The Iraqi Ministry of Youth and Sports seeks to open new clubs to develop the skills and interests of young people in sports, culture and social activities.
"These clubs aim to make use of youths' interests and desires and turn them into productive energy that will benefit them and society as a whole," said Adnan al-Seraj, director general of the ministry's coordination and follow-up department.
Al-Seraj told Mawtani that the ministry opened 17 youth clubs this year in Baghdad and various provinces, and hopes to expand that number to 50.
Each club organizes more than 20 activities a month for 200-300 young men and women. Activities include sports contests, training programs to develop craft, artistic and scientific skills, and recreational and educational trips to archaeological sites.
The most recent club, Nasr neighborhood youth club in Baghdad, was opened by the ministry in July, and is considered the biggest club to date.
The club covers a total area of five dunams, cost 6.5 billion dinars to construct, and features four sports halls for martial arts, three large courts for basketball, volleyball and handball, and an indoor swimming pool for adults and another for children.
The club also features halls for teaching music, drawing, sewing and internet skills, as well as two theaters -- one for winter and one for summer -- a library, cafeteria, and other service facilities.
Walaa Hussain, supervisor of the women's club in the Amin neighborhood of Baghdad, told Mawtani, "The club has helped a large number of women learn various trades and develop their scientific and cultural abilities, which will greatly help them in their daily lives."
In recent months, the women's club organized free training courses in various trades and crafts, such as sewing, nursing, first aide, cosmetology and photography.
The club also organizes literacy programs and computer learning and maintenance courses, as well as monthly health awareness lectures given by female doctors.
The courses take place daily with each one attracting between 30 and 50 women.
"Two months ago, I took part in a course to learn additional nursing skills," said Baghdad resident Hanan Mohammed, 32. "I have benefited a lot from it in my work as a nurse."
"I hope that these youth clubs will be expanded because they are extremely useful," she said.
Feras Kadhum, 16, said he was one of the first participants at the Nasr neighborhood youth club.
"I love swimming and would like to join the diver unit in the river police department in the future," he said. "These clubs encourage us to achieve our ambitions and to chart our own futures."
"They also stop young people's inclinations toward extremism and terrorism," he added.