Women in Gaza Are Welcoming the Sport of Baseball Despite Societal Challenges

As baseball's spring training gets underway across the country, halfway around the world in Gaza, women are challenging social taboos and stepping up to bat.

Learning the rules and being trained by a coach, women in hijabs are coming together to form their own baseball league.

The entire program is being funded out of pocket, and was launched by Mahmoud Tafesh, who played on the national soccer team for 16 years and trained as a baseball coach in Egypt. He told Reuters that the conditions within Gaza have offered challenges. For example, they have to ship outside of Palestine for sports equipment since there is none within the country. And although they cannot get a proper field to play on, Tafesh is still holding practices and has recruited 60 players so far — 40 women and 20 men.

Ever since 2006, when Hamas seized control of the Gaza region, women have "been discouraged from fraternizing in public with members of the opposite sex," The New York Times reports.

Hamas even banned women from competing in the marathon in 2013.

However, Tafesh believes baseball could serve as an escape, and is excited about the program — as are its participants.

"I used to watch baseball at home as a child," female participant, Iman Al-Moghayer, told Al Jazeera. "I love it because it's full of freedom. Girls come and practice, the numbers are increasing and there's lots of girls who'd like to sign up despite their lack of knowledge of the sport."

Watch Al Jazeera's video below to learn more.

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Photo Credit: Facebook/ Freedom for Gaza