Duhok, Iraq – In Duhok, in Iraq’s Kurdish region, just a few kilometres from the brutal battleground of Mosul, a group of tennis players practise their sport and dream of a better future.
Undeterred by the violence around them, these athletes train up to four times a week, sometimes remaining on the tennis courts until well past midnight. The club, considered among the top in the country, has also competed on the international stage.
“Things have changed a lot since I was a student at Mosul University, some 10 years ago,” acknowledges coach Avdal Hasan.
As the players practise, the slow battle for Mosul rages on, with Iraqi forces continuing their push to oust fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group. The city has become ISIL’s last stronghold in Iraq.