Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Iraqi Ambassadors To Athens 2004

If there's one thing uniting the Iraqi people these days, it's the Iraqi athletes representing Iraq in Athens 2004.

Iraq has few athletes competing in the Olympics this year. What makes their participation different this year? There will be no torture awaiting this team upon their return to Iraq. That was the usual expectation under Uday's rule of the Iraqi Olympic Committee before April 2003.

Iraq's athletic program is getting $10 million from the U.S., part of the $18 billion aid package Congress approved to Iraq. The male Iraqi athletes were sent to train in America, Germany and other countries. That's very good as these guys need to learn more skills. They'll train with peers from these countries.

The team includes only one female athlete. Thanassis Cambanis, a Boston Globe journalist, met with the female athlete in Baghdad. She reported Ala'a Hikmat's difficulties getting the proper training before the start of the Olympics. Ala'a was to go to Germany for training with the other male sprinter on the Iraqi Olympics team. The Iraqi Olympic Committee claimed it couldn't get her a visa to Germany. I don't buy their claim.

Members of the Iraqi Committee told the reporter that Ala'a was provided with sports shoes and suits. Later, the reporter spent a day with Ala'a. That's when she found out that Ala'a had no proper gear. Here's part of the report:
Her father died five years ago; her mother, a teacher, has raised her son and daughter alone since then.

Her family was forced to move during the fighting because their landlord raised the rent. Even now, bound for the Olympics, she trains in a pair of second-hand counterfeit Nike sneakers she bought for $10, their fabric so worn out it's almost see-through.

Despite those experiences, she doesn't repeat the commonly voiced complaints heard in Baghdad.

"We must have patience, because nothing can be achieved overnight," Hikmat said of the turbulent life she has led since the US invasion. "It's natural when a war takes place that it takes a long time for things to get back to normal."

I contacted the Boston Globe reporter and asked her how to help Ala'a. Here's part of her reply to me:
Unfortunately, there's no simply way to get help to her. Right now she's in Jordan, and will return to Iraq very briefly in early August before flying to Greece. There's no functional postal service in Iraq, and Ala'a has no phone, land-line or mobile. I already have left the country, although I expect to see Ala'a in Athens during the Olympics.

But she encouraged me to contact the officials at the Iraqi Olympic Committee to make sure Ala'a gets the attention of the committee.

The Iraqi Olympic Committee has a contact form. I encourage you all to write to these people and let them know we care about Ala'a. I only request of you to be "nice" in your message. The officials are already upset with Ala'a telling the reporter of her struggles.

The contact form fields' names are in Arabic. So, here's the translation of these fields' names as they appear on the form:
Phone No.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Lisa found the English version of the form. Thank you so much Britty's mom.

Arabic Word of The Post :

ambassador : سفير - / sa-feer /
ambassadors : سفراء - / soo-feraa' /

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