The “dancing boys” of Afghanistan

A custom of Afghanistan that our intervention has helped bring back into vogue, despite the moralism of Islam:

The 9-year-old boy with pale skin and big, piercing eyes captivated Mirzahan at first sight.

“He is more handsome than anyone in the village,” the 22-year-old farmer said, explaining why he is grooming the boy as a sexual partner and companion. There was another important factor that made Waheed easy to take on as a bacha bazi, or a boy for pleasure: “He doesn’t have a father, so there is no one to stop this.”

A growing number of Afghan children are being coerced into a life of sexual abuse. The practice of wealthy or prominent Afghans exploiting underage boys as sexual partners who are often dressed up as women to dance at gatherings is on the rise in post-Taliban Afghanistan, according to Afghan human rights researchers, Western officials and men who participate in the abuse.

“Like it or not, there was better rule of law under the Taliban,” said Dee Brillenburg Wurth, a child-protection expert at the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, who has sought to persuade the government to address the problem. “They saw it as a sin, and they stopped a lot of it.”

Over the past decade, the phenomenon has flourished in Pashtun areas in the south, in several northern provinces and even in the capital, according to Afghans who engage in the practice or have studied it. Although issues such as women’s rights and moral crimes have attracted a flood of donor aid and activism in recent years, bacha bazi remains poorly understood.

The State Department has mentioned the practice — which is illegal here, as it would be in most countries — in its annual human rights reports. The 2010 report said members of Afghanistan’s security forces, who receive training and weapons from the U.S.-led coalition, sexually abused boys “in an environment of criminal impunity.”

But by and large, foreign powers in Afghanistan have refrained from drawing attention to the issue. . . .

Boys who become bachas are seen as property, said Jawad, the human rights researcher. Those who are perceived as being particularly beautiful can be sold for tens of thousands of dollars. The men who control them sometimes rent them out as dancers at male-only parties, and some are prostituted.

“This is abuse,” Jawad said. “Most of these children are not willing to do this. They do this for money. Their families are very poor.”

Although the practice is thought to be more widespread in conservative rural areas, it has become common in Kabul. Mohammed Fahim, a videographer who films the lavish weddings in the capital, estimated that one in every five weddings he attends in Kabul features dancing boys.

Authorities are well aware of the phenomenon, he said, as he played a video of a recent party that featured an underage boy with heavy makeup shaking his shoulders seductively as men sitting on the floor clapped and smiled.

“Police come because they like it a lot,” Fahim said, referring to parties with dancing boys.

When the boys age beyond their prime and get tossed aside, many become pimps or prostitutes, said Afghan photojournalist Barat Ali Batoor, who spent months chronicling the plight of dancing boys. Some turn to drugs or alcohol, he said.

“In Afghan society, if you are raped or you are abused, you will not have space in society to live proudly,” he said.

When Batoor completed his project on dancing boys, he assumed that nongovernmental organizations would be eager to exhibit his work and raise awareness of the issue. To his surprise, none were.

“They said: ‘We don’t want to make enemies in Afghanistan,’ ” he said, summarizing the general response.

via Afghanistan’s ‘dancing boys’ are invisible victims – The Washington Post.

On the Koran burning riots

More details on the Koran burnings in Afghanistan from Andrew C. McCarthy, in the context of President Obama’s apology:

The facts are that the Korans were seized at a jail because jihadists imprisoned there were using them not for prayer but to communicate incendiary messages. The soldiers dispatched to burn refuse from the jail were not the officials who had seized the books, had no idea they were burning Korans, and tried desperately to retrieve the books when the situation was brought to their attention.

Of course, these facts may not become widely known, because no one is supposed to mention the main significance of what has happened here. First, as usual, Muslims — not al-Qaeda terrorists, but ordinary, mainstream Muslims — are rioting and murdering over the burning (indeed, the inadvertent burning) of a book. Yes, it’s the Koran, but it’s a book all the same — and one that, moderate Muslims never tire of telling us, doesn’t really mean everything it says anyhow.

Muslim leaders and their leftist apologists are also forever lecturing the United States about “proportionality” in our war-fighting. Yet when it comes to Muslim proportionality, Americans are supposed to shrug meekly and accept the “you burn books, we kill people” law of the jungle. Disgustingly, the Times would inure us to this moral equivalence by rationalizing that “Afghans are fiercely protective of their Islamic faith.” Well then, I guess that makes it all right, huh?

Then there’s the second not-to-be-uttered truth: Defiling the Koran becomes an issue for Muslims only when it has been done by non-Muslims. Observe that the unintentional burning would not have occurred if these “fiercely protective of their Islamic faith” Afghans had not defiled the Korans in the first place. They were Muslim prisoners who annotated the “holy” pages with what a U.S. military official described as “extremist inscriptions” in covert messages sent back and forth, just as the jihadists held at Gitmo have been known to do (notwithstanding that Muslim prisoners get their Korans courtesy of the American taxpayers they construe the book to justify killing).

via Why Apologize to Afghanistan? – Andrew C. McCarthy – National Review Online.

But why don’t they love us?

Afghanistan has exploded after a number of Korans were burned by U.S. officials at a military detention center.  It seems anti-American messages were scrawled on the covers, so they were “disposed of.”  Ever since word of this came out, Afghans have been rioting, killing NATO personnel, and demanding that  the Americans who did this to be tried in an Islamic court.  Meanwhile, the generals and the President himself are falling all over themselves apologizing, as our progress in pacifying the country melts away.

How could anyone in Afghanistan not know what the reaction is going to be from burning a Koran?  When that Florida preacher was considering doing it, Afghan mobs killed 12 people.

I’m not justifying the reaction, but the point is, the cultures just don’t understand each other.  We had better just leave.

Afghan protests over Koran burning spread on second day – The Washington Post.

Opium economics

From a news story on American frustration with the drug war in Afghanistan:

KABUL – After several years of steady progress in curbing opium poppy cultivation and cracking down on drug smugglers, Afghan officials say the anti-drug campaign is flagging as opium prices soar, farmers are lured back to the lucrative crop and Afghanistan’s Western allies focus more narrowly on defeating the Taliban.

That combination adds a potentially destabilizing factor to Afghanistan at a time when the United States is desperate to show progress in a war now into its 10th year. The country’s Taliban insurgency and the drug trade flourish in the same lawless terrain, and are often mutually reinforcing. But Afghan officials say the opium problem is not receiving the focus it deserves from Western powers.

“The price of opium is now seven times higher than wheat, and there is a $58 billion demand for narcotics, so our farmers have no disincentive to cultivate poppy,” said Mohammed Azhar, deputy minister for counternarcotics. “We have gotten a lot of help, but it is not enough. Afghanistan is still producing 85 percent of the opium in the world, and it is still a dark stain on our name.”

via As opium prices soar and allies focus on Taliban, Afghan drug war stumbles.

The article suggests that the campaign against opium production has failed.  But it seems to have succeeded too well.  If the price has shot up, that means that the supply has become much smaller.  Also, high prices could be expected to mean a drop in the use of heroin and other opium-derived illegal drugs.

But what we are seeing are the unintended consequences of the program to curtail opium production.  Eradicating all of those poppies now just means that the product is even more valuable than it was before.  Now more Afghanis have an incentive to get into the drug business.  And heroin users who support their habit via crime now have to commit even more crimes to service their addiction.

The laws of the marketplace operate no matter what.  The only way to curtail drug production is to reduce demand, and that requires a cultural and moral change in OUR country, not Afghanistan.

Big trouble in Iraq & Pakistan

Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Shi’ite insurgents in Iraq who killed who knows how many American troops, has come back–from Iran–and his party is part of the new coalition government:

Anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia contributed to the bloodiest days of the Iraq war, made a surprise return to Iraq on Wednesday, ending nearly four years of self-imposed exile in Iran and raising new questions about U.S. influence here.

Sadr’s remarkable trajectory brought him home just as his political faction attains significant power, allied in Iraq’s new national unity government with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who just a few years ago moved to crush Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

It was Sadr’s recent decision to support Maliki for a second term, in a deal brokered by Iran, that ended eight months of political deadlock and allowed Maliki, also a Shiite, to cobble together his new government two weeks ago.

In another sign of Iran’s significant influence in Iraq, just as U.S. troops prepare to leave the country by the end of the year, Iran’s new foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, met in Baghdad on Wednesday with Maliki and more than a dozen other government officials.

The Sadrist faction controls at least eight of about three dozen ministries in Maliki’s new cabinet and has vowed to become a full participant in the political process. But the return of Sadr leaves open the question of whether he will seek to reassert his influence solely through political means, or will instead revert to violence.

via Anti-U.S. cleric back in Iraq after long exile.

Whether he uses violence or politics, we see the specter of a pro-Iranian strongman back in power.  Can anyone doubt that al-Sadr will eventually become the nation’s leader?

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, as you may have heard already, the governor of the province of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his body-guard.  Why?  He came out against Pakistan’s law requiring the death penalty for “blasphemy”; that is, speaking ill of Mohammed or Islam.  A Christian woman is facing execution for allegedly criticizing the prophet, and Taseer wanted her spared.  The case has become a catalyst for conservative Muslims in opposing the more secular establishment and its increasingly shaky government.  If the jihadists take power, not only will the Christian die, the Taliban in Afghanistan will have a powerful ally.  With nuclear weapons.

via Salman Taseer’s Assassination Points to Pakistani Extremists’ mounting power

Major battle in Afghanistan

If you haven’t heard, U.S., allied, and Afghan national troops are engaged in a major, large-scale operation in Afghanistan, attacking the region in which the  Taliban are at their greatest strength.

U.S. launches major surge against Taliban in Afghanistan – washingtonpost.com.


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