By Hannah Stevens @hanahshewans
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Yemen’s first freerunning team, based in Aden, have branched out across the conflicted country to bring communities together through a shared love of parkour.
Founded by Mohamed Samy in 2012, the group is made up of seven members - Ahmed Waqqas, Rami Abdorabo, Taha Raed, Mohamed Qaeda, Abod Omar and Karam Malik - who is primarily the group’s photographer.
After practicing together for three years, the team’s life was turned upside down by the Yemen civil war and the occupation of Aden by Houthi rebels.
Mohammed Samy said: “Nothing in this life has made us mature more than the war itself.
“It was a lesson for all of us that nothing remains the same and no one knows when he’s going to die.
“It was really bad and terrifying, however, we had to adapt with it and kept training even when the war was still happening.”
Photographer Maria de la Guardia undertook a perilous 16 hour journey in a fishing boat to capture one of their daily practices on a local beach.
Although the rebels were turned out of Aden by the city’s resistance movement, Al Qaeda still have a strong presence in the area and are continuing to resist the government and any foreign presence.
During the war the group was splintered when many fled the city for safety - only Taha remained in Aden at the beginning of the war.
Struggling to find food and water and unable to leave his home because of snipers, Taha lived in Aden without electricity for two months.
After months of living on edge, the group finally saw a glimmer of hope on the first day of liberation - the 27th day of Ramadan in 2015 - and decided to get straight back to training, even though active fighting was still rampant.
Freerunning is the group’s lifeline to one another and they hope to spread their message of overcoming the war through parkour across Yemen.
Karam said: “We thought the war would never end, like what we see in Syria, but we overcame it and we became stronger.
“The war killed our fear. The war was our biggest fear, but we came out of it and now there is nothing left to scare us.”
Eager to spread their fearless attitude, the group began training using the barren landscape of abandoned homes, bombed out buildings and tanks scattered across their city.
By using the remnants of war to train, they hope to spread the message that parkour can help the people of Yemen to overcome the scars of war.
Now the group travel between communities spreading their message and other parkour groups have begun to spring up across Yemen - a symbol of peaceful defiance in an era of conflict.
Karam said: “It is a way of connecting people living in Yemen, and those living outside. We have created a big community abroad and we feel proud - it is a big family joining from all over our country and the world.”
The group hope that their strength will continue to inspire others across the globe, but they are acutely aware of the limitations they face while Yemen remains divided.
Taha added: “We want to show that the people of Yemen are not all terrorists; they are kind.
“The main goal is to keep practicing, developing and travelling - making our dream a reality.
“The dream is making our hobby a career, but as we have so little support the reality will be difficult.”