Bush Inadvertently Res-Erects Ancient Tradition

Pretty Boys Commodified In Afghanistan

It’s a pederastic party over in Afghanistan. Unlike the Greeks, for whom pederasty played an educational role, men in Afghanistan are engaging adolescent men for dances, among other things.

“Some men enjoy playing with dogs, some with women. I enjoy playing with boys,” said Allah Daad, a one-time mujahedin commander in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz.

He is one of a growing number of men involved in what is known as “bacha baazi”– literally, “boy-play” – a time-honoured tradition, deplored by human rights activists and clerics, that is seeing a revival in the relatively secure north of Afghanistan.

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.

While these “beardless boys perform a social function for the men, they’re not getting anything out of it except for material goods and exploitation.

A sign of social influence, the bacha bereesh can’t be forced to participate, says one older man, “We can’t force them. Only the very powerful can have boys with them all the time.” While that may be true, the boys often have no other economic recourse, but they often have no other economic recourse. One lad laments,

I have been doing this for the past year. I have no choice – I’m poor. My father is dead, and this is the only source of income for me and my family.

Men have taken boys for centuries, but the movement got new life with the rise of militia forces in the north, militias who filled the power vacuum after the US-led invasion. So, our gay-fearing military inadvertently grew a social custom many see as gay. Funny.

While the same-sex aspect may paint the situation in a lavender light, the trend seems more about power through slavery than anything else:

[One man] said poverty was another reason why boys could find themselves ensnared, while the government had failed to do much about the problem and its police force enjoyed little public confidence.

“It used to be that only a few people had boys. Now everyone owns one and the authorities don’t care about it at all,” he said. “It’s got to the point where almost no party takes place without dancing boys. It’s seen as a disgrace if you don’t have dancing boys at your wedding. This has led to a rise in immoral behavioor among boys, and if nothing is done about it, this trend will continue.”

For some, a bacha bereesh is a status symbol.

“I am not really rich, but I am just as good as the wealthy,” said [another man] known as Nasro Bay, who lives in Baghlan province. “I want as many bacha bereesh as possible, so that when I go to parties I am no worse than anybody else.”

Nasro Bay insisted that the dancing boy tradition was a good one.

“It’s a good thing,” he said. “We have our own culture. In foreign countries, the women dance. We have our own dances which don’t exist anywhere else in the world.”

Militia commanders and other men of substance buy and sell good-looking boys…

Religious leaders are not pleased with these developments. But we’re sure you imagined that already.

This isn’t the first time we’ve explored the social values of male beauty in Afghanistan. Remember Thomas Dworzak’s compilation of pretty Taliban boys?