Monday, September 14, 2009
The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan
When I look at Stephanie Sinclair's famous photo of an Afghan man and his 11-year-old bride, it always makes me shudder.
But of course it's not just little girls who are used to pleasure older men in Afghanistan.So are the dancing boys.
The practice of taking young boys to perform as dancers at private parties is known as bacha bazi (literally, "boy for play") and is an Afghan tradition with very deep roots. Under Taliban rule, it was banned, but it has crept back and is now widespread, flourishing also in the cities, including the capital, Kabul, and a common feature of weddings, especially in the north.
The bacha dancers are often abused children whose families have rejected them. Their "owners" or "masters" can be single or married men, who keep them in a form of sexual slavery, as concubines....The Afghan authorities and human rights groups are aware of the plight of bacha boys, but seem powerless to stop it.
Just like they can't stop gay people and women who have been raped from being thrown into filthy jails. Or prevent husbands from starving their wives for not having sex with them.
It's such a horrible story...
In an adjacent room, 16-year-old Mustafa was preparing to dance next. His owner opened a small bundle of clothes and produced a long, blue skirt, crimson shirt, leather straps and bells.
Later, when he had finished his performance, Mustafa told me his story. "My grandfather kept telling me when I was a child to be careful of men because I was handsome," he said. "One day a mechanic in the town attacked me, my family rejected me and I had to go and stay with that man. Now I am with someone else and he taught me how to dance."
But for the full horror and degradation you have to watch this video....
Which makes me sick to my stomach.
And makes me wonder why he died. At twenty-one. For what?
Afghanistan. Not just a military quagmire, but a moral swamp.
The forever war goes on and on. But who can save our soldiers from this doomed mission? How many more will die?
And who will save the children?