On the morning of Saturday September 8th 2012 a suicide attack in Kabul claimed the lives of a number of young Afghans. The bomb was detonated outside of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) HQ, where many of the street working children of Kabul sell trinkets, scarves and chewing gum to help support their families.
We are very sad to learn that of the six young children confirmed to have passed away, four of them were students, volunteers and youth leaders at Skateistan, who were well-loved and well-known faces for the entire team in Kabul. It is therefore with great pain and heavy hearts that we share our memories of children who were not just victims of senseless violence, but also beautiful human beings who will never be forgotten by their teachers, peers, co-workers, students, friends or family.
Khorshid (age 14)– She was our wonderfully inquisitive young girls’ skate instructor, who volunteered with us for over a year before becoming a staff skate teacher and role model for up to 160 girls attending Skateistan each week. From the start, Khorshid (whose name translates to “the Sun” in English) stood apart with a tough, cheeky and sensitive personality, smiling no matter what troubles she had to deal with day-to-day. She knew what she wanted in life and wasn’t afraid to fight for it despite having more responsibilities and sorrows than a child should ever have.
Some of the female students Khorshid taught wished to share their memories:
“She was very brave and gave this courage to all of us girls.”
“She was always telling us to be brave like the boys and then no one would dare to touch us.”
Her students had fond memories of Khorshid, who put on a tough act but had a huge heart.
“She always wanted us to go down the big ramp,” one girl said, adding that one day Khorshid told her not to be scared:
“If you are scared you end up doing nothing and without doing you cannot achieve anything. But if you do things, all that can happen is you succeed or fail.” - Khorshid
The girl then practiced so many times but could never get it right. Khorshid then told her to simply close here eyes and imagine herself succeeding, and on the next attempt she managed it. The girl now does this for every trick she practices and says, “Khorshid is alive within me, alive in the courage I now have.”
Nawab (age 17)– Nawab has been a part of Skateistan since the beginnings (joining outdoor skate sessions from 2009 onwards), eventually becoming a volunteer instructor and star amongst the students. On top of his extreme kindness, he went on to win the 2012 Go Skateboarding Day boys’ competition. Members of staff can remember this boy who suddenly amazed everyone by pulling the best kickflips and technical skateboarding skills out of nowhere during a contest in early 2011. Nawab was extremely well-respected by the other kids he spent the days working with and watching over, and by everyone at Skateistan.
Mohammad Eeza (age 13, left)– As one of the original Skateistan students, Eeza joined lessons at the Mekroyan fountain in 2009 before the skatepark was built, along with his younger brother Subhanullah. His teachers remember him as an enthusiastic and keen young student at Skateistan.
Parwana (age 8)– Parwana was Khorshid’s younger sister and though she often tagged along to skate sessions over the last couple of years, she officially enrolled herself last week as our newest student. Small and adorable Parwana instantly brought a smile to everyone’s face. She was always under the watchful eye of Khorshid or another sibling, but also emanated her own unique personality and light.
Assad – He was Khorshid and Parwana’s cousin, and although he was not a student at Skateistan he was well known to several of our staff, as well as students who worked with him in the street.
We will sorely miss you all with each day that passes.
In addition to the tragic deaths, Navid, a 14-year-old Skateistan volunteer, was seriously injured during the attack. He is currently in the hospital with serious shrapnel wounds and everyone at Skateistan is hoping he will recover (Update: he has now recovered safely and is again attending Skateistan as a student).
The Skateistan team in Kabul is devastated but has come together to provide immediate assistance to the families of the children affected. Memorial ceremonies will take place throughout the week with all of our classes in the form of a short dedication to the victims and a forum for their peers to discuss their thoughts and feelings with facilitation from our excellent Afghan education team.
It is at these most difficult and heartbreaking of times that the harsh reality of many of our students’ lives becomes vivid. It is clear that Skateistan is not only a place of education and fun, but also a place of safety and a thriving community for youth from all social backgrounds. Skateistan is a place where kids can just be kids, but it is also a place where we offer opportunities for these children to grow, to access education, to gain confidence, build life skills, and empower youth to be agents of change.
In Kabul, estimates of street working children are around 60, 000, and it is often these children that are the most exposed and vunerable. This is the second time in a year that a suicide attack in Kabul has directly impacted our students who were working outside. We have decided to set up an Emergency Fund to provide assistance to Skateistan students and their families in times of need.
Update: Our Emergency Fund has already been fully funded and more thanks to your generous donations, which is an amazing showing of support from compassionate people worldwide.
If you would like to help Skateistan continue providing a safe space for Afghan children to learn and access new opportunities, consider making a one-time donation.
You can also set up a monthly donation to become a partner in Skateistan’s year-round skateboard and creative arts programming in Afghanistan. It can be canceled at any time.
If you live in Kabul and are unable to make online donations, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a donation in-person.
Khorshid during Go Skateboarding Day 2012 in Kabul.
Khorshid (left) and a friend skating together during Go Skateboarding Day 2011.
Nawab (in black) winning the 1st place prize at the 2012 Go Skateboarding Day contest at Skateistan.
Nawab taking a break during a skate session in 2012.
Nawab (center, striped shirt) with a group of the young boys regularly working with him on the street, and who looked up to him, such as Eeza and his younger brother.
Nawab (left) popping a perfect kickflip on Go Skate Day 2012.
Eeza enjoying the skate contest during Go Skateboarding Day 2009 in Kabul.
Eeza skating the Mekroyan fountain in Kabul during Go Skateboarding Day 2010.
Eeza, in a photo taken in 2012.