BoMoVu took part in the Peace and Sport Regional Forum on 18 October 2018

BoMoVu was a guest speaker at the Regional Forum of Peace and Sport taking place in Rhodes on 18 of October 2018.

This great event gathered 350 major decision-makers and athletes in the struggle for peace through sports from all over the world and especially from the Mediterranean region to address the theme: “Societies in motion: rising up through sport”.

BoMoVu’s co-founder Eleni Nadin Diker pronounced a speech in the name of our organization. The full text of the speech is available here:

Our organization BoMoVu is the Network of Sports and Body Movement for Vulnerable Groups in Istanbul, Turkey.

We set up this organization in 2016 with the mission to support the physical integrity of all oppressed people. We believe that social empowerment starts with the liberation of the body.

We set up one program to enable the access to sports for refugees; “Your Movement is Free”. With a network of volunteers who engage in sports and performing arts, we reach out to community centers established by and serving refugees and locals in Istanbul to give them access to many different activities that are still unfortunately inaccessible without money in Turkey. Sport activities are also perceived to be luxury in Turkey. We are fighting to change this perception and we defend that everyone has the right to access sports, and developing one’s own bodily potentials should not be luxury. Your Movement is Free is based on the Basic Right of Freedom of Movement. There are over 3.5 million Syrians today in Turkey and it is a reality that their Freedom of Movement is highly challenged by political and societal factors. With our program Your Movement is Free, we use sports and body movement to give back the sense and rightful belief that their freedom of body movement is effectively a right.

We also have a program that challenges gender normativity and sexism in a male-dominated sports through carrying women to women Thailand boxing trainings every week.

But I would like to tell you here about our program called “The Reconciliation Games” which was the first and still running project we developed. The Reconciliation Games is a method we developed for children living in border areas. Borders of countries such as Turkey are places highly challenged by politics of nationalism and security. But borders are also the very places of the natural mix of cultures and ethnicities, making them the richest treasures of diversity.

The Reconciliation Games uses traditional children games that are representative of a multi-cultural heritage. With oral history research, we give life again to what is left of minorities through their games and happy memories of childhood. And we play these old games with children of today,games with a story, games that carry their own history. We use the power of sports and play to engage children and youth to speak about difficult past, with the message to build again a world of peace.

Reconciling children with the past of a painful region to better tomorrows.

Since 2016, we have been to 8 different areas in Turkey that have land or sea borders with Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, and Syria. We have met with the very last Jewish inhabitant of Edirne, along with Turks who remembered how they used to play together with many children who still send postcards from Israel. We talked about colorful kites flying over the city of Mardin with a Christian Assyrian man whose family and community was killed in a church in 1915.

Today, in this age of wars and militarization, it is important to talk and understand together with the children what happened in the past, just like the diary of Anne FRank is telling us about the dreams and aspirations of a 13 year-old Jewish girl during the 2nd World War.

Just like Anne Frank’s diary represents for all the children of Europe a path to empathy and feelings; the games we use are tools for children living in border regions to physically unite with the past and with their long-lost playmates that are living across borders. Borders are still today places where children are taught to hate and construct enemies. In the contrary, sports, and among them the most organic ones that are traditional children games, reunite them as one society of diversity. Sports brings back to children more than the feeling; the physicality of being building together.

To make the Reconciliation Games sustainable and accessible, we organize trainings for teachers and educators in those borderlands and we explain them about technic of critical pedagogy, about emotional learning, about othering and discrimination, and most importantly about the power of sports and play.

It is a honor and already a huge reward to be sharing with you our hopes of a world of peace in this era of violence at the Peace and Sport Regional forum today.

I wish we all stand here to create again what is the best of humanity, sisterhood and brotherhood through this amazing thing that are our bodies, moving together towards peace and reconciliation.