Take 180 kids, give them skateboards and take to the city streets. Here in Kabul it might seem like a foolhardy prospect, fraught with potential dangers. However, for the third time running on June 21, the simplicity of the idea became the beauty of it. Go Skateboarding Day is an international holiday dedicated to celebration of the sport, from Afghanistan to China to the Americas.
As Skateistan students first trickled, then poured through the park gates on to the road, bursting through the attendant ranks of photographers, officials and police, nothing could have stopped them.
Some skated, some sat and were pushed by a friend and others ran, awaiting their turn. Regardless of how they negotiated the 1.6km route, over potholes in the fiery sunshine, they smiled and laughed all the way. It was difficult to tell what surprised onlookers more, the magical wheeled boards or simply the speeding clusters of boys and girls dressed in flowing, coloured rainbows of Afghan clothing. Gentle nods sent the happy spectacle on its way, as life returned to normal in its wake.
Finally, dusty and triumphant, the skaters stormed back into their park for a celebratory contest to the beat of Afghan dul drums. The boys’ contest was won by Mohammad Bilal Mir Bat Zai, 15, who is disabled and skates by sitting on his board with crossed legs. The girls’ contest winner, Hanifa, 14, works on the street along with her younger sister. It was clear to see the high spirits of all who participated in Go Skate Day Kabul, who, without exception, could feel proud of who they are and what they represent.