News / Europe

Basketball Helps Kurdish Village Heal Wounds

Basketball Helps Kurdish Village Woundsi
|| 0:00:00
X
Dorian Jones
November 05, 2012 2:27 PM
Turkey's largest Kurdish city, Diyarbakir, is at the center of a decades-long conflict between the state and Kurdish rebels fighting for autonomy. The city often sees clashes between young people and security forces. But one man has devoted his life to bringing hope and a way out of violence for the city's youth through basketball. Dorian Jones has the story.

Basketball Helps Kurdish Village Wounds

Dorian Jones
 Diyarbakir, Turkey's largest Kurdish city, is at the center of a decades-long conflict between the state and Kurdish rebels fighting for autonomy. The city often sees clashes between young people and security forces. But one man has devoted his life to bringing hope and a way out of violence for the city's youth through basketball.

Diyarbakir's Baglar basketball team is winning again. The team has built a formidable reputation against the better-funded teams in western Turkey.  Coach Gokhan Yildirim is the architect of the team.

Yildirim's 20-year basketball odyssey started in a school yard as a 19-year-old student.

"The children didn't have a clue about basketball," he explained. "They didn't even know what a basketball looked like, and when we asked them to bring a basketball, they would bring a volleyball. We always had to say 'bring the orange ball.'"

The Baglar quarter of Diyarbakir, where the basketball team is based, was born out of the conflict between Turkish security forces and Kurdish rebels, the PKK. Many of the families living there were forced to flee their villages because of the fighting.

Baglar is synonymous with clashes with the security forces, often involving children and youths.

Yildirim is working hard, though, to build a new reputation for Baglar. His basketball team now has a practice court thanks to the local municipality, which devoted its meager resources to support it. Baglar Mayor Yuksel Baran said the team is an inspiration to the whole community.

"I believe the team will continue to be successful because in these youths there is faith," she said. "They have built this team from nothing. They work with belief, even with faith. They show so much sacrifice and effort to keep the team going."

Yildirim believes such commitment means a basketball team can offer an alternative to confrontation for the community's young.

"The situation here pushes young children to be fighters. They think they can solve their problems by fighting," he said. "I am trying to counter this by showing them love, telling them this team is their home, here we protect you, and that each and every one of them is important."
 
Yildirim coaches six teams, and his colleague works with five girls teams, which are equally successful.

Success does not come easily. Yildirim devotes about six hours a day as a coach, after finishing work as a teacher. But captain Ali Alaca says Yildirim is much appreciated.

"His efforts here in Baglar, Diyarbakir - even in general in the southeast - are immeasurable," he said, "inspiring the children, providing education and proving that life is not only about money, or sports, or education, but doing all of them together."
 
For a few players, Baglar has been a stepping-stone to professional clubs, while another player won a U.S. school basketball scholarship.  For Yildirim, winning is important.

"When we lose, I can't get out of bed. I don't like losing. It is a terrible thing," he said. "I get so angry that sometimes I feel my heart will stop." Then he laughs.

But Baglar's trophy room is a testament to his success - a success Gokhan Yildirim is hoping will help carve out a new reputation in Turkey for Baglar youths other than one of violence.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid