The Dancing Boys

2014 Ramadan Prayer Day 16The 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.”Bachi Bazi Photo

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.”

Prayer Points:

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.

Bacha Bazi

2014 Ramadan Prayer Day 15Most Westerners have seen the photos of Afghani women, completely covered with their burkas, but probably have not considered what it is like to live in such a strict Islamic culture. Mohammad Daud, an Afghani mechanic, has rarely seen the faces of women. In fact, the 29 year old believes he may have seen only about 200 faces of women in his lifetime. Most of those were family members. The rest were glimpses he has caught of women without their face-shrouding burkas.

“Daud is unmarried and has sex only with men and boys. But he does not consider himself homosexual, at least not in the Western sense. ‘I like boys, but I like girls better,’ he says. ‘It’s just that we can’t see the women to see if they are beautiful. But we can see the boys, and so we can tell which of them is beautiful.’”

The segregation and treatment of women in the strict Islamic society makes them unapproachable. Women are portrayed as being unclean and therefore undesirable. As an example, a 2009 Human Terrain Team report by the U.S. Army titled “Pashtun Sexuality” recounted the team’s encounter with an Afghan man seeking advice on how his wife could become pregnant. He approached a U.S. Army medic stationed in a rural area of the Kandahar province. After the medic explained to him what was necessary, he replied, “How could one feel desire to be with a woman, who God has made unclean, when one could be with a man, who is clean? Surely this must be wrong.”

"How could one feel desire to be with a woman, who God has made unclean, when one could be with a man, who is clean? Surely this must be wrong." - Afghan Man
“How could one feel desire to be with a woman, who God has made unclean, when one could be with a man, who is clean? Surely this must be wrong.” – Afghan Man

Men across Afghanistan and especially in the more heavily Pashtun areas of the country interpret the Islamic prohibition on homosexuality to mean they cannot “love” another man. They do not consider themselves homosexuals because they use men for sexual gratification. As a result there is a commonly accepted notion among Afghanistan’s Pashtun male population that “women are for children, and boys are for pleasure.”

PBS’s Frontline and the BBC’s The Documentary have both presented eye-opening reports about the “Dancing Boys of Afghanistan” also known as bacha bazi. The practice of bacha bazi or “boy play” is sexual companionship between powerful men and adolescent boys. The practice was banned under the Taliban, however after the fall of the Taliban it has become more rampant. Young boys from poor families are groomed for sexual relationships with older men. In some cases poor families will provide a son to a warlord or government official in order to gain family prestige and monetary compensation.

These boys often are made to dress in women’s clothing, wear makeup and dance for parties of men. Oftentimes following the parties the boys are then expected to engage in sexual acts with the men that attended the party.

The practice is against the law in Afghanistan, however some estimates say that as many as 50% of men in the Pashtun areas of the nation participate in the practice. This means a significant portion of government, police and military officials also engage in the practice.

Daud claims to have had relations with different boys for varying lengths of time ranging from one month to six years. He does not believe his relationships with the boys are bad for them, because he buys them things. He still contends he would eventually like to marry a woman, but he explains, “I’m just waiting to see her.”

Prayer Points:

Many of those who purchase a boy were actually abused when they were young and are now continuing the cycle. Pray for the international community – that this will be exposed and there will be a public outcry for the abuse of these young boys.

The demeaning treatment of women and the idea that women are unclean contributes to the abuse of these young boys. Pray that eyes will be opened, restrictions on women’s dress will be lightened and men will be convicted by the Lord that they are abusing these children.

Ask God to intervene, raise awareness and bring this cycle of abuse to an end. II Cor. 3:17 declares . . .”where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”.  Proclaim that the victory of Christ is being released in the lives of these men and boys, delivering them from the deception of this evil practice. Declare that the love of Christ is bringing them to freedom from this generational bondage in their culture.