It seems like a single day doesn’t pass without news of some awful, tragic injustice coming out of the Middle East. It feels like Westerners get to the point where they’re forced to be desensitized to all the violence or else face the horrible reality that we live in a world where really terrible shit happens, and it happens all the goddamn time. This latest tragedy, however, is slightly different. If you haven’t already heard, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb in front of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) HQ, where many Kabul street working children sell trinkets to help support their families. This story isn’t just sad because the six of the eight victims were children, it’s heart-breaking because they represented a glimpse of hope in an otherwise bleak place. Four of the children who died were involved in Skateistan, which began as a non-political Kabul-based Afghan NGO before evolving into an International non-profit charity providing skateboarding and educational programming to street children in Afghanistan ages 5-18. In a society where girls are commonly married off at a young age and have acid thrown on their faces for daring to attend school, Skateistan was a haven, with girls making up nearly 40% of their students. According to USA Today, the non-traditionally sport was introduced as a way to bridge social and economic gaps and enrich children’s lives. Not only do the kids learn to do a gnarly ollie, they also learn subjects such as computers, health, English and the Quran. In addition to providing an education, Skatetistan also provides clothing, books, transportation and other aid for those who want to go to regular school.
So I’m sure you’re wondering- what kind of sick asshole would blow up something as equally inspiring and badass as a skateboarding school? Apparently the story goes that a teenage boy walked onto their turf and when they told him to leave, a fight broke out. The fight came to an end abruptly when another person detonated a suicide bomb. The police said the bomber was most likely aiming for the nearby NATO or US embassy gates, although it’s always a possibility that the children were the target.
What makes this so tragic is that Skatetistan was one of the few outlets for underprivileged children to forget how much their lives sucked in the war-torn city. Fazila, a 12-year-old girl who sells gum to feed her family, summed it up perfectly: “When I’m at Skateistan, I don’t feel that my surroundings are ruined.” And now, with one devastating act, the only thing that gave these kids hope is now too ruined. One of the victims was a 14 year skate instructor named Khorshid. According to Skateistan 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.” The Guardian described her as “an uncompromising teenager whose name meant sunshine but whose character was steel, always ready to show the boys she could do anything they could, despite growing up in a country that is not kind to women.” Khorshid’s 8-year-old sister Parwana, who had only been enrolled for a week, also died. Their six-year-old sister Mersal was spared because she was playing down the street, but that didn’t stop her from getting a glimpse of both her sisters’ mangled dead bodies. Their mother, Jemila, was left asking journalists if they had pictures of her daughters, since their family was too poor to own a single photograph of them. Other children involved with the school- Nawab, a 17 year old volunteer and Mohammad Eeza, a 13 year old student were also killed.
Now, the future of Skateistan is up in the air, but the organizers are fighting on. In a statement on the website, they said:
Our team in Kabul has had an extremely difficult and emotional week so far, coming to terms with a huge loss, yet wanting to continue our daily activities and give our students and staff the opportunity to share their memories and their grief with each other. Each of our daily classes has included a special memorial service for the youth that passed away.”
These kids are just the latest victims in an endless war that knows no age limitation in terms of it victims. Last year 1,756 children were killed or seriously injured as a result of the conflict, nearly five children a day according to Unicef spokesman Alistair Gretarsson. Maybe one day we’ll live in a world where kids can feel the exhilaration of skateboarding without the fear of being blown to bits.
If you haven’t seen the documentary- check it out below.Tweet