Meet Khorshid, Eeza, Nawab, and Parwana of Skateistan
Skateistan is possibly the most surprising NGO to come out of the war on terror.
The facility, sitting on the southeast corner of Kabul next to Ghazi Stadium, is essentially a giant bunker, with a domed roof that’s painted in the Afghan black, red and green.
Inside there are a few classrooms, a kitchen and meeting area, some offices and a cavernous hall, where skate ramps, kickers and rails are usually peppered with Afghan boys and girls of all ages wearing an amusing mix of Afghan garb and skate gear, and a few Aussie and international adult skaters with a heightened sense of civic duty giving tips in freshly-minted Dari.
Skateistan was born out of the morphine dream of Melbourne man Oliver Percovich, 37, who devised a community-building skateboarding project after crashing his motorbike a few years after the invasion of Afghanistan. With no external funds, Oliver moved to Kabul in 2007 and started skating Kabul, with any Afghans he could find who wanted to ride one of his 10 skateboards.
Soon, informal classes started at the Russian Fountain, a large, empty concave concrete bowl, sitting out the front of the most utilitarian of apartment blocks, built during the Soviet occupation. A little more equipment started coming in, then a trickling of money.
Interest grew and Oliver and some friends started trying to get the money together for a permanent facility, with the Norwegian and German governments eventually contributing.
Inside Skateistan, there are the kids who drop in, taking the hour of required classes before getting out on the skate area, and there are the kids that seemed to live there, like Murza, the self-proclaimed ‘star’ of Skateistan - and Nawab.
I met Nawab in 2010, a shy kid whose voice was so quiet, it could barely be discerned in a recording against the background noise, but I remember him well. While Oliver and I chatted, Nawab tried to learn a new trick over a kicker in the middle of the park. Up he went, and down in a clatter of a board and pads. Up and clatter, up and clatter.
That evening, Oliver, Murza, Nawab and a few of the older boys took me to the Russian Fountain and they skated and clowned around until dark. I’m not a skater myself, but I could tell that both Nawab and Murza would elicit awe at the Bondi Bowl. The scene at the fountain reminded me of those days I spent with my friends down on Cottesloe Beach playing volleyball. Heaven.
Yesterday I saw a tweet from the Skateistan feed that read: “It’s important to put names and faces to tragedies like this. Memories and photos posted of kids we lost on Saturday.” There was a link, and there were pictures of four Skateistan regulars, two little girls, Parwana, 8, and Korshid, 14, and two boys Mohammed Essa, 13 and Nawab, who has now died at age 17.
A report on the BBC website said that the four were killed out the front of NATO headquarters, when a boy about Mohammed Essa’s age rode his bike up to the front of the security cordon on the street and detonated a suicide bomb.
Along with the Skateistan dead, two more Afghans were killed, including the boy who was made to detonate the bomb. Navid, a 14-year-old Skateistan instructor was seriously injured. No NATO soldiers were injured.
The argument for Australia fighting in a country like Afghanistan seems to be dwindling over time, but we should remember the good that’s being done. There isn’t a lot of joy in Kabul, but there was a lot at Skateistan, which was possible because of the efforts of ISAF, including the Australians fighting in Uruzgan, who helped make Kabul as relatively safe as it is.
Sadly, only relatively safe.
If you’d like to know more about Nawab, Parwana, Korshid and Mohammed Essa, or contribute to Skateistan, visit the website here.
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