Sports and education have played a part in empowering people who feel stigmatized by disability.

In Chechnya, Islamic Relief has been working with the Chechen Union of Visually Handicapped to set up a learning centre for people who are blind or have severe problems with their eyesight.

The centre offered about 450 people opportunities in both sports and learning of the Arabic language and Qur’an using the Braille system. People were taught to play football and tennis, and the project, which lasted six months, ended with a football tournament and Qur’an reading competition.

Banat Shaipova

Banat Shaipova playing table tennis.

Said-Emin Bizaev, project coordinator for Islamic Relief, said: “Six months ago, blind people in Chechnya could not even dream of having the opportunity to read the Qur’an or take part in a football tournament. On behalf of all people with sight disabilities who live in Chechnya I would like to thank everybody who took part in making this possible.”

Banat Shaipova, 55, went to the centre and became the top ranked tennis player among visually-impaired women. She said: “Who would have thought that at my age, I would lead such an active social life.”

Ramzan Mustaev, an Arabic language teacher, added: “The learning centre is not only a place where blind people can get knowledge, but it is also a bridge to a new more positive life. Participation in the project has raised their self esteem and filled their lives with joy and happiness.”

According to the Chechan Union of Visually Handicapped, there are 3,000 people living in Chechnya who are officially registered as blind, and many have been unable to access education. There has been no opportunity for religious study, and even those who were able to go to school could not study the Ilm because of huge disparities between the Cyrillic and Arabic scripts.


The Qur’an reading competition.

Suleyman Moigov, 29, is blind. He said: “When I heard about the opportunity to study Arabic and Ilm, I tried to find a way to be one of the students, and I have managed. The beautiful work of Ilm has changed me.

“My perception of the world is different from what is used to be before. I feel differently even about my blindness. I am so thankful to all the people who helped give me such an opportunity.

The end of the project was marked by a high-level event attended by Government officials, public organisations, project beneficiaries and the local media.