Jordan skate park puts smile on faces of refugee children

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Refugee children skate on February 24, 2018 at the "7Hills Skate Park" in Amman, that was constructed in 2014 by passionate skateboarding volunteers from all over the world thanks to an initiative launched by a German NGO and a local Jordanian association which offers free skateboarding lessons to refugees several times a week. (AFP)
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Refugee children skate on February 24, 2018 at the "7Hills Skate Park" in Amman, that was constructed in 2014 by passionate skateboarding volunteers from all over the world thanks to an initiative launched by a German NGO and a local Jordanian association which offers free skateboarding lessons to refugees several times a week. (AFP)
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Refugee children skate on February 24, 2018 at the "7Hills Skate Park" in Amman, that was constructed in 2014 by passionate skateboarding volunteers from all over the world thanks to an initiative launched by a German NGO and a local Jordanian association which offers free skateboarding lessons to refugees several times a week. (AFP)
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A refugee child skates on February 24, 2018 at the "7Hills Skate Park" in Amman, that was constructed in 2014 by passionate skateboarding volunteers from all over the world thanks to an initiative launched by a German NGO and a local Jordanian association which offers free skateboarding lessons to refugees several times a week. (AFP)
Updated 04 March 2018
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Jordan skate park puts smile on faces of refugee children

AMMAN: Hair flying in the wind Manar, Amniya and Farida hurtle down the slopes of “7Hills Skate Park” in the Jordanian capital Amman where refugee children come to play.
The 650-square-meter (almost 7,000-foot) concrete space was built in December 2014 by skateboard enthusiasts from around the world.
The money was raised during a fundraising campaign by a German NGO and a local association that offers free classes for the children of refugees from countries such as Syria, Iraq or Sudan.
Mohammed Duma, a 40-year-old Sudanese man who fled the war in Darfur, looks on with pride and a touch of apprehension as his two daughters, aged four and eight, learn to ride a skateboard with their trainer.
“We come here every Monday. Life in Jordan is very expensive, it’s the only place where I can take my girls to play and have fun for free,” said Duma.
He has applied with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for relocation to the United States, Canada or Britain.
Salima Issa, a 26-year-old housewife, sits on a patch of grass with her two-year-old son, who is busy nibbling on crackers.
She watches as her son Mohammed, four, and eight-year-old daughter Amniya cruise by on their skateboards.
Issa too fled Darfur, where the conflict that broke out in 2003 has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions of others.

The skatepark’s name was inspired by the topography of Amman, a city built on seven hills.
“This park has become a breath of fresh air for young refugees from Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Palestine,” said Mohammed Zakaria, one of the park managers.
Skateboarding “is a difficult sport, which allows you to gain self-confidence and learn that falling is not the end of the world, and that you have to try a second and third time to succeed,” he explained.
“Life is like that and we all learn from our mistakes,” said the 32-year-old Jordanian.
He said around 140 boys and girls take free classes every week, mostly run by foreign volunteers.
Jordan hosts refugees from more than 40 countries, including over 650,000 people from Syria, according to the UNHCR.
Yussef Khaled, 14, who lost his father in Somalia’s war, arrived six years ago with his mother and sister, and does not miss an opportunity to come to the skate park.
“There are not many places to have fun in Amman, and even if there were, we wouldn’t have the money to go anyway,” said the teenager.
“This place makes me forget that I’m a refugee,” he said, showing off his latest trick on the skateboard.


Another Turkish journalist jailed over Gulen links

Ali Unal was chief writer at the now-defunct Zaman newspaper. (Supplied)
Updated 15 November 2018
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Another Turkish journalist jailed over Gulen links

  • About 250 people were killed in the coup attempt and in the subsequent crackdown, Turkey jailed 77,000 people pending trial

ISTANBUL: A court sentenced Turkish journalist Ali Unal to 19 years in jail on Wednesday on a charge of being a leader in the network accused of carrying out a failed coup in July 2016, the state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.
The ruling followed a sustained crackdown in the wake of the coup attempt, but also came amid steps by the government that appear aimed at improving ties with the US and Europe, strained by the sweeping campaign of arrests.
Unal was chief writer at the now-defunct Zaman newspaper, widely seen as the flagship media outlet for the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara says orchestrated the attempted putsch. Gulen denies any involvement.
Speaking by video link from jail to the court in the western province of Usak, Unal denied being a founder or leader of the network and denied involvement in the putsch, Anadolu said.
“I have no link with any terrorist organization,” he said, adding that he had spoken five or six times to Gulen and that he was being tried over his writing.
He was sentenced to 19 years and six months for “leading an armed terrorist group.” Six other Zaman journalists were convicted on similar charges in July.
About 250 people were killed in the coup attempt and in the subsequent crackdown, Turkey jailed 77,000 people pending trial. Authorities also sacked or suspended 150,000 civil servants and military personnel and shut down dozens of media outlets.Illustrating the scale of its actions, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday his ministry had dismissed 23 percent of its career personnel over links to Gulen.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said some journalists helped nurture terrorists with their writing, and that the crackdown is needed to ensure stability in a NATO member bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran. Critics say Erdogan has used the crackdown to muzzle dissent and increase his own power. The European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, has also criticized the crackdown. The verdict came a day after another court threw out the conviction of former Wall Street Journal reporter Ayla Albayrak, annulling a verdict sentencing her to two years in prison in absentia on charges of carrying out propaganda for Kurdish militants.