t inspire you to get up and go for a run, I don’t know what will.

The documentary was originally released in 2011, but has recently been repackaged with Zandaya at its helm. The actress and activist is the host of the exclusive rerelease online, which includes 4 videos, updates on where the basketball players are now, and how ISIS changed their lives.

Don’t miss this one, guys. It’s a serious game changer.

Image: Seedwell Digital Media