Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Freerunners find their feet in Baghdad

July 3, 2013 -- Updated 0252 GMT (1052 HKT)
Baghdad's parkour team practice in Zawra park in the city's center. "We are a small group of young people and there are no parkour classes," says Prince Haydar. Baghdad's parkour team practice in Zawra park in the city's center. "We are a small group of young people and there are no parkour classes," says Prince Haydar.
HIDE CAPTION
Iraq's freerunners
Iraq's freerunners
Iraq's freerunners
Iraq's freerunners
Iraq's freerunners
Iraq's freerunners
Iraq's freerunners
Iraq's freerunners
Iraq's freerunners
Iraq's freerunners
Iraq's freerunners
Iraq's freerunners
Iraq's freerunners
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Prince Haydar is one of Baghdad's exponents of parkour
  • Freerunning in Iraq's capital is dangerous, he says, and freerunners often misunderstood
  • Baghdad Pk group often trains in Zawra park, near city's fomer Green Zone
  • Members are self-taught and rely on internet videos to learn new techniques

(CNN) -- Leaping from rooftops and doing backflips off walls is when Prince Haydar feels the most free.

The 25-year-old from Baghdad is one of the city's small band of freerunners, who take every opportunity to practice parkour in a city striving for normality and currently facing a resurgence of deadly violence.

"When I do parkour, I get rid of all the scattered thoughts in my head and empty all the anger from inside me," said Haydar.

From the streets of Paris in the 1990s, where parkour was first popularized, to Zawra park in Iraq's capital, freerunning has become a global phenomenon. The sport evolved from French military training and involves running through urban environments using only the body to overcome obstacles and objects.

This sport is the art of movement and freedom and it has made me know true freedom in this difficult life.
Prince Haydar, freerunner

In Baghdad, the challenges are even greater than in other cities. Haydar says his fellow freerunners have to contend with a public unsure of what to make of a group running and leaping through the city's largest public park. There is also the threat of bomb attacks and indiscriminate violence in the city.

"It is dangerous and it is difficult to practice parkour anywhere," he says. "Sometimes we are exposed to arrested or misunderstanding from some people and there is the deteriorating security situation."

But despite these challenges, Haydar is committed to improving in his sport, and teaching its benefits to others. He was first turned on to freerunning in 2007 when he watched the film "District B13" that featured parkour in many of its stunt sequences. Inspired, he sought out internet clips of the sport in order to learn parkour techniques.

"We are a small group of young people and there are no parkour classes," he says, noting that the group -- aged between 18 and 25 -- support and teach each other, going as far as pooling their money to rent a gym.

"It's small and does not meet the purpose," he says. "It's very far from our homes, but despite of all these difficult circumstances we go."

"I love parkour because this sport is the art of movement and freedom and this art has made me know true freedom in this difficult life."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 0940 GMT (1740 HKT)
Saudi Arabia is set to start construction on the world's tallest tower that will be one kilometer tall.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 0244 GMT (1044 HKT)
You'll never guess where this record-breaking mural is.
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 0255 GMT (1055 HKT)
The Sea of Gallilee, where Christ reputedly walked on water, is today home to another miracle of sorts.
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 0208 GMT (1008 HKT)
In Syria, not all rebels carry guns, some carry cameras.
April 4, 2014 -- Updated 0336 GMT (1136 HKT)
For three decades or so, Syrian artist Safwan Dahoul has been painting pensive, haunting images -- all of which are titled "Dream".
April 3, 2014 -- Updated 0323 GMT (1123 HKT)
Before releasing an album most bands would talk about record sales. Egyptian band Cairokee talk about whether they will get arrested.
March 28, 2014 -- Updated 0404 GMT (1204 HKT)
Dubai's most impressive monuments are looking a little psychedelic this week.
March 20, 2014 -- Updated 0224 GMT (1024 HKT)
Volunteers and academics in exile hope The Free Syrian University can save a lost generation of students.
March 20, 2014 -- Updated 1543 GMT (2343 HKT)
What would classic Hollywood films look like if reimagined as tradtional Ottoman art?
March 17, 2014 -- Updated 1050 GMT (1850 HKT)
Nawal Ba Abbad on why its time to stop child marriage in Yemen.
ADVERTISEMENT