I Just Want to Dunk
Sports Feature, first prize stories
Women’s national basketball team captain Suweys Ali Jama, at home in Mogadishu. She and her mother have been insulted on the streets, and forced to move twice in the past year.
Young women risk their lives to play basketball in Somalia. Even though Somalia’s UN-backed government has regained control of the capital Mogadishu, al-Qaeda-linked militants are still active in the city. Al-Shabaab and other radical Islamist groups consider women playing sport to be un-Islamic.
In 2006, the Somali Islamic Courts Union, a group of Sharia courts, issued an order banning women from playing all sport. One of the proposed punishments for women playing basketball is to cut off the right hand or left foot. Members of the Somali national women’s basketball team have received death threats.
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About the photographer
Born in Denmark in 1968, Jan Grarup has been reporting for more than two decades on conflict around the world, including the Gulf War, the Rwandan genocide, the siege of Sarajevo, and the Palestinian uprising against Israel in 2000. His coverage of the conflict between Palestine and Israel resulted in two series: The Boys of Ramallah, which earned a POYi World Understanding Award in 2002, followed by The Boys from Hebron. His body of work reflects his belief in photojournalism’s role as a witness, an historical record, and an instrument of change and of its necessity in telling the stories of people who are powerless to tell their own. Recent photographs include those of the earthquake in Haiti taken for Time and Dagbladet Information.
In November 2011, Grarup joined The New York Times as a staff photographer, covering Africa and the Middle East, especially Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and the Horn of Africa. In late 2011, he photographed the refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, and during 2012 traveled extensively in Somalia, producing in-depth reportage on several issues faced by the Somali population.