Turkish ladies go boxing in Amsterdam West

Text and photo by Flo0r Nagelhout – 

At Sloterpark a parc located next to Sloterplas, a big lake in Amsterdam Nieuw-West, you find a part of the parc being fenced off weekly. Only women are allowed to enter this part of the parc from 4 pm till 8 pm. The reason for this fenced-off ground is because every Thursday evening a group of women is boxing here. These are women from the Turkish community from Nieuw-West and Osdorp who are mainly part of the Islamic community in Amsterdam.  This is all under the initiative of Q. Agül, a 24-year-old student from the area.

The reason behind this initiative is because many women from the neighborhood indicated that there is a problem among the women from Amsterdam West and Osdorp, according to Agül. “Many women want to exercise, but gyms are often expensive, not for women only and not in the open nature but in enclosed spaces,” explains Agül. She points out that many Turkish women often feel undervalued and that in gyms there is no possibility to take off their hijabs because men are in these environments.

Agül has been active in the boxing world for several years and comes from the Slotermeer area in Amsterdam West herself. Here she trained for years in different local gyms. However, she noticed that she would like to train outside in the summer and that there is a large group of Turkish women who are like-minded and would like to be more self-assured and get in touch with other Islamic, Turkish women.  Agül started her plan and this is how her project took off. By now, three groups of women trains with her every Thursday evening near the Sloterplas lake.

Agül is the first lady to start with outside trainings for this community in Amsterdam. There are other local gyms doing sort alike workouts for the community, but like said, they are mostly inside and mixed with men. With the 45+ group, Agül is Unique and research of Nidi, the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, shows that a lot of Turkish ladies who are migrant seniors are lonely despite social contacts. As stated by Nidi: “Loneliness among Moroccan and Turkish migrant elderly is much higher than among Dutch elderly. Earlier research shows that respectively 58 and 54 per cent of Moroccan and Turkish migrant elderly are moderately lonely, compared to 21 per cent of Dutch elderly.”

The biggest loneliness is among the Turkish woman in the Netherlands, this is why Agül her initiative is so important according to her. Nidi research shows that Turkish migrant men are on average about eight and four years older than their wives. The chance that a woman will be left widowed is therefore greater than the chance that a man will be left widowed. The proportion of older migrants with a partner is therefore lower among women than among men: 60 versus 80 per cent. This is why a lot of Turkish women feel lonely in Amsterdam West.

Ayisha (38) is one of these women and since she joined her first training she feels much better about herself. “I often noticed that I let people walk all over me, but since I started boxing, I’m much more willing to stand up for myself.” Resilience training is something that many Islamic women in Amsterdam are looking for, according to Agül. “In addition, the training sessions provide many social contacts for women from the Turkish community who are new in Amsterdam or have been lonely for a few years,” says Ayisha.

Besides boxing, the three groups of women organize various activities together. For example, they often eat together in the park after training and every Sunday they have their own stall at the Turkish market at plein 40/45. Here they not only promote the workouts, but they also come into contact with other women and raise money for good causes in the area.

Every Thursday you are welcome to come and train. The only condition is that you are a woman and that you are open to different cultures. You do not have to be Turkish or Muslim to participate. Everyone is welcome. For the price of 15 euros a month, you can come and train on four Thursdays, after which we have a nice picnic together. In wintertime or when it rains, a covered location is available. The first group consists of girls between 15 and 20, the second group 20 to 45 and the last group is 45+.