The ancient tribal tradition of sexually abusing boys is surging in northern Afganistan.
The practice of “bacha baazi”, meaning “boy-play”, is enjoying a resurgence in the North of Afghanistan where ownership is seen as a status symbol by militia leaders according to Afghan news site, e-Ariana.
While condemned by clerics and human rights groups, authorities are doing little to end it.
Dancers, known as “bacha bereesh” or “beardless boys”, are under 18, with 14 being the “ideal” age. Owners or “kaatah” meet at bacha baazi parties in large halls where the boys dance late into the night, before being sexually abused. Bacha baazi also serve as marketplaces, with good-looking boys being traded for money.
“Some men enjoy playing with dogs, some with women. I enjoy playing with boys,” said 44-year-old Allah Daad, a one-time Mujahedin commander in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, who participates in bacha baazi.
“I am married, but I prefer boys to women,” he adds. “You can’t take women with you to parties in this region, and you can’t make them dance. These boys are our prestige.”
Often poor and orphaned, the boys are lured into bacha baazi by money. Some receive a monthly allowance while others have jobs of their own and only work at parties. Many are treated to expensive clothes and even cars by owners eager to have them reflect their own wealth and social standing. But if they refuse to perform or don’t meet their owners expectations, they are beaten.
Some blame the U.S. presence in Afganistan in contributing to the abuses, as American troops quell the influence of the local Taliban, who ban the practice elsewhere as against Islamic law. As those who organize the “beardless boys” bazaars are usually the leaders of local militia, the government dares not interfere.