From Iraq with Love and Peace

From Iraq with Love and Peace

Someone once said that you can attract a lot more flies with honey than vinegar. This seems to be the game plan of two archers who are part of the seven-person Iraq team that will compete in the World Archery Championships in New York.

The fact that the team is in the U.S. is a story in itself after the war, the demise of Saddam Hussein and now the rebuilding of the country, which for most part is enjoying freedom for the first time in years.

Iraq – one way or another – will dominate our front pages and evening news broadcasts for a long time before the dust finally settles and the country will be in a position to run itself and by its own people.
But for the archery team of four males and three females who will be a part of the record 580 competitors from 80 countries in the titles, it is a chance for them to show the world they are ready to get on with their lives despite the turmoil and reconstructing their homeland is now going through, albeit unsettling.

Mohammad Fayadh and Afrah Abas, both sports instructors and recurve bow national champions, met the media before the championships began over the weekend and made it clear right from the beginning that they were not interested into entering the political side of their visit.

Instead, they wanted to talk about archery and their hopes and goals as they faced the world’s best during the tournament. For them it is a dream come true to resume their careers after the past nine months had been disrupted by the uncertainty leading up to the war, followed by the conflict and now the fallout. During that time there was little or no training and competition.
Now Fayadh and Abas will represent their country in the recurve bow events in the world championships. Through an interpreter, Fayadh said: “We are a peaceful, good and kind people and like everyone in the world. We invite everyone to visit Iraq. It is different to what you see in the media. We are peaceful and kind.” Fayadh added that the new administration in Iraq would kick-start all sport in his country and a new wave of archers would follow.
Abas had her say about her country and the women were perceived. She said: “All Iraqi women are civilized.” Of course, she hopes to do some shopping while in New York.

The Iraqis do not expect to do well in the championships because of their restricted preparation, but more importantly they want to show the world they are back on the sporting stage even though it is a low profile competition like archery, which is a traditional sport in Iraq. Soccer, wrestling and fencing are the popular sports in Iraq. Fayadh said the tournament was “important for us. It is a dream come true for us to compete in these championships.”

It is a goodwill gesture by the U.S. to have Iraq in New York and according to Jim Easton, a vice president of the International Olympic Committee and president of the International Archery Federation, the project would help put “sport back on the map in Iraq.”

It is all part in the rebuilding of Iraq and, hopefully, peace.

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