Sports event in Jordan launches #WithRefugees tour

The worldwide tour will include dozens of events designed to raise awareness of the plight of people forced to flee conflict, violence or persecution.

Syrian refugee Ines, 15, takes part in fencing event at Za'atari refugee camp, Jordan.  © UNHCR/Esna Ong

ZA’ATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan - UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, launched its #WithRefugees World Tour on Friday with a day of sports at Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp, ending with an Olympic-style torch relay by young refugees.

The tour will promote the #WithRefugees Campaign, designed to raise awareness of the plight of people forced to flee conflict, violence or persecution and will end on 1 October.

Friday’s events included a children’s football match, and demonstrations and workshops on fencing, taekwondo and kickboxing, as well as music and dancing.

Among international athletes who took part was modern pentathlete Aya Medany, who represented Egypt at the Athens Olympics in 2004. She held a fencing workshop for girls.

“Through fencing I taught them not only defend themselves but to respect each other.”

“Through fencing I taught them not only defend themselves but to respect each other,” Medany told UNHCR.

Fifteen-year-old Syrian refugee Inés, who attended the workshop, said: “Today I learned that with sports we can achieve peace, that girls can be empowered and become leaders in their society.”

Also taking part was retired French international footballer Christian Karembeu, who led a workshop for Teqball -- a combination of table tennis and football.

“I stand with refugees because sports give me everything that I am today I want to share that with refugees," Karembeu said.

To round off the day, some 50 children from the camp took it in turns to carry a torch along a five-km course, with adult escorts, in an Olympic-style procession.

The event at the camp, home to nearly 80,000 Syrian refugees, was organized in collaboration with the charity Peace and Sport to mark the UN-sponsored  International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.

A young refugee takes part in torch relay as part of a sports day event at Za'atari refugee camp, Jordan.  © UNHCR/Esna Ong

The #WithRefugees tour will include dozens of public events such as a fashion show in Chicago featuring fabrics made by refugees in Kenya, a refugee football match in Ireland, a photo exhibition in Paris, a week of events in South Korea and judo competitions and workshops in South Africa.

It will end on 1 October at UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award ceremony in Geneva.

“By taking action, people can show solidarity and care about refugees,” said UNHCR’s chief of campaigns, events and goodwill ambassadors, Leigh Foster. “Each individual action counts.

“By taking action, people can show solidarity and care about refugees.”

“The #WithRefugees Campaign has been mobilizing public action, innovation and solidarity for refugees globally, showing that when we join together, we can all make a difference for families forced to flee.”

The events at Za’atari will also promote Peace and Sport’s White Card Initiative, which encourages people to post photos of themselves holding a white card on social media as a commitment to peace efforts worldwide.

Joel Bouzou, president and founder of Peace and Sport, who attended the event, said: “Sport brings dignity, dignity for everyone, because everyone has the right to have access to sports and the benefits that that entails.”

The World Tour will be a central part of the #WithRefugees Campaign in 2018 Since its launch in 2016, the campaign has recorded more than18 million actions for refugees including almost 2 million signatures on a petition calling for refugees to be able to live in safety, have access to education and be able to support their families.