The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan

FRONTLINE GOES UNDERCOVER TO EXPOSE THE RITUAL SEXUAL ABUSE OF BOYS IN AFGHANISTAN

In Afghanistan today, in the midst of war and endemic poverty, an ancient tradition–banned when the Taliban were in power–has re-emerged across the country. It’s called Bacha Bazi, translated literally as “boy play.” Hundreds of boys, some as young as eleven, street orphans or boys bought from poor families by former warlords and powerful businessmen, are dressed in woman’s clothes, taught to sing and dance for the entertainment of male audiences, and then sold to the highest bidder or traded among the men for sex. With remarkable access inside a Bacha Bazi ring operating in Northern Afghanistan, Najibullah Quraishi, an Afghan journalist, investigates this practice, still illegal under Afghan law, talking with the boys, their families, and their masters, exposing the sexual abuse and even murders of the boys, and documenting how Afghan authorities responsible for stopping these crimes are sometimes themselves complicit in the practice.

A 15-year-old ‘dancing boy’ performs before a large group of men

Afghanistan’s war on children

Sexual slavery involving boys as young as 10 is being condoned and in many cases protected by authorities in northern Afghanistan.   ABC News


Dancing girls of Swat back in business
Paki Daily Times

As the United States deepens its commitment to Afghanistan, FRONTLINE takes viewers inside the war-torn nation to reveal a disturbing practice that is once again flourishing in the country: the organized sexual abuse of adolescent boys.

In The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan, airing Tuesday, April 20, 2010, at 9 P.M. on PBS (check local listings), Afghan journalist Najibullah Quraishi (Behind Taliban Lines) returns to his native land to expose an ancient practice that has been brought back by powerful warlords, former military commanders and wealthy businessmen. Known as “bacha bazi” (literal translation: “boy play”), this illegal practice exploits street orphans and poor boys, some as young as 11, whose parents are paid to give over their sons to their new “masters.” The men dress the boys in women’s clothes and train them to sing and dance for the entertainment of themselves and their friends. According to experts, the dancing boys are used sexually by these powerful men.

In detailed conversations with several bacha bazi masters in northern Afghanistan and with the dancing boys they own, reporter Quraishi reveals a culture where wealthy Afghan men openly exploit some of the poorest, most vulnerable members of their society.

“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,” Quraishi says. “It was also their casualness with which they operated and the pride with which they showed me their boys, their friends, their world. They clearly believed that nothing they were doing was wrong.”

Under the guise of doing a documentary on similar practices in Europe, Quraishi gained the confidence of Dastager, a former mujahideen commander and wealthy businessman whose business interests include importing autos from the Far East. With Dastager as his guide, Quraishi takes viewers inside the world of bacha bazi, where prominent men compete to own and use the boys.

“I had a boy because every commander had a partner,” says Mestary, a former senior commander who is well connected with major Afghan warlords. “Among the commanders there is competition, and if I didn’t have one, then I could not compete with them.”

“I go to every province to have happiness and pleasure with boys,” says an Afghan man known as “The German,” who acts as a bacha bazi pimp, supplying boys to the men. “Some boys are not good for dancing, and they will be used for other purposes. … I mean for sodomy and other sexual activities.”

“It’s a disgusting practice. … It’s a form of slavery, taking a child, keeping him. It’s a form of sexual slavery,” says Radhika Coomaraswamy, U.N. special representative for Children and Armed Conflict. “The only way to stop bacha bazi is if you prosecute the people who commit the crime, and that’s what we need, because the laws are there in the books against this practice.”

In the documentary, Quraishi interviews local police officials who insist that men who participate in bacha bazi will be arrested and punished regardless of their wealth or powerful connections. Later that day, however, Quraishi’s cameras catch two officers from the same police department attending an illegal bacha bazi party.

“Many of the people who do this work for the government,” says Nazir Alimy, who compiled a report on bacha bazi for UNICEF. “They speak out against it but are abusers themselves. … I personally cannot mention any names because I am scared.”

Quraishi speaks with some dancing boys who fear they will be beaten or killed. “If they stray, they get killed,” says a 13-year-old dancing boy. “Sometimes fighting happens among the men who own the boys. If you don’t please them, they beat you, and people get killed.”

Quraishi also talks with the family of 15-year-old Hafiz, who reportedly was murdered after trying to escape from his master, a well-known drug baron and warlord. In Hafiz’s case, a suspect — the policeman who supplied the gun that killed Hafiz — was arrested and convicted. Sentenced to 16 years in prison, the officer was released after serving only a few months. Hafiz’s family says they suspect the boy’s former owner bribed local officials to win his release.

“If only these people were punished, this kind of thing wouldn’t happen,” Hafiz’s mother says. “Whoever commits these crimes doesn’t get punished. Power is power.”

The program will conclude with a detailed update of attempts to arrange the rescue of one of the dancing boys profiled in the film, an 11-year-old boy bought by Dastager from an impoverished rural family. It is a dramatic final chapter, full of new shocks and surprises, and, in the end, provides a measure of justice for the boy and his master.

20 thoughts on “The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan”

  1. Good to see this getting more publicity…would love to see it in the main stream papers. Perhaps Erik Jensen of the Sydney Morning Herald could be encouraged to write about it? Anything which exposes the absolute hypocrisy of islam has to be good.

  2. those poor children – so why isn’t the UN going in with something really effective? all I see is lip-service concern for thier plight.

  3. come on people no religion in the world teaches those absurd things: why do everything must be blamed on islam is it a way you guys make yourself feel better or what i do not get it clear: tell us something sense you bunch of fanatics extremists

  4. Gibberish, the new “Ceasar” will end all absurdity in the name of no
    religion, people will be relieved when all religion will be banned so
    its extremities can not affect the world any longer just to find out that
    the greatest hoax will be played out at their expense.
    I.N.R.I. via, veritas et vita!

  5. this is a disgusting culture is not a religion …here is just different from western culture the poor people doing this for money.who is got power (money)abusing ,using the poor kids .but this is a life style in western culture ..i m very sorry for these poor kids .

  6. people, wake up! this is an absurd to close our eyes and pretend we don’t know, that hundreds of little boys are living in constant fear of sexual and phisical abuse. what traditions we are talking about? sexual abuse of little boys? kill them, just because they are no usefull? or sell them and get another toy? i strongly believe, all fault is on goverment and politics!
    no way something similar would be a common thing in UK!

  7. I THINK THIS IS THE MOST DISGUSTING REPORT I HAVE EVER WATCH, AND TO THINK THAT THE USA IS HELPING THIS COUNTRY, ANDN OBVIOUSLY DONT CARE ABOUT THE WELFARE OF THE FUTURE GENERATION. I WOULD HOPE EVERYONE COSIDERS CONTACTING THEIR STATE REP AND SHOW YOU DISGUST IN THIS MATTER..
    I ONLY HOPE THAT SOMETHING IS DONE SOON AND THE USA REALLY TAKES A LONG HARD LOOK AT THIS PRACTICE

    1. Trevor,

      Its the same in northern Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, among Indian (moslem) truck drivers, the same in Syria and in most Arab countries. Its just not reported. The Marxist-Muslim convergence attacks the church regularly over some child abuse that dates back almost 50 years, but they have no intention to ever mention the culturally entrenched child abuse in the Islamic world, including child marriage, FGM or polygamy with underage females.

  8. this breaks my heart i wish there was something i could do to help them…this is discusting and inhumane. Please pray for them. And do your part to make a better world. A world wher more children can enjoy there innocense and hopefully every child can.

  9. Thanks for taking my comment off A-holes. I liked your site when I found it today but I don’t now.

  10. ‘tu quoque’ indeed. Pretentious arseholes. Probably some jumped up ex-‘philosophy’ students.

  11. please dont blame “the hypocrisy of islam” for this. the men who do this ate not muslims. their praying is merely a pretence to keep their place in society. i myself am not religious and am in no way sticking up for this practice; it is appauling, so much so that i almost couldnt believe it would be real. true muslim’s know that this is wrong, dont get prejudice’s mixed up with immoral bastards.
    does anyone know how we can help the cause? ive been searching but not found anything, only websites about this programme. is this the start of it being exposed? this is ridiculous! we need to become active in awareness and work to put a stop to this.

    1. ” i myself am not religious and am in no way sticking up for this practice; “

      But you are sticking up for them, amy. You are trying to protect Islam from scrutiny, and we are exposing it.

      How do “true Muslims know that this is wrong” when Muhammad, prophet of Islam ‘married Aisha when she was six and consummated the marriage when she was nine?’ In the meantime, he “enjoyed the pleasure of the thighs”…

  12. ROSA- I have been a part of western culture for 41 years. I promiss you that this is absolutley NOT anything close to accepted “lifestyle” in America. Even our most dangerous locked up criminal will not accept this. Why do you think like this?

  13. It very easy to link everything to Islam, under the TALIBAN IT WAS BANNED!!! even though I myself HATE the Taliban. Priest abused young boys, does that give me the right to blame Christianity? STOP being hypocrites!!! The whole country is messed of because of the WEST in the first place, read the history of Afghanistan. Millions of innocent women and children killed since the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, you think the west is there for justice.

    All the warlords are in power because of USA, puppet leader as president and warlords as cabinet, you expect anything good to come out from that government, when the country is in the hands of the same criminals for decades under different regimes.
    People that practice such acts should be put to DEATH. There is solution that will work!!!

    I am Muslim and proud to be one. The A-holes that are programmed to hates Islam and things they know everything about Islam, go read the Quran then judge it!! Read the bible where is talks about child rape and incest.

    I am sick of those hypocrites that just blame Islam for everything that comes out of the so called Muslim countries. TIME TO WAKE UP and use your dumb brains, and talk sense.

  14. John
    FACT. Most of us have read the quran, understand it better than you, and recognize it to be a very evil philosophy.
    FACT: Sexual crimes against non-muslims are encouraged by the quran, and the influence of the quran is seen in the very high proportion of muslims arrested for violent sexual crimes.
    FACT: WE ARE SICK OF MUSLIMS WHO SHUT THEIR EYES AND ARE UNWILLING TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHAT IS DONE IN THEIR NAME. That seems like you
    FACT: A significant number of immans are convicted sexual predators. You are not sufficiently intelligent to realize that the church punishes those who abuse minors, whereas islam rewards them.
    FACT: While you are proud to be a muslim you have nothing to be proud of. Islam has achieved NOTHING in over 1000 years.
    FACT: Afghanistan is a mess because of islam, and because of its tribally based power structure. Blaming any one else for Afghanistan’s woes is sheer dishonesty – something muslims are good at.
    FACT: Karzai is in power because Afghans put him there.
    FACT: Millions of Afghanistanis have NOT been killed – and the fact that you even mention a ridiculous figure like this shows a) you are not very bright b) you are displaying the arrogance that the extremely stupid show to others who they cannot ever understand.

    Actually, you muslim turd, our people put their lives at risk to save muslim civilians and I am fed up with dumb little shits like you abusing our people, who put themselves in harms way for civilians.

    FACT: TIME FOR YOU TO WAKE UP, AND USE THAT PEANUT SIZED BRAIN IN YOUR HEAD.

  15. let us all unite despite our many differences and begin the process of ridding the world of the islamic blight against humankind.they are against buddhists,christains,hindus,jews,pagans,wiccans,atheists,women,gays,daoism,shintos,and indigenous people of all kind throughout the entire world.we are all from ancient warrior societies,i say the giant of humanity awaken to put islam in its’place once and for all for the good of all humankind. it time to say no to islam and end this evil false religion. they do the worst things that people can do such as these poor kids. whoever you are begin to formulate,to come together to stop this religion of the false prophet muhammad from going any further in the world. all your many ancient ways beckon you to take up the cause and to deal a terrible strike that keeps the enemy down for good,only then will a new dawn arise and bring forth the light of true understanding but for now we must in all ways be warriors,everyone man,women,child,if we want it stopped we must be prepared to do the work that insures success of our endeavors for now turn the tide of thinking worldwide against them,then the real work will be so much easier, islam is blocking gods light to the mother-earth.

  16. It is true that the Quran advertises child abuse and approves it. You can find that in sura: 65.4 where it saya that the waiting period of divorce should be three months also for girls who haven’t menstruated yet. This proves that you can marry a girl before she menstrates and have sex with her. So don’t be fooled by sweet talks that Islam forbids child abuse.

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