In a country where girls are rigidly segregated from boys and rarely participate in sports, an Australian has brought boys and girls together for co-ed skateboarding. Oliver Percovich has been teaching local kids to skate since 2007, and now his nonprofit Skateistan club is building an indoor skateboard park in the city.
Neighborhood kids rush the Skateistan van to grab skateboards for an afternoon session. Boys and girls take turns using the limited number of skateboards and skate for about two hours a day, six days a week.
Milad Kofi, 12, skates off the edge of an empty, Russian-era fountain that serves as a makeshift skating ground for neighborhood kids. There are about 90 children in the program.
Sharna Nolan, who helped Percovich write the funding proposals for Skateistan, leads a young Afghan girl around the concrete fountain. Skateistan has received donations from the governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany and Norway.
Mirwais Mohsen Kardan, 21, propels Fantana, 11, around the fountain. Volunteers and children who once begged for change help Percovich teach skating.
Fazila Shrindul, 10, skates nearly every day. Percovich says that he doesn't want to impose Western styles or techniques on the children. "We're just here to plant seeds", he says.
Pro skater Cairo Foster, from Oakland, is one of four international professionals flown in last month to work with the children. "I think it's a reaaly good way to show them there's hope here," he said.
Percovich, the program's founder, talks with his students in the empty fountain. "Maybe we can play some small part in keeping these kids from becoming insurgents later on," he said. Skateistan's logo is a skateboard crushing an assault rifle.