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Somalia’s women’s basketball team plays on despite death threats

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Summary of story from IPSNews, October 18, 2011

The captain of the Somali national women’s basketball team, Suweys Ali Jama, has been told by Al-Shabaab militants that she has two options: either to be killed or to stop playing basketball.

“I will only die when my life runs out – no one can kill me but Allah … I will never stop my profession while I am still alive,” Ms Jama said.

She added: “Now, I am a player, but even if I retire I hope to be a coach – I will stop basketball only when I perish.”

In August 2006 the Somali Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a group of Sharia courts, issued an order banning Somali women from playing sport, calling it the “heritage of old Christian cultures.”

At the time the ICU controlled the Somali capital, Mogadishu, but it lost control of the city in December 2006.

However, the Al-Qaeda-linked military group, Al-Shabaab, the armed wing of the ICU, has not altered its stance on women playing sport.

The Islamic militant group views women’s participation in sports as “un-Islamic”.

Aisha Mohamed, the deputy captain of the national women’s basketball team, said the militants also threatened her, but she is still “clinging to her profession”.

Basketball is the second most popular sport in Somalia after football and, aside from handball, is the only other sport that Somali women play. However, women earn only meager salaries as professional basketball players.

As a result of the threats the team is training for December’s Arab Games in Qatar inside the – bullet-ridden - walls of the Somali police academy’s basketball court.

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