There is a tradition in Afghan society called Bacha-bazi, literally "boy-play". Bacha boys are 8 to 15 year olds who put on make-up, tie bells to their feet and slip into women’s clothing, and then, "to the whine of a harmonium and wailing vocals", dance seductively to smoky roomfuls of leering older men. This wretched practice that ends with the boys being auctioned or rented out for rape is an old tradition in the northern and southern provinces of Afghanistan.
Above, an Afghani teen dances for a roomful of men.
According to Senior Afghan journalist Musa Khan Jalalzai, “The interior ministry has failed to arrest powerful rapist warlords in northern Afghanistan, as the police administration has long been involved in many illegal businesses like drug trafficking, prostitution, and playboys. Corruption in the Afghan justice system is another problem. Courts are helpless before war criminals. Judges are the most corrupt people, who bail out or release criminals and receive millions in Afghan currency."
He goes on to say, “Local residents now have demanded for a crackdown against these elements, but are skeptical because criminals are powerful and well-armed. War criminals have representation in Afghan parliament and in government institutions."
Unemployment, poverty and repressive sex laws have been cited for the recent resurgence of Bacha-bazi in Afghanistan but whatever the reason, recruitment of young boys is on the rapid rise.
A "dancing boy" and his "master".
According to press reports "Wealthy warlords in northern Afghanistan, recruit young boys for sex and dance, while local authorities remain powerless in stopping the practice. Bacha-boys dance all night, and then are abused by several men.”
Jalalzai continued, “A former warlord in Kunduz province told Afghan press that normally criminals first select boys in the village and later trick them into coming with them. The boys get a monthly allowance, and in return [the criminals] can have them any time they want. Last week, an Afghan student from northern Afghanistan informed this author (Jalalzai) by an e-mail that at midnight when the dance is over, the boys are frequently shared by war criminals with close friends for sexual favors.
Above, part of Najibullah Quraishi's documentary titled "The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan". Please watch this entire documentary.
Boys without beards who are intelligent are a status symbol for their masters. Mohammad Zaher Zafari, head of the Northern Branch of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said: "Sexual abuse and even the sale of boys has been going on for years; the boys involved are usually poor, underage or orphans, and they are forced into it by their economic circumstances."
Another senior official, Hafizullah Khaliqyar, head of the prosecutor’s office for Baghlan province says the teens "are sexually abused, even bought and sold. Fights take place over these Bacha-bereesh (literally boy with-out a beard). It’s increasing day by day, and it’s catastrophic," he said.
Above, Radhika Coomaraswamy, one of the first and bravest international figures to speak out about this crime. Read her PBS interview here.
Jalazai quotes another Afghan reporter, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, who recently interviewed some warlords saying that they play with dogs, boys, and love teenage girls. "Some men enjoy playing with dogs, some with women. I enjoy playing with boys," warlord Allah Daad told Ibrahimi.
According to Jalazai, after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, Bacha-bazi increased tremendously and is still on the rise. He says, “Local officials in northern provinces of Afghanistan admit the practice is prevalent but show no specific interest to intercept it. The authorities are in much dismay about the police officers’ involvement in this business. Members of Afghan police in various provinces are deeply involved in male prostitution. The interior ministry in Kabul has received thousands of complaints from locals regarding sexual attacks by police on young boys.”
Reuters, in its November 19, 2007 report and Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan [RAWA], quoted a 42-year-old landowner, Inayatullah, of Baghlan province as saying, ‘Having a boy has become a custom for us. Whoever wants to show off should have a boy.’ In his short interview with Reuter’s reporter, Mr. Inayatullah vowed: ‘I was married to a woman 20 years ago; she left me because of my boy,’ he said. ‘I was playing with my boy every night and was away from home. Eventually my wife decided to leave me. I am happy with my decision, because I am used to sleeping and entertaining with my young boy,’ He told Reuters.
The video clip above is graphic and blood-chillingly cavalier in its description of rampant pedophilia in Afghanistan.
According to Jalalzai, “There are thousands of young boys who have undergone ordeals. But the actual numbers of these vulnerable boys are not known." In Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz, Takhar, Baghlan, Samangan, Panjshir, and Herat bazaars, Bacha-bazi CDs and DVDs are widely circulated serving an audience who can’t afford the real thing.
In every documentary clip or interview the story is the same, whether it's corporate or private pedophilia, young boys are talked about like food, like dessert. The men are completely disconnected from the child's will and rights, they objectify the boys past the point where they exist on a similar plane with their own children. To them these pre-teens are no one's child. They do not have dreams, they are for sport, for pleasure. To be devoured, a perverse banquet of innocent flesh.
These men are sub-human. How else can they recount with smiles and wistful nostalgia a night of drunken revelry where each man had his turn with a 13 year old boy in a car. The boy who just laid there, presumably frightened for his life, shamelessly raped by one sick twisted man after another. And no one denies, not on any level of Afghani society or Government. They may question the veracity of the numbers but they never question the truth of the accusations.
This must stop. These poor boys, destroyed by lust and demonic control. Tricked, coerced, brokered into short but painful lives of exploitation only to be thrown out like yesterdays meal. This must end now. My heart is breaking tonight. My mind reeling. My spirit cries out for justice. They are just little boys!!! They are not sex toys!! They are not the playthings of the perverted and powerful. They are the future of Afghanistan. Her brightest and best. They are her sons and they have become the food for vultures. No not even vultures, for even vultures wait for death before they desecrate flesh.
God save us.