AUIS promotes and encourages a vibrant campus life, especially through sports and activities of independent student clubs and societies. The university boasts two outdoor basketball fields and a soccer field which is used for university matches as well as weekly practice sessions. The sports facilities at AUIS have been established with the help of several donors including Western Zagros and Bareaz Companies Group who helped with the construction of outdoor fields, as well as others like the Qaiwan Group and Halabja who have sponsored AUIS teams in international tours. The sponsors have played a key role in developing a strong and vibrant tradition of men’s and women’s athletics on campus. In addition to athletics and the physical well-being of students, these sports have played an essential role in creating strong bonds not only between a very diverse student community at AUIS but also between students and faculty members who coach the teams.
The University’s sports teams include men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, soccer or football, as well as ping-pong and tai chi. The teams play local colleges and universities during the sports season as well as intramural matches at AUIS, and have also been on international tours. The AUIS women’s basketball team gained international recognition a few years ago when an American film company decided to make a documentary on them. The film, Salaam Dunk, premiered in the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2011, and went on to win an award at the Chicago Film Festival in the same year. The film focuses on the triumphs and tribulations of the women’s team during one season, in a country which does not have a strong tradition of women athletes. It also depicts the strong bonding between athletes from different ethnicities and religions in a country torn by sectarian and ethnic rifts. “These women are the pioneers of female collegiate sports in Iraq.” said Peter Friedrich, a former AUIS faculty member and a producer of the film. “In a country where most women don’t play sports and where those who do are groomed for careers in athletics by elite sports colleges, the women’s basketball team at AUIS is defining what it means to be a student athlete.”