A unique nonprofit organization based in Afghanistan, Skateistan uses skateboarding to empower the country’s young girls. When founder Oliver Percovich relocated to Afghanistan with his wife, he didn’t realize that he was one of the first skateboarders the nation had seen. He quickly earned the attention of Kabul’s young female population, which cannot ride bikes due to cultural customs. Because many of the sports played in Afghanistan are reserved for boys, girls quickly grew intrigued by the strange board with four wheels.
Because skateboarding was new to the country, no cultural prohibition against it existed. Thus, girls have been free to engage in the sport throughout the streets of Kabul. As Percovich developed Skateistan, he came to see the organization as a way of connecting Afghan girls to opportunities for education.
Percovich ensures that he follows Afghan customs as much as possible. He only allows female instructors to teach girls and keeps their classes separate from those for boys. Through Skateistan’s Back to School program, he reaches about 800 students each week between 5 and 17 years of age. In the course of 12 months, the program covers about three years’ worth of education. The nonprofit also has a leadership program and ultimately hopes to train local students to take over responsibility for its facilities.
Established in 2002, the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) works to facilitate business, investment, and trade relationships between the United States and Afghanistan. On March 28, 2015, the organization held its 13th Annual General Assembly Meeting, providing an opportunity for members to review its activities of the previous year and draft plans for 2015. Members gathered at the Westfields Marriott Washington Dulles hotel in Chantilly, Virginia, joined by AACC friends and sponsors, as well as representatives from federal agencies and financial institutions. Following Afghanistan’s democratic election in 2014, AACC’s membership looked forward to strong economic growth and reform in the coming year.
In addition to providing opportunities for planning and networking, the General Assembly Meeting serves as a forum for AACC members to nominate and elect new board leadership. Before choosing from six nominees to fill five board seats, attendees heard short remarks from each candidate. They also had the opportunity to network with the nominees during lunch. Following the election, AWCC Chairman of the Board Sulaiman Lutfi announced the organization’s newest board members. The new leadership includes Mr. Nadim Amin, who serves as founding CEO of Afghan Resources Group; H. E. Noorullah Delawari, chairman of Economic Development for Peace; and Ms. Lida Nadery Hedayat, deputy chief of party-technical for the Leadership Development Task Order of the USAID Promote program. Rounding out the board are Ms. Leslie M. Schweitzer, chair and president of Friends of American University of Afghanistan; and Mr. Assad Mattin, president and CEO of OXUS Consulting Group.
Recently, Afghan artists and entertainers from across the globe gathered at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s Istana Budaya, which translates to “Palace of Culture,” for a star-studded event celebrating the community’s contributions to Afghan culture. Ariana Television Network hosted its 9th Annual ATN Awards ceremony on February 23, 2015, welcoming over 800 guests to the Malaysian cultural center and drawing an additional 45 million viewers via television and Internet broadcasts. Established by Ehsan Bayat in 2005, Ariana Television Network and Radio Ariana 93.5 serve as Afghanistan’s most expansive private media networks, broadcasting to more than 20 million Afghans in nearly every province.
In addition to honoring leaders in Afghan music and entertainment, the yearly event celebrates the country’s cultural heritage. Promoting unity among Afghans the world over, the ATN Awards strive to preserve and enhance Afghan culture by honoring those who have made significant contributions to it over the past year.
ATN accepted nominations until late December 2014 and received over 1,000 applications from Afghan performers around the world. In January, the network announced its finalists on both its website and its viewer’s choice show, allowing fans to vote for their favorite nominees. The 9th Annual ATN Awards featured male finalists such as Sediq Shubab, Valy Hedjasi, and Shafiq Mureed, as well as female entertainers including Naghma, Ghezaal Enayat, and Mozhdah Jamalzadah. Additionally, popular Afghan singer Asad Badie officiated as master of ceremonies for the fourth consecutive year. Awards presented included the Sitara-e-Hunar, Mardumi, and Lifetime Achievement Awards. ATN also introduced a new honor at the 2015 ceremony, the Jawedana Hai Moseqi Award, which recognizes a performer’s legacy of contribution to the Afghan arts community.
While there may be more remunerative investment strategies or easier hobbies, collecting classic cars can be incredibly satisfying, from hunting down a good deal or an obscure part to showing off your finds to friends, whether in your garage or at a major classic car show. Getting started with car collecting requires understanding the automobile market; following the automotive press and reading car-focused blogs and news sources will help you get a sense of how car prices rise and fall over time. While the definition of “classic car” generally means a car built between 1925 and 1948, many car collectors focus on classics from other eras. These are generally American and European vehicles, though many believe the next wave of investment-quality cars will be focused on Japanese manufacturers.
For the most part, car collectors focus on sourcing cars and parts from classified ads, Internet auctions, and local or regional collector meet-ups. Those looking to turn their collection into an investment asset should act with extreme care. The appreciation in value for cars is dependent on many factors, from care and maintenance to popularity, and while antique cars can make a good investment, it is crucial to factor in the price of restoration when purchasing a car for your collection, ideally by hiring an independent expert. Furthermore, the cost of storing and maintaining a car collection must be factored into your decision-making process.
September 2014 brought calls from members of Afghanistan’s government for better security and an improved policy for dealing with narcotics, according to coverage by Ariana News, a project of Ehsan Bayat’s Ariana Radio and Television Network. On September 21, Ariana News reported on concerns expressed by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MoCN). Six days later, it covered calls from parliament members for a security agreement.
MoCN, after a two-day workshop involving several governors, expressed concern over increasing narcotics cultivation, particularly in Helmand Province. The governors of Helmand and several other provinces have been cooperating to eradicate poppy cultivation, but they say that insecurity in their areas has made the task difficult. The ministry went on to criticize the Afghan government and the international community for offering insufficient support for counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan.
The following week, Ariana reported on remarks made by members of the Afghan parliament seeking a security agreement with the United States. The members asked the new unity government to move forward with the agreement, stating that forces controlled by Afghanistan alone were insufficient to the task of securing the country. They hoped their call would move officials to swift action.
In 2013, the American University of Afghanistan launched the International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development (ICAWED) on its campus in Kabul. Offering resources such as a library, a business incubator, and computer labs, the center works to organize and support groups that share the goal of women’s empowerment.
On June 25, 2014, ICAWED collaborated with the U.S. Embassy and Afghan Chamber of Commerce to provide a valuable professional networking opportunity for local businesswomen. Titled “National Business to Business,” the event hosted representatives from a number of Afghanistan’s most prominent corporations. These professionals represented a wide range of industries, including communications and logistics. Companies from commodity sectors, including mining and manufacturing, were also present.
The business networking event aimed to connect leading firms with female business owners to facilitate ongoing partnerships. It served as an opportunity for both large corporations and small businesses to share their operational goals while exploring possibilities for future working relationships.
National Business to Business is just one example of ICAWED’s commitment to women’s professional empowerment. In February 2014, it hosted the Afghan Women’s Economic Forum, and in March, it welcomed more than 500 guests to a celebration commemorating International Women’s Day.
From its office in Kabul this June, Bayat Energy announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with global oil services provider Schlumberger Limited. The document outlines a detailed plan to initiate discussions toward a nonexclusive agreement under which Bayat Energy will buy and/or lease equipment to be used in the development of Afghanistan’s hydrocarbon resources.
Bayat Energy focuses on investments in under-explored regions of Afghanistan, with the aim of advancing Afghanistan’s economy and enabling the nation to become a viable supplier in central Asia. As part of its development initiative, Bayat Energy also directs efforts toward responsible power generation in the communities where it operates and throughout Afghanistan. Additionally, the company’s experienced management team strives to employ local professional talent who understand the complex regional politics. In this way, Bayat Energy aims to operate more effectively, while ensuring the best outcomes for local stakeholders.
The agreement with Schlumberger, the leading provider of information, technology, and management services to the world’s oil and gas industry, promises to significantly boost both Bayat Energy’s hydrocarbon production and its greater economic development efforts. Schlumberger operates in more than 80 countries and employs 123,000 energy professionals.