Wheelchair basketball to support Social inclusion in Syria

  • For one week, ICRC-Disability Sport & Integration Advisor and wheelchair basketball trainer (Jess Markt) has been in Syria to train coaches, referees, classifiers and players from 6 governorates in Syria (Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, Tartus, Lattakia,Qouneitra).
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / May Saad
  • Whether the disability was caused during the war or not, it remains a big challenge in Syria. In 2017, ICRCs support and involvement with the wheelchair basketball teams in Syria has not just improved the level of activity, but it has also opened doors for newer players to join the teams.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • “Captain Jess taught us new ways and strategies for playing basketball, and hopefully we will improve our skills better in the future.” Nabil says.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • The idea of wheelchair basketball was developed after the World War II. During which, a large number of soldiers and civilians were injured because of the war. They still had a lot of energy but felt trapped and useless in their wheelchairs. Playing sports was a great outlet that made people feel that they could still be a part of something bigger than themselves. The ICRC’s support and involvement in wheelchair basketball started in 2011 in Afghanistan.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • “As difficult as a disabling injury can be, whether you are losing a limb or being paralyzed or anything else, there is so much you can still do. If I hadn’t been paralyzed when I was 19 years old, I would not be here in Syria, doing the best job in the world; teaching these guys how to play basketball.” Jess says.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • During the week long training, the player’s improvement was noticed by Jess and the players themselves. Finally, it was celebrated with a match inside the sports stadium in Damascus.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • Shireen is the female referee of the training. In her hometown Homs, they call her the “Overall player” because she plays basketball, tennis, handball, and many other sports.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • Laith was born with missing limbs, a situation which he believes allowed him to adapt better than if it was to happen later in life. “Be more of a producer than a consumer”. With the support of Laith’s parents, he is now playing with the national team. He believes that hard work always pays off.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / May Saad
  • The Syrian wheelchair team recently played in a tournament in Beirut. This was the first time they ever played internationally, and they came in second after Afghanistan. Jess Markt was there and he was amazed by the Syrian team’s performance and said he believes they are already off to a good start!
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • “Fifteen years ago, I got into a car accident and my back got injured, which left me paralyzed. I did nothing for three years, then I decided to get up and start living my life again. I looked for activities that could help me to express the feelings inside me, and found out that there is nothing better than sports.” Yazan explains.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / May Saad
  • “For me it has been a blessing, and I hope that other people with a situation like mine, could find that positivity as well.” Jess Marktt
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mari Aftret Mortvedt
  • The love, empathy, and harmony in the team is what makes Abd Al Razzak the happiest. Abd Al Razzak is a former Ping Pong champion in Syria, and he believes that every person has a talent that makes him shine like no other.
    CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / May Saad
14 May 2019

In Syria, thousands of people live with disabilities. Getting assistance can be difficult due to the prolonged conflict and lack of access to health services. Sports can help rebuild confidence and strength.

By May Saad, ICRC Syria