My interest in Independent documentaries has opened a broader perspective of issues I would have never been aware of or contemplated on my own. Awareness of humanitarian subjects, not in only in the United States, but from a global stand point keeps us grounded and gives us a sense of empathy and understanding as people; not just as Americans.
I recently watched a documentary called The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan. I breifly glanced at the synopsis and ratings without giving it much thought. I had no idea that what I was about to watch would alter my views concerning aftermath of the war.
"Bacha Bazi" translates into "boy for play". This term is used to describe a tradition in the Middle East where impoverished young boys between the ages of 8 and 14 are manipulated, lured, then forced into a cult like form of sexual slavery facilitated by men who openly trade and sell them as their personal concubines. The boys are often sold to these predators by their own parents in desperation for food and shelter. In some cases, parents are told their children will be looked after by an "apprentice" or a teacher rather than a slave owner. They're given a stipend for selling the children who are usually under the impression they'll be dancing and performing as groups of rich men throw money at their feet. This is partially true as Bacha Bazi involves the feminization of boys by putting them in colorful dresses, jewelry and make-up while they're expected to perform for groups of pedephiles. After the performance, the boys are traded and sold for sex. The "prettiest" most talented boys are sought after, used for bragging rights or trophies amongst their owners. The film bluntly displays the consequences if a boy refuses to comply with the abuse: Murder and brutal rape is often the outcome.
Bacha Bazi is an ancient tradition dating back hundreds of years. Boys were hired as entertainment for weddings and parties as it was an openly accepted practice in many sub-cultures of the Middle East. The Taliban banned the practice in Afghanistan and for many years, Bacha Bazi didn't exist in most regions. Astonishingly, the soldiers who helped US troops fight the Taliban are some of the predators responsibible for resurrecting Bacha Bazi. The Afghani soldiers are viewed as rich powerful figures who get away serious crimes using bribery and other forms of corruption. It's no wonder the authorities claim they're powerless in hunting down and punishing them. In the past couple of years, the tradition of Bacha Bazi has spread through regions with little fear of punishment from it's perpetrators. It's turned into a not so secret society of pimps, traffickers, and abusers of the most vulnerable children of society.
It's not unusual for a film to educate and move me, however, Bacha Bazi will forever be in my heart and mind. I have since done a fair amount of research and unfortunately, there is very little being done to investigate this horrific barbarity. After highly publicised murders of boys who were forced into Bach Bazi, The U.N and Afghani government has been made aware of it's growing popularity. But when confronted with an expectation of action, the response is always the same; Claims of powerlessness against deep seeded corruption within the government. Apparently, many government officals in charge of punishing those responsible, are perpetrators of harm against boys themselves. What is perhaps the most disturbing reality, is the rapid spread of this practice which has evolved just after the end of Taliban rule. If there is no fear of justice, the practice of Bacha Bazi will only become stronger.