Boxing night lights up for Jina Amini
The 14,000-seat Rudolf Weber Arena in Oberhausen, Germany, opens its doors at 6 p.m.
Boxing fans begin to occupy the empty seats in the arena. At 6:30 p.m., the first gong sounds and the fights begin. A total of 22 boxers from different countries compete against each other in 11 bouts.
On the evening of November 5, 2022, I watch on the YouTube channel Universum the boxing night organized by the Ismail Ozen-Otto club. The spectator profile in the arena is interesting: Germans, Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Iranians and Azeris are the dominant groups. Each boxer has his own fans. They are mostly young. The audience reflects their political views too. The Kurdish youth is organized and disciplined. Sometimes the fights are tense and nasty, and there can be pushing and shoving between fans. However, competition and tension are considered "natural consequences" of boxing.
Ismail Ozen-Otto, the president of Universum Boxing Club, is the organizer of the event. Boxing events of this magnitude have not been held in Germany since the pandemic. Everyone is eager to see the outcomes.
"IF WOMEN IN THE WORLD ARE NOT FREE, THE WORLD IS NOT FREE"
Ismail Ozen - Otto breaks the stereotype that politics has no place in sports. He is known for bringing attention to a social issue in every organization; the attack on Kobane, climate change, children, women, migrant issues, peace and democracy are often on the agenda.
Before the heavyweight fight, Ismail Ozen-Otto comes back to the ring wearing t-shirts with the photo of Jina Emini and reading "Jin Jiyan Azadi". He is accompanied by artist Ferhat Tunc and journalist Erdal Er. Ozen and begins his speech by saying, "If women in the world are not free, the world is not free."
"The most beautiful women in the world defeated the ugliest men in the world in Kobane, Rojava and Raqqa," he announced to great applause. The lights in the arena went out and the audience was suddenly left in the dark. Ozen asked the audience to put on the lights of their cell phones for Jina Amini and the equality and freedom of women. Ferhat Tunc accompanied this extraordinary scene with a lament in Kirmanciki (Zazaki). Tunc's voice was joined by slogans including "Jin Jiyan Azadi."
This action by Ozen attracted a lot of attention and debate in Germany and on social media platforms. I asked Ozen, who had told ArtiGercek about his political struggle before, why he had taken such an initiative on this occasion.
Wasn't it a risk for you to make this organization in the Oberhausen arena?
It was a big risk indeed. But without risk there is no success. With the pandemic, the big boxing organizations came to a halt. This is not the only problem. In recent years, the boxing public in Germany has decreased a lot. The authorities began to develop preconceived ideas. "Nobody can organize big fights anymore", they were saying. We tried to break that with this big organization, and we succeeded.
That was actually what caught the attention. What attracted so many people together? Everyone tries to answer this question for themselves.
And what was it?
I think the fact that all these people cam together is more important than how they came together. Everyone can give their own answer, and the answers may be different.
It's generally considered good for athletes to stay out of politics. But you are keen to highlight your political personality. Why is that?
From the beginning, I questioned the idea of athletes being told to do their sport, and I consider that view dangerous. The conclusion I draw is that states and governments want to keep the masses dedicated to sports away from social issues because it is a popular and powerful field.
When political and social issues are discussed in this area, there is even a threat that this will lead to the overthrow of governments. I think this fear was at the root of the criminalization of Muhammad Ali. Finally, the statement "no politics in sports" is actually a significant and dangerous form of political behavior. I believe in the opposite, and that is why I draw attention to social problems.
SPORT IS AN IMPORTANT FIELD FOR POLITICS
Do you get reactions for that?
Yes, I get a lot of reactions. In fact, I get reactions even in the form of threats. This was also the case with the last game. I have received thousands of threatening messages in the last few days.
Doesn't that scare you?
Every human being gets scared. But fear must not take us captive. We must stand up for the truth and defend it. I am not doing anything wrong. We cannot be silent when there is so much injustice in the world. If we remain silent, we would not only be doing wrong, we would also be denying our conscience and morality.
You dedicated the game night you organized in Oberhausen to Jina Amini and women. Tell us about the reasons for this.
Jina Amini was 22 years old when she was killed because a strand of her hair was visible. In the last two months, young women have been killed continuously because they want freedom. It's not just in Iran, the whole world is not fair to women. They are suffering before our eyes.
I want freedom for women. I cannot accept women being killed by their husbands, ex-partners, brothers and fathers. I oppose the enslavement of women by regimes like Iran and others. I am against violence and war.
I stand for peace, democracy and human rights. Where is the evil in this? How can I be silent when there is so much injustice in the world? Who is against me? Of course, those who are against all these notions. But I know that they are in the minority. The majority feels the same way I do. It is important for the majority to organize and build a just, free and peaceful world.
As I understand, you are satisfied with the results of your boxing evening in the Oberhausen Arena, will you continue to organize others?
Of course, we can always do better. In this big event, we have seen our shortcomings and our mistakes, as well as what we did right. This was a great experience for us. We got to see what we should do and what we shouldn't do in the next organization. But I am happy with the result. I am especially happy with the support of the fans for Jina Amini. Boxing is a sport dominated mostly by men. It was important to achieve such an outcome against such a backdrop.
I would like to thank my beloved wife Janina Otto, who supported me in choosing the theme of women, the Universum team, our athletes, my friends, journalist Erdal Er, musician Ferhat Tunc, the fans, the spectators who came to the arena, the women who supported me, the German, Kurdish, Arab and Turkish young people. I especially want to thank the Kurdish young women. We have new projects. If all goes well, we will be in front of sports fans in a new format in March 2023.