The recent history of Afghanistan is one of contradictions. It took the Taliban to stop the farming of poppies for the production of Opium. It took the Soviet Union to give liberation to women. But theTaliban's decline in influence in the north with its oppressive moral code, has allowed a repulsive cultural tradition to resurface.
The boys are kept by powerful older men, made to dance at special parties, and often sexually abused afterwards. Known as “bacha bereesh” - literally, “beardless boys”, they are under 18, with 14 the preferred age. “When I was young, I had a bacha bereesh who was the best in the region,” recalled Allah Daad, 44. “He danced like a flying pigeon.... Nobody could take his place afterwards. I kept him for three years, then left him when he matured.” Allah Daad has kept many boys over the years, and says he enjoys his “hobby”. “I am married, but I prefer boys to women,” he said. “You can’t take women with you to parties in this region, and you can’t make them dance. These boys are our [mark of] prestige.” Large halls known as “qush-khana” provide the venues for bacha baazi parties where the boys’ “owners” or “kaatah” invite their friends to watch them dancing. Late in the night, when the dancing is over, the boys are often shared with close friends, for sexual abuse. Allah Daad explained how the boys are enticed into the arrangement. “First we select boys in the village and later on we try to trick them into coming with us,” he said. “Some of them stay with us for money; they get a monthly allowance, and in return we can have them any time we want. They don’t stay with us all the time - they can do their own jobs and then just come to parties with us.”
The Warlord's Tune: 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.
In a story to be broadcast on Four Corners tonight, the practice of bacha bazi or "boy play", as well as other allegations of child abuse, are explored.
Afghan journalist Najibullah Quraishi has filmed police attending a party where a young boy is the "entertainment". The police shown on the video include one officer from the youth crime squad.
Such parties are illegal under Afghanistan law and with good reason. The "dancing boys" are in effect sex slaves. They are lured off the streets by pimps. They are taught to dance and sing, to wear make-up and to dress like girls. Then they are made to perform before large groups of men. All of them are sexually abused.
Dancing boys are a lucrative business. Powerful former warlords and businessmen love to watch them and will pay a lot of money to have their own boy for bacha bazi. Some of the boys are traded like swap cards among the rich and powerful, and if they disobey their owners they are killed or brutalised.
The trade in boys is well known to the United Nations. According to Nazir Alimy, who compiled a report on the issue for the UN, there is no doubt who is funding this practice and why the police refuse to stop it.
"According to our research these dancing boys are used by powerful men for sex," Mr Alimy said
The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan - On air and online April 20, 2010 at 9:00pm 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. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/dancingboys