Archive for February, 2013
Afghanistan, an Islamic country that has been in war since January 1842, lost billions of lives, left majority of people homeless, uneducated and in pain has also been suffering from an endless disease for the past century which is called Boy play, known as ‘Bacha bazi’(Persian: بچه بازی) and in some places ‘bacha bereesh’ which means beardless boy. It was banned under the Taliban regime but has been brought back, particularly in Northern regions of Afghanistan, in the city of mazar-e-sharif, Paktia; it is a Shamali culture and common in Pashtun areas since the Taliban’s termination and attendant increase in certain freedoms.
Boys no younger than eight, usually good looking and attractive ones, who either are street orphans from the war or brought from poor families; are lured and snatched off the streets by pimps and pedophilia, and shared among powerful men and well-armed former commanders for entertainment and sexual activities. Who then train them to sing, dance and play different instrument. They are taught the skills that are useful to entertain parties made up of men only. The boys forced to dress in women’s clothes with jangling bells around their ankles, loads of makeup on their face and dance in a room filled with men. These parties are usually small and private so to be hidden. After the party is finished, the boy is shared among the men or sold to the highest bidder.
This culture filled with mistreatment, rape, brutality and murder. Boys traded like swipe cards amongst the rich and powerful and if they disobey their masters or try to escape then they are beaten or killed. The boys are called names, physically abused, passed around and shared with wealthy men. Hundreds of boys do not have a choice or say in this; they need to do this in order to make money and support their families. When they turn eighteen, some become masters themselves and practice the same performance on younger boys because they think they belong to the ‘Bacha bazi’ world and cannot leave. This distressing custom entangles Afghanistan’s most defenceless boys.
Najibullah Qurishi, a journalist who first exposed ‘Bacha bazi’ to the world in the documentary called ‘The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan’ on 20 April 2010. He secretly filmed and recorded a very alarming and disturbing conversation between two men who were talking about a night when a ‘beautiful’ boy laid in a van while the other men took turns having sex with him.
He explained how the boys are persuaded into the arrangement: “First the pimps select boys in the village and later on try to trick them into going with them.” He said, how some of the boys stay for money, they get monthly allowance, and in return comes whenever called and attends the party when told. He said all the pimps believe that it is a good thing and it is an Afghan culture. Pimps think in foreign countries, the women dance and in Afghanistan, just men dance, Afghans have their own dance, which does not exist anywhere else in the world.
When asked what he thought about the men he met behind this, he said, “What was so unnerving about the men I had met was not just their lack of concern for the damage their abuse was doing to the boys. It was also their casualness with which they operated and the pride with which they showed me their boys. They clearly believed that nothing they were doing was wrong.”
In Islam, sexual slavery, child prostitution and sex act with children is forbidden. It is illegal in Afghan criminal law and under Sharia law. However, it is complicated to enforce the law. Wealthy and powerful men have a lot of authority in Afghanistan. Afghan security and police military are not just ignoring this form of child trafficking; they may in fact be complicit in it. In fact, witnesses have seen uniformed Afghan police officers procuring young boys in hours of daylight. Many of the men who contribute in ‘Bacha bazi’ work for the Afghan government, including those who in public criticize the practice.
Nonetheless, even the Afghan authorities who are not actively participating in ‘Bacha bazi’ are refusing to mention the outlawed issue or arrest and prosecute those who commit ‘Bacha bazi’ because they are afraid of people behind all this.
Najibullah Qurishi said, “After the documentary of ‘The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan,’ some of the men featured in the video were arrested. However, within a few weeks they were all back on the streets practicing ‘Bacha bazi’ again.”
The involvement of the police force and inaction of the government means this type of child prostitution is common. The principle hypocrisy is shameful in a country where homosexuality is not only strictly prohibited but also savagely punished, even between two agreeable adults. However, men who seduce young boys are not considered paedophiles or homosexuals.
A few years ago when the Taliban executed a young boy as a spy, Ahmad Karzai, the president of Afghanistan said that these children are Afghanistan’s future. Children are the most vulnerable of all and need the protection and control of their parents. He called the act a crime against humanity and he said a 7-year-old boy could not be anything but a 7-year-old boy. Surely, similar prospect applies to young boys whose self-respect is taken by men in pursuit of power. Men who steal their future; their lives from them and leave them with grief.
‘Bacha bazi’ is a world where children are sex items, and it is a world where, often, the only break out is death.
My name is Homayra and I am from Afghanistan. I came to England when I was 5-years-old and have followed both the Afghan culture and British culture, which can be difficult sometimes. I am Muslim and try my best to follow my religion as well. However, I am not too religious and not too westernized. I am in between because I believe being strict on religion could be good but difficult to follow every rule. Being too westernized can bring shame in to the family as my people say. Just because I live away from Afghanistan, I am expected to follow the Afghan culture and tradition.
When I tell people where I am from, they get very surprised and the first question they ask is how I feel about my country constantly being in war. I give them an honest answer. It upsets me seeing my people who are innocent suffer so much. They ask if I would ever move back to Afghanistan. I say yes of course I would move back but when the war is over. Don’t get me wrong, I love London and its people but living in my own country is a different feeling, it is great, I am surrounded by my own people, who speak the same language, dress the same as me and most importantly I would know my culture and religion better because I will learn from people.