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Iraq Genocide Survivor Teaches Women Affected By Conflict To Box

A 36-year-old genocide survivor wants to teach women who survived traumatic experiences how to box.

The Rwanga Community Camp lies due north of Mosul and is home to over 15,000 displaced people. Inside its walls, women and girls are learning how to box thanks to the new Boxing Sisters initiative.

The project was started by Taban Shoresh, founder of the Lotus Flower charity. It aims to help women and girls affected by conflict and displacement.

"[Learning how to box] is completely going out of cultural boundaries, but it's being accepted really well," said Ms Shoresh.

Rwanga Community Camp.
Rwanga Community Camp (Picture: The Lotus Flower).

Some of the women who are taking part in the Boxing Sisters project lived traumatic experiences, ranging from being held prisoners by IS to being raped and used as sex slaves.

"Some of [the women] were caught by ISIS, raped, sold as sex slaves," said Ms Shoresh.

"Some of them had babies and had to leave them. Some of them have fled up to the mountains and watched loved ones die." 

Ms Shoresh said the survivors learn to channel their emotions and energy through sport.

"It was very exciting," said a young woman attending a workshop at the Rwanga Community Camp. "We learned that if someone is attacking us, we can hit them with our fists."

Taban Shoresh, Founder of The Lotus Flower
Taban Shoresh, Founder of The Lotus Flower

Ms Shoresh knows first-hand how hard it can be to be displaced during conflicts.

She is a genocide survivor from Saddam Hussein's rule. Her family narrowly escaped being buried alive in a mass grave and managed to flee to London from Iraq when she was just ten years old. 

To help get Boxing Sisters properly off the ground, Taban has enlisted the help of former professional boxer Cathy Brown, who will head out to Iraq this spring.

"Boxing's got this unexplained, mystical way of releasing emotions and making you feel strong about those emotions," said Brown.

"Boxing just gives you that inner strength to help you get through those [hard] times and help you set up a coping mechanism."

	Boxing gear at the Rwanga Community Camp
Boxing gear at the Rwanga Community Camp (Picture: The Lotus Flower).

Taban Shoresh started The Lotus Flower project in 2014.

So far, the charity has helped over three and a half thousand women affected by conflict, but there are plans to open many more women's centres in other regions.

If you would like to support their work, visit thelotusflower.org