ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Kurdish boxer in Germany says he hopes to open a boxing academy for young, aspiring athletes in the Kurdistan Region.
Ismail Özen, a Kurdish boxer born in Hamburg, Germany, told Kurdistan 24 in a recent interview that he is still active in the sport and hopes to contribute to the next generation of youth who aspire to pursue boxing.
Özen currently runs a boxing academy in Hamburg, a facility which has enrolled up to 100 young athletes. He wants to do the same in the Kurdistan Region and Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava).
The boxer noted that he tried to kick-start several academies in Kurdistan in the past, but his attempts were unsuccessful.
“In the past, I tried to pursue some work and open a boxing academy in the Kurdistan Region, but was unsuccessful,” Özen told Kurdistan 24. “In the future, I hope to open a boxing academy for aspiring athletes.”
The German-born Kurdish athlete is married to Janina Özen-Otto, a woman who is known in Germany for her dedication to humanitarian work.
Özen said his desire to give back to his community is based on his wife’s continued charity, especially her projects in Africa.
The boxer is a Zazaki Kurd from the province of Dersim, Kurdistan of Turkey. His parents moved to Germany in the 60s.
Although he cannot speak Kurdish, Özen says he is determined to contribute to the Kurdish nation and help his fellow Kurds no matter where they are across the Greater Kurdistan.
His statements supporting Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and defending Kurds’ political rights in Turkey have landed Özen in trouble with the Turkish government who have accused him of “terrorist propaganda and aid to a terrorist organization.”
Related Article: Turkish consulate in Hamburg confiscates Kurdish boxer's passport
In February, the Turkish consulate in Hamburg confiscated the Kurdish boxer’s passport on grounds there was an arrest warrant for him in Turkey.
In 2016, Özen donated an amount of money he won in a German boxing championship that same year to the town of Kobani in Rojava which was devasted during a months-long brutal siege by the Islamic State.
(Additional reporting by Shawqi Kanabi)