Thursday, June 16, 2016
The Taliban are using child sex slaves to mount crippling insider attacks on police in southern Afghanistan, exploiting the pervasive practice of “bacha bazi” — pedophilic boy play — to infiltrate security ranks
The ancient custom is prevalent across Afghanistan, but nowhere does it seem as entrenched as in the province of Uruzgan, where “bacha bereesh” — or boys without beards — widely become objects of lustful attraction for powerful police commanders. The Taliban over nearly two years have used them to mount a wave of Trojan Horse attacks — at least six between January and April 2016 alone — that have killed hundreds of policemen, according to security and judicial officials in the province. “The Taliban are sending boys — beautiful boys, handsome boys — to penetrate checkpoints and kill, drug and poison policemen,” said Ghulam Sakhi Rogh Lewanai, who was Uruzgan’s police chief until he was removed in a security reshuffle in April 2016 amid worsening violence. The insurgents are using boys as honey traps, said 21-year-old Matiullah, a policeman who was the only survivor from an insider attack in Dehrawud district in spring 2015. He said that the attacker was the checkpoint commander’s own sex slave, a teenager called Zabihullah. Late one night, he went on a shooting spree, killing seven policemen including the commander as they slept. “He brought the Taliban inside and poked all the bodies with rifle butts to see if anyone was alive. I pretended to be dead,” said Matiullah, who now works as a tailor, pointing out a gash on his forehead. Practically all of Uruzgan’s 370 local and national police checkpoints have bachas — some up to four — who are illegally recruited not just for sexual companionship but also to bear arms, multiple officials said. Some policemen, they said, demand bachas like a perk of the job, refusing to join outposts where they are not available. Horrifying abuse at checkpoints makes the boys, many unpaid and unregistered, hungry for revenge and easy prey for Taliban recruitment — often because there is no other escape from exploitative commanders. Boys have also spurred a deadly rivalry between policemen, with officials reporting incidents such as a public gunfight in 2016 between two commanders in Gezab district as one of them angrily accused the other of “stealing” his bacha. “To restore security in Uruzgan, we will first have to separate policemen from their bachas,” one of the judges said. “But if they are told to reform their ways, a common reply is: ‘If you force me to abandon my boy lover, I will also abandon the checkpoint’. The Taliban are not blind to notice that this addiction is worse than opium.” Bacha bazi, which the US State Department has called a “culturally sanctioned form of male rape”, peels away the masculine identity of boys in a society where the sexes are tightly segregated. In conservative Muslim areas women are mostly invisible in public — and often unattainable due to steep bride prices. Bachas supplant the role of women, adopting a feminine gait and sometimes wearing makeup and bells on their feet. Many in Uruzgan see bacha bazi neither as pedophilia nor homosexuality, which is forbidden in Islam. If social norms had a pecking order, violating boys would be seen as far more ethical than violating women. But the tactic appears more deep rooted in Uruzgan, where the boys are widely flaunted as a totem of affluence, with some officials openly displaying cellphone images of their “handsome bachas”. “Come see my beautiful bacha,” said Naqibullah, a police commander in Dehjawze village near Tarin Kot, boasting that he had been holding the teenager for two years. With a touch of kohl on his eyes, and bleached blond curly hair poking out of his embroidered hat, the boy sat in a corner of the checkpoint surrounded by opium farms, quietly refilling tea glasses for Naqibullah’s guests. “Commanders prowl neighborhoods for young boys. We are scared of dressing up our children or buying new clothes that will make them attractive,” said Nader Khan, a tribal elder in Dehrawud. Khan’s 13-year-old nephew was taken captive earlier in 2016 by Naqibullah, a local commander not related to the Dehjawze official, when his family sent him to deliver bread for policemen. He was released only after angry tribal elders besieged the governor’s office in Tarin Kot.