The practice of bacha bazi or “boy play” is destroying the lives of young boys in Afghanistan. Jamel, a “bacha bereesh” or “boy without a beard,” says, “We are not happy with this line of work. …We say that it would be better if God could just kill us rather than living like this.”
At age 20, Jamel continues to dance even though the powerful warlord that once owned him has left Afghanistan. He dances to provide for his younger siblings. In a CNN interview he said, “I make them study, dress them, feed them. Any money I make I spend on my family. I don’t want them to be like this, be like me.”
Jamel’s friend and dance partner, Farhad was forced into bacha bazi when he was only 13. An older neighbor tricked him into coming into his home. Once there he was forced to watch a sex tape and then raped. Following the rape he was moved to another location, locked up, and used as a sex slave for five months. He stayed with his abuser, because he said he got used to him. Although it is likely that Farhad stayed with his rapist because in a shame based society such as Afghanistan, the victims are often persecuted and punished rather than the criminals.
A documentary about bacha bazi called “The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan” was aired in the U.K, and U.S. in 2010. In the film Afghan journalist Najibullah Quraishi went undercover to expose the practice. To learn about the illegal, but popular practice, he met with men that owned dancing boys and some of the dancers.
Quraishi met a bacha bazi pimp, known as “The German” as he was searching for a boy in a park. He recruits and supplies boys to some of the powerful men in the region. “Some boys are no good for dancing, but they can be used for other purposes,” the German said. When asked for what other purposes, he replied, “for sodomy and other sexual activities.”
A 14-year-old boy, Nemat seemed upset as Quraishi interviewed him. The boy explained, “I’m afraid of those who will beat or kill me. My life is completely ruined.” Abdullah, another dancing boy revealed the danger the boys face, “If they stray, they get killed. Sometimes fighting happens among the men who own the boys. If you don’t please them, they beat you, and people get killed.”
Hafiz, a 15-year-old dancing boy that Quraishi saw at a party as he began research for the film the previous year, was considered one of the most sought after dancing boys in the region. Hafiz’s master, a warlord and drug baron had mistreated him so his brother Javad helped him escape. As soon as he escaped, he was threatened. Javad described the situation, “They terrified him and warned him that if he didn’t return, they would kill him. A few days before the incident, someone told me that two guys who hang with my brother had a deceitful plan. …The plan was to do something awful to him.”
Javad warned Hafiz, but he was caught alone and murdered. Javad explained, “One of the men, named Ahmadullah, was a policeman. He supplied the gun to kill my brother. …He brought the gun from the police station.” Ahmadullah was convicted of the murder and sentenced to 16 years in prison, however he was released within a few months. It is believed Hafiz’s former owner paid off the authorities.
Thankfully the producers of the documentary were able to help rescue a young boy that was recruited during the filming named Shafiq, and return him to his family. In order to protect the boy, they relocated the family to another region of Afghanistan and helped them financially so Shafiq can go to school. The boy wants to become a doctor. He said, “I want to be able to help other boys to improve their futures.”
Thank God for the rescue and protection of Shafiq who was returned to his family. Pray that this evil in Afghanistan will be exposed and many other boys will be rescued from the abuse and protected from further exploitation.
Pray that young men like Jamel and Farhad will find another way to support themselves and their families. The CNN report described them by saying they “look and act more like women than men, a trait that can be deadly in Afghanistan’s male-dominated society.”
As difficult as it is to read about the life of these young boys, it is so important that we pray for those that are still trapped in this violent lifestyle. God has created them for His purposes. In Jer. 29:11 they are told, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Declare His goodness and mercy is overtaking their lives. May the love of Jesus Christ be revealed to them, delivering them from all evil.