World Cup Fever comes to Iraqi refugee camp

Following England’s nail biting victory against Colombia, we wanted to share a good news story with you. Harsham refugee camp in northern Iraq is home to 1,500 internally displaced families, including many children. Most have lost everything – their homes, their possessions, their loved ones. But thanks to your support, we have provided the camp with a football pitch and we pay for a football coach to train them as well as buying kit for the children. Watch the video to see the sheer pleasure this gives to the boys.

ISIS banned football but the beautiful game endures

Football was banned in the ISIS caliphate. It was deemed “un-Islamic” by the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In July 2016, ISIS beheaded four professional footballers in front of a large crowd. The year before, they executed 13 boys for watching the Asian Cup football match between Iraq and Jordan. This year, they publicly threatened to behead Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. A mocked-up propaganda poster distributed on social media showed two masked ISIS executioners hacking the heads off the two football stars. The accompanying caption read: “Your blood will fill the ground.”

The healing power of football

The children we are helping in the Harsham refugee camp have witnessed unimaginable horrors. Most are Sunni Muslims and could have been recruited into ISIS had they not fled. Radicalisation is still a threat. Refugee camps in Iraq have become recruiting grounds for ISIS and other extremist groups who prey on the vulnerable. However, football is giving these youngsters focus. Participating in a healthy activity and learning to work as part of a team is invaluable. But mostly, amid the suffering and deprivation, it is a rare source of unbridled joy. Thank you to our Director of Operations in the Middle East, Dr Sarah Ahmed, for setting the project up.

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Making a donation

To support refugees like Marlene, please visit the donate page on our website (there are numerous options for how to donate) or send us a cheque made out to ‘FRRME’ to: FRRME, PO Box 229, Petersfield, Hants, GU32 9DL, United Kingdom.

Thank you!