For your reading

Najibullah Quraishi

OPEN WINDOWS | BY HEERA

January 1st, 2021

London based, Afghan investigative journalist and filmmaker, Najibullah Quraishi works predominantly in Asia and Arab countries. With his drive to present the truth, Mr Quraishi wrestles with brutal elements to chronicle documentaries such as The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan, The Girls of the Taliban, Opium Brides, Behind Taliban Lines, Fighting for Osama and Children of the Taliban. Najibullah Quraishi is the recipient of the Rory Peck Award, the Sony International Impact award and Amnesty International Media Award.

 

Your documentary, The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan, addresses paedophilia and the sexual slavery of vulnerable Afghani boys. Until I chanced upon your film, a few years ago, I was unaware of bacha bazi [Boy play]. Thank you for your educative documentaries.

You are welcome.

It’s my duty to make films that present the truth.

How and when did you first learn about bacha bazi? And what compelled you to expose this crime against children?

This illegal practice of bacha bazi has existed in Afghanistan for decades. As a child, I heard of places where young boys were made to dance, and I assumed they were just dancing or perhaps they were dance competitions.

In 2008, around New Year’s Eve, a friend’s friend delivered an Afghani commander’s invitation—we had been invited to a New Year’s Eve private party featuring singers along with other entertainment. This friend never mentioned bacha bazi. I enjoy pure Afghani music, and I didn’t see the harm in attending this party. Later, when I entered the private party, I noticed a couple of young boys dancing in front of other men, and by the end of the night, I witnessed these young boys being shared by older men. This exploitative practice shocked me, and as a journalist, I knew it was my duty to expose this culture.

 

The practice of bacha bazi sounds like pederasty [sexual activity involving a man and a boy]—during the Roman Empire women were for child-rearing and boys, so long as they were of lower status, were exploited for pleasure.

When I investigated the history of bacha bazi in Afghanistan, the elders around the country informed me that this practice started in villages where people had nothing to do at night. To compensate for their boredom, they made their evenings interesting with musicians and boys dancing. However, men were getting pleasure from watching attractive young boys dance.

With the start of the war, around 1997 to 1998, in Afghanistan and the escalating conflict with the arrival of the Russians and Mujahedeen, bacha bazi became common among the commanders who started competing for young boys. If one commander had two boys, the other had three boys.  Bacha bazi was an open secret—amongst those around the commander as well as the wife—that these young boys were exploited for sexual activities.

 

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