Besides it is a sports activity, a special group organizing trips to the mountains and hilss of Khanaqin district carries two other messages: one of it is the discovery and protection of natural and historical sites of the town, and the other is the promotion of peaceful coexistence between different ethnicities and religions.
Milkan Group for mountaineering was founded in January 2021. Only seven people participated in the first trip organized by the group then yet later the group has since expanded to include over 70 members of both sexes.
All group trips are organized in Khanaqin, where group members go to a specific place by bus, and from there they go to the mountains, natural and tourist areas in the district.
"I thought about creating this group with the aim of practicing sports and learning about the nature and environment of Khanaqin," said Majid Shalyar, the supervisor of Milkan group.
Last year, the group organized 10 tours, most of it during winter and spring since temperature exceeds 50 Celsius degrees in summer. In 2022, it has organized only four tours so far.
"From the early beginning, women and girls had a presence alongside the men."
The group has created a Facebook chat group to connect with each other and schedule tours and destinations.
Despite the rainy weather, 37 people took part in a mountain trek organized by the group last Friday, February 25.
In addition to sports, the group carries two messages, which are, according to Shalyar, "All Khanaqinis are environmentalists and protectors, in addition to the message of coexistence between ethnictes and religions of the district."
Khanaqin is one of the disputed towns between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG according to the Iraqi constitution. It is located in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad.
Its inhabitants are Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens, in addition to the Kaka’i and Christian religious components. The residents of Khanaqin have a long history of peaceful coexistence.
All ethnicities and religions participate in our trips
"All ethnicities and religions participate in our trips without discrimination, from all groups and classes of society. There we practice team sports, get to know historical and tourist sites together, and pay great attention to preserving the environment," Shalyar explained.
Anyone wishing to participate in the tours can register their name through the Facebook chat group and pay 2,500 dinars () for transportation expenses, and prepare meals for themselves for the trip.
The Supervisor of the Milkan Group is well versed in the terrain, historical and touristic sites of the area, which facilitates a lot for the tour participants.
Group members are pleased to tour the nature of their town and dig into its history
Intisar Mahmoud, 39, is a civil servant and member of the Kakai component, participated in the tour organized by the group on last Friday.
"I got to know this group through the Facebook network, I have never visited anywhere outside the center of Khanaqin, this group helped me a lot to learn about the environment and geography of Khanaqin.”
"The establishment of this group was a beautiful idea. I learned a lot about the nature of Khanaqin in this tour. I was amazed by the splendor of the views I visited in Khanaqin. I saw many types of birds and wild animals. These tours give you a wonderful feeling and benefit you psychologically and physically," Intisar adds.
Intisar was accompanied on that trip by her husband and two children.
The participants often bring boiled potatoes and eggs, bread, fruits and vegetables.
Some of the participants believe it has ben a dream came true.
Omid Majid, 40-years-old teacher, says that he loved mountain climbing since his childhood, but this group helped him a lot to practice his hobby in a group.
"So far, I have participated in 14 trips, the important aspect of this group is that it includes the different religions and nationalities of Khanaqin. The multi languages of the participants adds flavor to our trips," Omid said.
"These trips make us reconcile with sports and nature, encourage us to protect the environment. I ask people to take part in these trips and for this group to continue."