Faces of the day

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Despite restrictive clothing and a ban on riding bikes these girls in Afghanistan have managed to find a loophole that allows them the freedom to use skateboards.

After 40 years of devastation from Soviet occupation, civil war and Taliban rule, Afghanistan conjures up images of war, poverty, terrorism and brutal oppression of women. It is a land known for self-effacing burqas and hardline Taliban strictures. Lack of infrastructure has rendered the country one of the world’s poorest and most corrupt. And, it consistently ranks lowest in the world for treatment of women. Today, Afghanistan finds itself once again on the brink of civil war with the potential to backslide on many hard won advancements in human rights.

Over the past decade since the Taliban’s initial roust, a new constitution was written and young women across the country have been embracing opportunities opening to them in education, politics, and activism. One of the most unique ways Afghan women are breaking long held gender roles is competition in sports.

Back in 2007, Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich started a revolution in Afghanistan.

…With many young women in Afghanistan banned to ride bicycles, Skateistan has helped them turn to skateboarding as a form of leisure and empowerment. In fact, these ladies comprise 45% of the organization’s students. The NGO’s educational programs have been so successful that they’ve helped make skateboarding the top sport for women in the country.

Amazed by Skateistan’s efforts, London-based photographer Jessica Fulford-Dobson went to Kabul in 2012 to photograph these girls all dressed up in restrictive clothing and skating to their heart’s content. Her photos not only show a group of empowered girls, but also how something as simple as a skateboard can bring happiness to impoverished kids.





…biking has been considered off-limits for the same reason women did not learn to drive cars until recently: freedom of movement. If a woman has her own transportation, she has freedom: Freedom to travel freely and freedom to do what she wants when she wants. That is not a right all Afghan women are familiar with. For centuries, women experienced limited freedom of expression, freedom of choice, freedom of mobility, freedom to leave the home without a male escort, freedom to dress how she wants, freedom to go to school without threat, freedom to marry whom she chooses and freedom to choose.



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  • Dumrse

    Is this significant progress ? It looks like it is. Don’t stop now, you never know what your next win will be. On on, good luck.

  • Brian Smaller

    They are able to skateboard because Western military forces keep the Taliban, Al Queda and ISIS away. When that military leaves those girls wont be able to skate again because the Islamists will take over – I don’t think for one minute that the Afghan Army will stand up to the Islamic terrorists on their own for any length of time.

  • Isherman

    I’ll take one for the team and mention there is probably a deserved hat-tip to an Aussie in this story, never the easiest thing to do but legit in this case.
    During the Cricket World Cup I picked the Afghans as a sentimental favourite, and I love the spirit and character they bring to the game. Beyond that, they don’t get a lot of good news or things to be happy about, but some of the sporting institutions seem to be bucking the trend a little, which is good to see. Good on them, and it would be better if the rest of the skateboarding world can think about what else they can do to help. Nobody can be certain about the future just yet, but after you’ve been through you’d take any fun you can get.
    Watch that Afghan Cricket team too, in a few years they will be a useful side I think if they the situation permits.