First off the video clip? Don't call four minutes a "documentary" -- though Brand Jordan has the nerve to, insiting Rise Above is a four minute documentary series. Drop back to the March 19th snapshot. We've got the transcript to The State We're In covering the American University in Sulaymaniyah's women's basketball team.
The four minute 'documentary' can't even tell you that you're in the KRG (but AUIS is on the jerseys and that is American University in Sulaymaniyah). Funny, isn't it, how Michael Jordan's money reduces a team to one woman -- and the one who's already profiled but we'll get to that. Contrast that with someone concerned with something other than making money and improving their 'brand,' Jonathan Groubert on The State We're In focused on very real issues.
Instead Michael Jordan's company serves up lies. "In spite of long standing gender inequality in her land . . ." host Amy K. Nelson prattles away not knowing a damn thing she's talking and caring even less. That's because the spot's not about Iraqi women it's about glorification.
Iraq was the most advanced Middle Eastern country in terms of women's rights before the illegal US war kicked off in 2003. So Nelson and Jordan are wrong right there.
If they want to argue that they are a sports spot and therefore were speaking of sports, Iraq has a long history of women's sports. How ignorant is this supposed sports spot?
Iraq even had a national women's basketball team. Saddam Hussein ended that. Basketball teams with women continued. There just wasn't the national team. One of his sons attempted to bring it back and there was some success with that -- only some because of the torture athletes who did not win were targeted with and because he didn't like it when the women performed well and the men didn't.
This period is reported on in Chrstine Breenan's April 2004 report for USA Today where she speaks with Iman Sabeeh who had been named to the National Olympic Committee of Iraq and was also heading the Iraqi Women's Sports Federation:
But she is perhaps most significant in Iraq as one of its most beloved and respected national sports heroes, a hybrid of, say, Chris Evert, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Donna de Varona, the living image of what sports once were before the despised Uday Hussein took over and athletes who displeased him reportedly were thrown off bridges or tossed into vats of raw sewage.
Sabeeh, who came to Washington this week as part of a delegation to meet with President Bush and Congressional leaders, among others, was such a force in her country in the 400 and 800 meters in the 1980s that she still holds the national records in those events. Her times were respectable for her day, although they were several seconds off the world's best marks.
That her records have not been eclipsed speaks to her national prowess, but also to the fact that Uday did not want female athletes to represent his country. So for nearly two decades, girls and women in Iraq rarely took up sports.
In 1984, with the Olympics looming in Los Angeles, Sabeeh had her heart set on going until Saddam Hussein put his son in charge of the Olympic movement. "Once he took over sports," she said, "he never let women travel again."
But Sabeeh still thrived inside Iraq, for a while. She was voted the most popular female athlete in the nation from 1980-87, each year confounding Uday more and more. "He didn't want people to be more famous than he was," she said.
Michael Jordan is not a human being, he's a brand and as a brand he markets feel-good. Feel-good is lying to the American people and telling them that girls and women can now play sports in Iraq for the first time ever!!!
It's a damn lie and it renders invisible women like Iman Sabeeh who didn't just use their natural talents to compete but relied on bravery. Read Breenan's article and find out about how Sabeeh tells Uday Hussein "no." That's an important story and it's one that the propaganda from Michael Jordan's company renders invisible.
What Brand Jordan just 'discovered' is already a documentary film entitled Salaam Dunk that won awards in the Chicago International Film Festival, the Nashville Film Festival and the Florida Film Festival. And who was the star of that documentary? Why Layla. The start of the four minute spot. A four minute spot with footage that looks idential to that in Salaam Dunk. Salaam Dunk's weakness -- and why it didn't do well at other film festivals -- was its reliance on an American to provide context. The man, a coach, didn't know anything about Iraqi women's sport history but they didn't stop him from trying to give the camera history lessons. The result was that many Iraqi-Americans -- men and women -- began objecting to that film. And that's what endedup hurting it on the film festival circuit.
April 19, 2008, Kimi Yoshino reported on women's basketball in Iraq for the Los Angeles Times. And please note, they are playing other women's teams in Iraq. In 2011, Nahro Farid (Ishtar TV0 reported, "Akkad Ankawa's women's basketball team won the Iraqi Women's Basketball League on Thursday beating Sennacherib 61 - 48 in its final match on Thursday. Winning its seventh title since 1999, the team's head coach Ali Mohammed and assistant coach Nahla Solaqa bursed into joy as the final seconds ticked off." And that women's basketball team? Established in 1992.
Brand Jordan has shoes to sell. To do that, it needs feel-good. It doesn't need truth. And clearly the Rise Above 'documentaries' refuse to let truth weigh them down.
There's something very sad about a multi-billionaire who pimps propagnada. There's something very pathetic about a society that allows an overpraised man to render hundreds and hundreds of brave Iraqi women invisible to sell war-is-good propaganda.
I'm traveling in some vehicle
I'm sitting in some cafe
A defector from the petty wars
That shell shock love away
-- "Hejira," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name
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