Anuj Chopra is the outgoing Kabul bureau chief of Agence France-Presse (AFP). His next posting for AFP will be Riyadh. He tweets at @AnujChopra.
KABUL – Last summer, an Afghan police commander invited me to his post for tea — and to view his “beautiful” boy sex slave.
I stumbled through a farm of chest-high opium poppy stocks to reach his mud-and-wattle outpost on the outskirts of Tarin Kot, the capital of southern Uruzgan province that is teetering in the face of a Taliban upsurge. On its open roof, a slight teenager sat next to his hulking captor, stealing sad glances at me as he quietly filled our tea glasses. A shock of auburn curls jutted out of his embroidered pillbox hat and his milky eyes were lined with kohl. The commander flaunted him the way a ringmaster exhibits an exotic animal. “See my beautiful bacha (boy slave),” he said, blithe and casual, a gun dangling at his side.
The commander, an ally of the United States in the war against the Taliban, is not an anomaly. Hundreds of such outposts of the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a front-line force armed and funded with U.S. taxpayer dollars, and other pro-government militias are believed to haveenslaved young boys for dancing and sexual companionship, many of them kidnapped.
Freedom from the Taliban’s puritanical regime in 2001 also brought freedom to do “bacha bazi,” the cultural practice of sexual slavery and abuse of boys who are often dressed effeminately and whose possession is seen by Afghan strongmen as a marker of power and masculinity.
As the United States sinks deeper into the Afghan quagmire, preparing to send additional troops into a seemingly endless war, it is glossing over this hidden but pervasive abuse of children by its local allies. U.S. tolerance of this egregious inhumanity sends out the message that it is acceptable for U.S.-backed forces to keep child sex slaves.
It also has strong security implications. I reported last yearhow the Taliban are exploiting entrenched bacha bazi to infiltrate Afghan security ranks, effectively using child sex slaves — many of them brutally abused and hungry for revenge — as Trojan Horses to mount deadly insider attacks.
Institutionalized bacha bazi, described as culturally sanctioned male rape, is likely to continue unabated in the absence of any real deterrent. The United Nations has called on Afghanistan to urgently adopt legislation to criminalize bacha bazi and swiftly prosecute state officials guilty of the practice. Read more via Washington Post