Skate to liberate

Afghanistan (Kabul)

The heart-wrenching and inspiring short documentary ‘Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re A Girl)‘ tells the story of a class of young Afghan girls learning to read, write and skateboard in a warzone in Afghanistan.

The film follows  Skateistan, a nonprofit that began as a skate school in Kabul in 2007 and grew into a multinational educational initiative. The girls are taught to have courage and are given the skills to prepare them for life in Afghanistan and beyond.

The film is director Carol Dysinger’s love letter to a place she has filmed in for the last fifteen years. She was given unusual access into the day-to-day activities of the girls, who “would be very much in the house around the women helping out, hanging onto skirts, trying not to be bored and taking care of the boys or the babies, whichever there are more of or who needs it.”

Impressing the film industry, it bagged ‘Best Documentary Short Subject’ at the 2020 Oscars, as well as taking home the Best Short Film win at the 2020 BAFTAs.

And here’s the story behind it Skateistan, as written about previously on Atlas of the Future:

On a personal journey to Afghanistan in 2007, passionate skateboarder Oliver Percovich found himself ‘rolling’ the rugged streets of Kabul. Captivated by how children gravitated towards his board when they tried it out, the Australian saw a connection that could help create bonds beyond social barriers. Since there are cultural limits to Afghan girls playing football, riding bicycles or participating in other traditional male-dominated sports in a society that is rigidly restrictive of women’s lives, skateboarding provides a loophole that gives girls a family outside of their homes.

Oliver decided to set up Skateistan, a nonprofit organisation which uses skateboarding and education for youth empowerment – welcoming students of all ethnicity, gender, religion or social background to their Skate Schools in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa. Today this award-winning organisation runs their programmes, Skate and Create, Back-to-School and Youth Leadership in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Johannesburg. Skateistan reaches over 1,600 youth aged 5-17 every week.

“Skateboarding is now the largest female sport in Afghanistan,” Oliver explains. “But skateboarding itself doesn’t unlock new opportunities. “The key is the power of sharing something you love and, with persistence, it can grow into something quite unexpected and truly amazing.”

The opening of their latest school in South Africa was a big success:

AtlasAction: Skakeistan believes that children learn best when they are interested, engaged and driven by their own curiosity. Donate to help them raise $75,000 to support their skateboarding and education programs worldwide.

Written by

Kevin James Chow (30 September 2015)


A Canadian blading, fixed gear, hip hop fan and technology geek lost in Spain.

Project leader

Oliver Percovich, Founder

Skateistan's Ollie and Jamie

Creative Commons License



  1. greenormal

    Amazing project, what courage and humanity 🙂

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