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Skateistan: The Story of Skateboarding in Afganistan

By Andres Pachon

A. Pachon, a journalist and skateboard addict, is a full-time writer for SHIT® Magazine.


Children born in Afghanistan have to deal with living in one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Almost 50% of the population is under the age of 15. In Kabul, the capital, there are hardly any leisure activities for children and girls usually aren’t allowed to take part in any sports. But in 2007, a man with his three skateboards had the idea of combining skateboarding with education, and it become an award-winning international NGO that is working hard to get to as many places as possible.


How It All Started

Photo: Jason Lee (Unsplash)

When Oliver Percovich arrived in Afghanistan he spent some time talking with Afghans and started to think, if they wanted to rebuild their country and almost all of the population is under 25, why does no one pay attention to them? He started to lend his skateboards to Afghan kids who instantly fell in love with skating, feeling free and becoming the first skaters of the country. Very quickly, skateboarding began to create a community that went beyond the social divisions, ethnicities and genders. Then, he focused on establishing an organization that would give younsters of Afghanistan a positive energy about their community through skating. Then, kids started naming the project “Skateistan”.

Skateistan was having some skate sessions in several places in Kabul, which started to attract dozens of kids (some of those kids where working in the street). Then, for the first time girls were skating also, because even though women couldn’t play any sports, skateboards were seen as a toy so it wasn´t an issue. It connected the kids with education and leadership, paying some street-working kids to be instructors and, at the same time seeing fathers agreeing to having education and work in the park.






Skateistan For A Better Future

Photo: Jason Lee (Unsplash)

They have five programs within their skate schools for kids between 5 and 17 years old: Skate and Create, Dropping In, Youth Leadership and Back To School. With these programs, Afghan kids can have fun and improve their skills, all with freedom and creativity they wouldn’t get to have otherwise. They now count more than a hundred staff and volunteers worldwide, getting to new places like Cambodia, Mazar-e-Sharif and Johannesburg.

Skateistan is the real definition of progress and skateboarding, trying to provide some freedom to those who have it harder in everyday life. We hope this organization continues to flourish and showing the other side of skateboarding, a more helpful one.


Read also: Top 5 Skateboarding Documentaries You Should Watch

Read also: The Health Benefits of Skateboarding



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