PtG Article 19.01.2007

Women in Somalia can play sport again after end of Islamist rule

Somali government forces and their Ethiopian allies have overpowered the Islamist group that controlled much of southern Somalia for the past six months. This is good news for female athletes who are now returning to the capital’s sports fields after they were banished from sport by the Islamists.

Shafi'i Mohyaddin Abokar, vice president of the Somali Sports Press Association, tells the International Sports Press Association that this week female basketball athletes played an exhibition match at a stadium in the capital Mogadishu.

Many leading sport officials in Somalia were present at the stadium to watch the game that was played to honour the new Somali government and to encourage peace and public integration.

The president of the Somali Basketball Federation, Aden Hajji Yabarow, told the International Sports Press Association that the game was intended to show that Somali women now can return to the sports fields.

“The national basketball federation will organise other games for female players as soon as possible,” he said.

The Somali Handball Federation has also started preparation for the third women’s handball championship in Somalia. The tournament will kick off in mid February this year. 

Bans on sports journalism have ended

Athletes and sport in Somalia are emerging from a very turbulent period under the Islamic Courts Union. In June the Islamists labelled sport a “satanic act” but at the same time they struggled to find a way to accommodate sport. The day before the Islamist regime fell, it was announced that the national sports ministry had been re-opened after 16 years of civil war.

The sports ministry is now the centre for rebuilding national sport in Somalia under the leadership of the new sports minister Mowliid Maan Mahmoud.

For sports journalists life has also changed. During the Islamic rule threats of death, jail and other extortions were common place for journalists, the secretary general of the Somalia Sports Press Association, Saida Yuusuf Omar  tells the International Sports Press Association.

The vice president of the Somali Sports Press Association was taken into custody after writing an article about the impact of growing Islamic extremism in Somalia and accused of publishing anti-Islamic news. He was released after his family paid a fine of 5 million Somali shillings and both he and the family promised that he would never write such articles again.

A number of radio stations were also closed down for bringing sports news commentaries, and the Sports Press Association was prevented from printing photos of international sport games, as the Islamic courts considered that an exaggeration.

“Fortunately after the Islamic courts were defeated in late December, all seized radio stations were re-opened by their former owners, sports activities continue everywhere in Somalia and Somali Sports Press Association can write everything possible both local and foreign news,” Om