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Inside the world of the Bacha Bazi
April 22, 2010 1:04 PM   Subscribe

In Afghanistan, the bacha bereesh -- "boy without a beard" -- is dressed in women's clothes and taught to dance like a woman at weddings or parties. After the dancing is over, the boy is often shared as sexual chattel among his male audience (the bacha bazi) which is often composed of powerful warloads. The underground practice, though illegal, is widespread despite Taliban homophobia. The PBS series Frontline went inside the world of the bacha bazi, who seemed willing enough to talk about the forbidden practice. [54-minute flash video, well worth watching.]

Previously.
posted by mudpuppie (80 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not available in your part.. *gnash*
posted by fcummins at 1:08 PM on April 22, 2010


Sorry, fcummins. Had no way of knowing that.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:13 PM on April 22, 2010


fcummins: can you view [UK] Channel 4 on Demand in Ireland? It's available there (or at least a documentary on the exact same topic.)
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:19 PM on April 22, 2010


*imagines what a warload looks like.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:22 PM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


oooh, that "not available" is unfortunate, this looks really interesting, so thanks for the post anyway, never heard of this before. *searches on local TV sites*
posted by dabitch at 1:23 PM on April 22, 2010


I am not sure why this is well worth watching (at the full length),. Once you get the drift of what is going on, the rest is .....?

that places that are so rigid about sexuality alway find outlets is a standard assumption, and the outward hatred expressed toward gays in Arab nations is bad, but veil the babes and so the guys turned to other avenues of expression.
posted by Postroad at 1:23 PM on April 22, 2010


No, no, no. Warlord Ahli Al-Abazi is not *gay*, he simply has a wide stance.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:24 PM on April 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


While this is child abuse and thoroughly despicable for that reason, I'm not sure that "Afghani Warlords are a bunch of nancies" is the lesson to be learned here.

It is interesting how powerful conservative men sexually abusing young boys doesn't seem to be unique to Western culture, though.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 1:31 PM on April 22, 2010 [24 favorites]


Thanks mudpuppie! That C4 source seems to work.... (The youtube link is quite a find!)
posted by fcummins at 1:32 PM on April 22, 2010


A friend of mine who served in the Army in Afghanistan a few years ago had a firsthand encounter with this cultural phenomenon. His squad was paired with a group of Afghan soldiers for training and conducting patrols. After a few weeks, the Afghans approached my friend and offered to purchase one of the younger soldiers in his squad, a baby-faced 18 or 19 year old, who they had assumed was the sexual plaything for the American soldiers. The proposed deal was quickly rejected, but the young soldier's friends never missed an opportunity to razz him about it for the rest of his deployment.
posted by Mendl at 1:32 PM on April 22, 2010 [25 favorites]


A 5-minute excerpt on YouTube.

(I hate that these "geographic restrictions" are getting more and more popular. Losing Frontline a few months ago was a bitter blow.)
posted by Ljubljana at 1:32 PM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


"No. Like all labels they tell you one thing, and one thing only: Where does an individual so identified fit into the food chain, the pecking order? Not ideology or sexual taste, but something much simpler: clout. Not who I fuck or who fucks me, but who will come to the phone when I call, who owes me favors. This is what a label refers to. Now to someone who does not understand this, a homosexual is what I am because I have sex with men, but really this is wrong. A homosexual is somebody who, in 15 years of trying cannot get a pissant anti-discrimination bill through the city council. A homosexual is somebody who knows nobody and who nobody knows. Who has zero clout. Does this sound like me Henry? "
posted by adamrice at 1:38 PM on April 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


And in the west the boys (not all are boy, truly) are kept on a back street a block away from the real whores on the boulevard, and the customers threw beer bottles at the gay clubs on their way home, and the boys only ever get to dance for each other.
posted by Some1 at 1:42 PM on April 22, 2010


It is interesting how powerful conservative men sexually abusing young boys doesn't seem to be unique to Western culture, though.

Power abuses by definition.

Reminds me of a sick old Walt Disney joke I heard back in the 80s. Something to do with Walt having a secret island off in the Pacific where kidnapped children were brought. The truly beautiful ones were trained to become actors in Disney movies. The merely attractive ones were sold off to ultra-rich businessmen for various Satanic purposes. The plain and ugly ones were put to work in the animation dungeons.

No, it wasn't that funny at the time either.
posted by philip-random at 1:43 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, this practice was part of the plot of the book and movie "The Kite Runner." It didn't really expound on the tradition or go into detail, though. The main character's 'nephew' was a victim of a vicious warlord, and it was shown that he was an feminized servant/slave who had to dance for his masters. The boy implies in the book/movie that he was raped. What a sad book and movie that was, even though it was also so beautiful.
posted by PigAlien at 1:47 PM on April 22, 2010


A friend of mine did one tour in Afghanistan with the US Army. He had several stories of young boys being brought in to the clinic by male relatives on Friday after having "fallen on sticks." Since Friday is the holy day the parties were all on Thursday night.
posted by nestor_makhno at 1:51 PM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


For out of region folks - this episode isn't up yet, but Frontline pushes an audio podcast feed that, as far as I know, isn't region-restricted.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:59 PM on April 22, 2010


Horrifyingly fascinating way of keeping with their cultural values of women remaining virgins until marriage, yet allow themselves sexual gratification.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:00 PM on April 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Anything that makes me think for a moment that having chosen with whom and how to have sex over the course of my life is some sort of privilege, as opposed to a basic right, makes me, well,
angry if not apoplectic. Enough commas for you? And dancing on demand? Well that's sucky too.
What is wrong with these people?
posted by emhutchinson at 2:02 PM on April 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Let's face it, religious puritanism (not always but damned often) leads to acts of perversion. The evidence is overwhelming. Which is why I consider it a perversion in itself.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:13 PM on April 22, 2010 [17 favorites]


What is wrong with these people?

I think this has already been answered in the above comments. Sex before marriage is absolutely prohibited; men think with their dicks just as much there as here; the idea that boys will be scarred by rape is not very widely believed over there.

The main thing this documentary reveals to me is that the violence in Afghanistan that we attribute to "Muslim" is actually just a product of poverty and a broken justice system. Anal sex is forbidden in the Qu'ran, so like harming innocents, the rape described here is the most un-Islamic thing possible. No wonder they've tried so hard to keep it secret.

Oh, and yeah... we gave these warlords automatic weaponry. Awesome.
posted by shii at 2:19 PM on April 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Let's face it, religious puritanism (not always but damned often) leads to acts of perversion.

Oh look, it's this again. Sometimes I feel like a broken record on this website. How about I just quote one of the Afghani commenters on the video:
through you we ask the goverment of Afghanistan to hang any one who does such thing,that way you can stop this but if they leave them free we will never be able to stop it , as this is against our religion and humanity, and if the goverment dose not do any thing about it they should remember that soon people return to Talibans as Taliban took serious action about such events and those who were doing that , during the time of Taliban no one had the currage to talk about suck shameful action,then why now this should happen we have every thing there.
posted by shii at 2:23 PM on April 22, 2010


The underground practice, though illegal, is widespread despite Taliban homophobia.

Or widespread, in part, because of Taliban homophobia.
posted by pracowity at 2:26 PM on April 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


emhutchinson: Anything that makes me think for a moment that having chosen with whom and how to have sex over the course of my life is some sort of privilege, as opposed to a basic right, makes me, well,
angry if not apoplectic. Enough commas for you? And dancing on demand? Well that's sucky too.
What is wrong with these people?


Yeah, it must be something wrong with Them, because We would never have social institutions that humiliate and sexually abuse children.

C'mon.
posted by paisley henosis at 2:28 PM on April 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


The video's restricted because of a license agreement with Channel 4. Sorry.

(I hate that these "geographic restrictions" are getting more and more popular. Losing Frontline a few months ago was a bitter blow.)

I assure that you for the most part, the episodes are available world wide. Every once in a while an overseas co-producer makes it necessary to do this.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:28 PM on April 22, 2010


Also, the player's a Flash module, but it's not Flash video technically-- it's an mp4, not an flv.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:29 PM on April 22, 2010


The main thing this documentary reveals to me is that the violence in Afghanistan that we attribute to "Muslim" is actually just a product of poverty and a broken justice system.

This, so hard it hurts.
posted by jimmythefish at 2:30 PM on April 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh, and yeah... we gave these warlords automatic weaponry. Awesome.

Not just guns. Viagra. Double awesome. As long as it's for less than four hours.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:53 PM on April 22, 2010


I always find it interesting how the more repressive a culture towards homosexuality, the more popular it seems to be behind closed doors. I've mentioned before my gay step-brother, and how he and his friends all live and work in Dubai and all have stories about having affairs with various sheiks.

Also interesting was a post a while back about gays in the military and how in Turkey being the penetrator when having sex with another man isn't considered gay enough to get out of military duty, much like how it's not commonly considered gay to rape someone in prison.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 2:54 PM on April 22, 2010


Oh, and yeah... we gave these warlords automatic weaponry.

We also distributed viagra to them. Which, apparently, they put to use.
posted by mek at 2:55 PM on April 22, 2010


Fourcheesemac beat me to that tragic little pill, I see.
posted by mek at 2:56 PM on April 22, 2010


A pretty good example of how patriarchy hurts boys/men (for of course these boys grow up carrying these scars) too. But then, once you get used to treating fellow human beings as sexual conveniences, it doesn't really matter what their biological gender is if you're looking for someone to abuse.
posted by emjaybee at 2:59 PM on April 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Is it just me or can you only watch this video in a linear fashion? I can't seem to move the time slider anywhere.
posted by geoff. at 3:09 PM on April 22, 2010


(I hate that these "geographic restrictions" are getting more and more popular. Losing Frontline a few months ago was a bitter blow.)

Why don't you use AnchorFree?
posted by KokuRyu at 3:16 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


the idea that boys will be scarred by rape is not very widely believed over there.

Or do the perpetrators just not care?

Correct me if I'm wrong but things are still pretty feudal in Afghanistan so I imagine there are pretty intense class divisions as well. That is, these aren't sons of rich men being abused; just the dirt poor.
posted by philip-random at 3:21 PM on April 22, 2010


Let's face it, religious puritanism (not always but damned often) leads to acts of perversion. The evidence is overwhelming. Which is why I consider it a perversion in itself.

This is a chicken-and-egg question though, since it's not clear which comes first:

a) the desire/tendency, followed by the sublimation/repression of the desire/tendency
b) the sublimation/repression of the desire/tendency, followed by the desire/tendency

After all, not all pedophiles are priests or Taliban warlords.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 3:21 PM on April 22, 2010


Is it just me or can you only watch this video in a linear fashion? I can't seem to move the time slider anywhere.

You need to wait for the video to fully load before you can use the scrubber.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:22 PM on April 22, 2010


If you haven't watched this video yet, the epilogue makes it worth it. There is hope for change, it's just small and incremental. The change is coming from the inside - one of the war lords who was invested in bacha bazi goes to great lengths to save one. In the end, the story is still incredibly tragic, but there is a glimmer of hope.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:24 PM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I remember Sir Richard Burton's lurid writing on the subject correctly, this is a practice which at the very least goes back to the 19th century but probably a lot earlier. The Taliban doesn't enter into.

This is exactly what you would expect to happen in an especially oppressive patriarchy where female virginity is prized and land is the only asset and it can only be acquired through marriage or inheritance. I'd be surprised if the original Muslims who came there didn't find the place like that.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:28 PM on April 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


*imagines what a warload looks like.

Probably six to eight inches, like most guys.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:35 PM on April 22, 2010


This is exactly what you would expect to happen in an especially oppressive patriarchy where female virginity is prized and land is the only asset and it can only be acquired through marriage or inheritance.

No it isn't. What I would expect is a thriving commercial sex industry employing low-class girls, which is what we see in many other societies with similar values.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 3:54 PM on April 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Apparently, we've all found yet another opportunity to suggest that child rape is on a continuum with consenting and loving adult relationships, and that all it takes to see rampant instances of the former is to withhold the latter. I'm not as ready to admit that, without the ability to have an adult relationship, we're all just child molesters waiting to happen.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 3:59 PM on April 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


As the video wore on, I began to realize that all these boys have a certain cherubic Peter Pan "look," which is really kind of creepy the more boys you see.
posted by geoff. at 4:16 PM on April 22, 2010


Let's face it, religious puritanism (not always but damned often) leads to acts of perversion. The evidence is overwhelming. Which is why I consider it a perversion in itself.

This practice predates Islam in this area by many centuries, and many people believe that some of the Koran's prohibitions against certain activities were, in some cases, speaking against almost this exact thing in an attempt to end it way back then. Similarly, women in this part of the world (like most parts of the world) were expected to remain virgins prior to marriage long, long, long before Islam arrived, and the consequences for not doing so were at least as harsh (and probably worse) than anything now. Additionally, these same "forbidden" practices existed in many parts of the world where Islam is not nor ever was any sort of cultural force (and may never have really existed at all.)

So while I'd support a lot of arguments against religion, this is not one of them. About the worst thing you could really say is that some of these people may cite some odd teaching in Islam which, in some twisted sense, is used as justification for these activities. I can't imagine what it would be, I'm just offering up the possibility that it may be so. But it goes against what nearly all Muslims (even in places like Afghanistan) believe and support - and more obviously just calls to mind the old bit about even Satan being able to cite scripture for his purpose.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 4:17 PM on April 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


DON'T ASK. DON'T TELL. JUST BUY AND SELL. Now if we could combine this stuff with the huge narcotic trade, we could really have a nation worth bring true democracy to.
posted by Postroad at 4:20 PM on April 22, 2010


is dressed in women's clothes

Um, what? I mean, do they like girls or do they like boys or are they very confused? Seems like an extremely specific fetish to be all organized about. Pretty creepy.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:43 PM on April 22, 2010


I've read that boys are not considered "men" until they get their beards, and homosexual behavior is only between men. So having sex with kids isn't homosexual behavior if you change the underlying assumptions a bit....
posted by meowzilla at 4:43 PM on April 22, 2010


shii is correctly distinguishing between the corrupt Afgan warlords, including our puppet warlord-in-chief, and the Taliban, which came to power in reaction to the lawlessness of the warlords, and because the people wanted morality and stability. I think some here are conflating warlord lawlessness with Taliban fundamentalism and missing the point.
posted by psyche7 at 5:21 PM on April 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Because this is so sad and horrifying, I can only examine it philosophically.

As humans we are only slightly more evolved than apes. With that tiny bit of evolution we have gained both the ability to reach the stars and the ability to relentlessly torture our own selves. Both advances in equal measure. But as the tribes of the world eventually become one such horrors will be forgotten.

OK, speaking literally, if the world had sent 100,000 laptops with good wifi instead of troops, as soon as they got messages from their facebook buddies saying that raping kids was the ghey, they would be shamed right out of the practice.
posted by snsranch at 5:44 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


oneswellfoop: "20Let's face it, religious puritanism (not always but damned often) leads to acts of perversion. The evidence is overwhelming. Which is why I consider it a perversion in itself."

The plural of anecdote is not data.
posted by Bonzai at 5:45 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Um, what? I mean, do they like girls or do they like boys or are they very confused?
At least one man interviewed spoke of those including himself who were just interested in the boys, and did not like women. There maybe some men involved who would rather have a real woman and are settling for a feminine boy, but seeing as many of these men are quite wealthy or powerful it's likely they could find a woman if they wished.
posted by luftmensch at 5:49 PM on April 22, 2010


Or widespread, in part, because of Taliban homophobia.

After all, not all pedophiles are priests or Taliban warlords.

Let's face it, religious puritanism (not always but damned often) leads to acts of perversion.

I think you guys have it ass-backwards. From the first linked article:

"This is a time-honored tradition, condemned by human rights activists and Muslim clerics, but it is seeing a revival in the north province of Afghanistan. It is by no means restricted to the north of Afghanistan only, but has virtually faded in the south, where the Taliban’s strict moral code act as a deterrent."

These Northern pedo-warlords are mostly the allies of the USA, the Taliban were stamping out this revolting and morally degenerate practice, much like opium production which declined under the Taliban and has made a resurgence under the US-installed regime.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 5:56 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Postroad: "and the outward hatred expressed toward gays in Arab nations is bad"

Pashtuns are not Arabs, by the way. Not that Afghanistan is any less homophobic, I guess, but Muslim does not equal Arab.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:58 PM on April 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Afghanistan is pretty tame compared to Ancient Greece. Although it's interesting to look at in that way, to imagine how ancient Greece must have been - homicidal warriors by day living by some ancient code with a stable of boys at night.
posted by stbalbach at 7:28 PM on April 22, 2010


“I was dancing last night,” one exhausted-looking 14 year-old boy said, when his owner forced him to speak. “I have been doing this for the past year. I have no choice - I’m poor. My father is dead, and this is the only source of income for me and my family. I try to dance well, especially at huge parties. The men throw money at me, and then I gather it up. Sometimes they take me to the market and buy me nice clothes.”

Quoted from the first link for heartbreaking.
posted by Devika at 8:41 PM on April 22, 2010


Narrative from the Frontline piece:

"No one had yet penetrated the secretive world of bacha bazi. But Najibullah was heading to Northern Afghanistan to meet a group of men who had agreed to take him inside the dancing boy culture."

!!?
posted by humannaire at 8:48 PM on April 22, 2010


Pashtuns are not Arabs...
Although the locations mentioned in the linked articles aren't majority Pashtun areas either AFAIK - Baghlan Province seems to be majority Tajik, Takhar Uzbek and Tajik.
posted by Abiezer at 8:56 PM on April 22, 2010


At times like this, I wish I believed in hell...
posted by BlooPen at 9:49 PM on April 22, 2010


Mudpuppie was right, 54-minute flash video well-worth watching. In fact, I regret my earlier comment. Not because it was entirely inappropriate but because where the documentary goes is so unexpected.

It was horrifying in ways I had not imagined. Children being sold as sexual chattel to adults. I just don't understand.

But that's okay, me not understanding is okay. As least I will keep telling myself that.

Am I supposed to be mad or outraged by something I don't understand? It was children, being bought sold and used by parents, neighbors, public servants, other enslaved children, and it was gut-wrenching. And then it ends in a direction I didn't anticipate, and I am left feeling shell-shocked.

Is it real? Is it real? Is it real?

Because it being real makes me feel grateful for what good I have in my life and in our community here, and it makes me feel...

...not helpless. But aware. And that awareness makes me feel dangerous. Like a weapon.

People who steal, borrow, buy, and wreck, use, and even kill children, they are my target.

And the ammunition is awareness. Since no one else has said it, allow me:

BACHA BAZI IS SOUL-STEALING RAPE. IT ENDS OUR CULTURE. REPORT BACHA BAZI.

Translate that to Pasto and Dari along with the appropriate image. Put it on loads of stickers and posters. Spread around generously through-out Afghanistan.

And in the name of humanity, give these people some money.
posted by humannaire at 9:59 PM on April 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hey it's our old pals the Northern Alliance! Freedom fighters! Keep fighting against freedom you evil bastards!
posted by Mister_A at 10:00 PM on April 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


So we're talking about a tribal tradition here? And extinguishing the tribe, or what?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:16 PM on April 22, 2010


In the name of humanity, give these people iPads. These people need to get connected to the 21st century. Slap a solar panel on the back of those puppies, put up a CIA WAP satellite over the nation, and get these people civilized. Boy rape is so last last-century.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:19 PM on April 22, 2010


What would it really cost to ship every family out of that godforsaken country, get 'em educated and healthy, and then send 'em back with a commitment to help them make a successful go of it?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:21 PM on April 22, 2010


This practice predates Islam in this area by many centuries, and many people believe that some of the Koran's prohibitions against certain activities were, in some cases, speaking against almost this exact thing in an attempt to end it way back then. Similarly, women in this part of the world (like most parts of the world) were expected to remain virgins prior to marriage long, long, long before Islam arrived, and the consequences for not doing so were at least as harsh (and probably worse) than anything now. Additionally, these same "forbidden" practices existed in many parts of the world where Islam is not nor ever was any sort of cultural force (and may never have really existed at all.)

So while I'd support a lot of arguments against religion, this is not one of them. [...]


I keep circling back to a vaguely similar idea. I haven't yet figured out the "bird's-eye view" of it in my head which would make it easy to communicate, but it kind of goes like this:

Cultures and religions aren't the same thing, but they're inextricably intertwined in a kind of vicious-circle or "feedback-cycle" sense. I can't think of any ancient cultures without religions, but I also can't think of any major world religions that haven't profoundly transformed the cultures they arose from.

So it seems entirely plausible to me that a culture might have had practice p before adopting religion r, and also that religion r might attempt to eliminate practice p -- and yet practice p might find an alternative/hidden way of thriving under religion r because practice p is actually a pretty ancient/fundamental part of that very culture which gave rise to or adopted religion r in the first place.

It's a vexing question for me, because I think anger at injustice, degradation, cruelty, etc., is justified, but anger also demands a target. Maybe the best approach is to simply direct that anger toward the practice itself, and forget about whatever it is those who continue to use tradition as an excuse for inhuman behavior offer as a justification.

(And I realize there are some things that certain cultures may do that may make me uncomfortable -- but I'm talking about the kinds of things that are genuinely harmful, things that really injure and exploit. I guess I do have a perhaps naive faith that, outside of an abstract philosophical discussion about how to define the the ethical as such, most people from any culture can tell when that sort of thing is happening).
posted by treepour at 10:23 PM on April 22, 2010


And I guess the other thing I want to say is this . . . this situation starkly brings out consequences of the deep homophobia and classism that have probably existed worldwide for the majority of human history.

Feminine/young looking poor boys (mostly straight) get repeatedly raped, and non-feminine gay poor boys have no possible romantic/sexual/familial-partnering outlet ever in their lifetimes and risk getting killed if they attempt to find one; whereas rich straight guys can skirt their cultural/religious prohibitions on pre-marital sex and rich gay guys can sometimes avoid death if they only pursue said feminine/young boys.

What a hateful and cruel species we are.
posted by treepour at 10:47 PM on April 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


All species are cruel. It's the hate that makes us human. Love will make us suprahuman. Let love lead us on to the Age of Aquarius!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:50 PM on April 22, 2010


I am puzzled. I recall having read about this somewhere, only the boy they interviewed described the practice in an entirely different way. He said it was a way of gaining status. That today's Warlord's boy was tomorrow's warlord, or at least, respected lieutenant. I don't recall where I read that, but it seems most likely I found it via Metafilter.

When I lived in Germany, my neighbor was an Afghani musician (married with kids). It makes me wonder whether he thought of this sort of thing when he saw me and my much younger partner.
posted by Goofyy at 10:58 PM on April 22, 2010


This is a part of Pashtun/Pathan culture, and is also found in some non-Pashtun people (such as Tajiks and Uzbeks) in Afghanistan. As Pashtun people say in Pakistan, "we have been Pakistani for 60 years, Muslim for 1400 years, but Pashtun for thousands of years". Prior to being Muslim, Pashtuns were Buddhist, and I'm pretty certain that these practices occurred then, though few woud accuse the Buddha of promoting pederasty. In short, they have little to do with Islam, but more because it is a deeply misogynistic culture. Others theorize that this culture was imported into the region by Alexander of Macedonia whose armies traversed Afghanistan.

What is curious is that some claim that back in 1994 when the Taliban captured their first main city in Afghanistan, they were helped by the fact that the population was fed up with two warlords of the area fighting over a teenage boy.
posted by Azaadistani at 11:29 PM on April 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


There's another tribal group that's all into the kiddie-sex thing as well — gulping cum apparently being essential to becoming a man. I'm not sure that those boys end up "damaged" by it, by the terms of their tribal society. It's just a part of life. When we don't know any different...

I'm not entirely convinced that we can or even should retain tribal cultures, when we need to create a global world. At the same time, I can't help but think tribal extinction is akin to genocide.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:49 PM on April 22, 2010


Here, I have no idea how factual this accounting is, but it serves the purpose: the Sambia tribe. I'm not sure that these people, given their context, can adequately conceive the modern "way of thinking." What on earth do we do about them?
posted by five fresh fish at 11:52 PM on April 22, 2010


(And, hell, for a tiresome third post): For that matter, we have kiddy-fucking cultures within out own nations: the fringe Mormons who marry off their children at early pubescent ages. If we're going to be riled about Pashtun tradition, we sure as hell should be putting an end to the Warren Jeffs sect.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:56 PM on April 22, 2010


Pleasure is the goal of power. Money is desire, incarnate - desire made flesh. That aside, many cultures do not share our sensitivities, or mores. That aside, I personally find this practice highly disturbing and one more of many large contradictions that define human nature.
posted by Vibrissae at 3:03 AM on April 23, 2010


Najibullah's Behind Taliban Lines is also a wothwhile documentary. Brave journalist, that one.

Afghanistan is pretty tame compared to Ancient Greece. Although it's interesting to look at in that way, to imagine how ancient Greece must have been - homicidal warriors by day living by some ancient code with a stable of boys at night.

As I understand it, back then as long as one was the one doing the penetrating, one maintained the dominant role. A younger boy is expected to get fucked because he's the junior member. But a grown man getting fucked... that would be dishonorable. And gay.

Interesting to note that places like Athens that maintained a rigid control of women and a separation of the male and female worlds ended up with their own forms of "boy play". Sparta didn't separate it's women from the men the way Athens did. And so for all their big, buff, gym-rat/warrior-nudist reputation, Sparta didn't have a reputation as a culture of boy-fuckers.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:43 AM on April 23, 2010


And in the name of humanity, give these people some money...

for something other than weapons.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:43 PM on April 23, 2010


"What would it really cost to ship every family out of that godforsaken country, get 'em educated and healthy, and then send 'em back with a commitment to help them make a successful go of it?"

I'll ask our pizza delivery guy. He's an Afghani with an M.Sc. in biology, speaks Russian, French and English as well as the languages he learned growing up in Afghanistan. My impression is that a lot of the educated folks have already left, he did during the Russian occupation. While I share your view that education is a potential solution to this extraordinarily complex problem, the sad fact is that many of the professionals educated outside of N. America or Western Europe find that their qualifications are not recognized by institutions here (Canada). Maybe it's better in the US. Many of the people I've talked to have given up hope of returning and establishing a new life in their country of origin.
posted by sneebler at 7:17 PM on April 23, 2010


Sparta didn't have a reputation as a culture of boy-fuckers.

Except for the part where girls were dressed up as men on their wedding nights.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:11 PM on April 23, 2010


I read several papers on the the Sambia tribe (Gilbert Herdt's Sambia Sexual Culture was a good one), I strongly think you are misrepresenting the tribe, and the practice. But that is anyones free choice to do so.

This thread has been a blast; it has pretty much been outrage... and then awkward shuffles as people realized that their "outrage" and "cut thr' ballz off" response was EXACTLY THE SAME THING that got the 'taliban' into power.

Funny.

Actually, yeah, I want to mention more about the Sambia, this is bs, a culture practices OFFICIAL HOMOSEXUAL ACTS as a part of its initiation ritual, and you want to knock that?

So the Sambia (where male youths give fellatio to other male youths in order to transfer "wetness" and the "power" that is "wet" (women are born "wet", and men are "trying to catch up" and become stronger like women, who grow faster, and smarter [anyway it's a very nuanced culture, and if someone wants to talk about it, ok] But this culture is what? Too gay? Not gay enough? Too foreign gay? What? Why are we going to kill this culture that is barely understood again?

oh... to protect them.


Sorry, it is not what was described. But when the question is "what do we do about them"... What to do?

Mind your own HOME first... come on... how many people are homeless in Canada? How many of those homeless are there not because they choose to be, or because they are 'down on their luck'... how many are there because of severe mental illness.
Maybe we could
FIX THAT. THEN COMPLAIN PLZ.


I hardly think that westerners caricaturing and stigmatizing Homosexual initiation rituals and behaviors in "other" countries (read not "ours") is going to cure rampant and abundant homophobia anywhere... least of all where it also exists, in the West (I know, we HAVE ipads... so I guess that homophobia issue will be gone by Monday? no? oh... ok, we ARE a whole mess of a lot more like they are... we just have a better system of justice, laws, and legal protections... but eh, if everyone is convinced that ipads and "technology" will "cure" "everyone else"... have at it.

because practice p is actually a pretty ancient/fundamental part of that very culture which gave rise to or adopted religion r in the first place.

ahh, let me go ahead and break the illusion. Whatever you have found, and think is "native" to some particular culture.... Let me tell you now that that "It" is in all other cultures.
You may not see it, or have not seen it, or choose not to see it, or do not know that you have seen it... but whatever it is... there it is.

People ought to come on over to the "open science journals up to public legislation" thread... teach us how wise and knowledgeable "we" are in science... (since in the west we all know science, women are treated dandy, and equal, young people are protected always, and of course, most importantly, we have fully mastered the art of solving our problems by not blowing things up to "teach lessons"... or do we all just know 'pop science', and know how to play with stupid technology, and not care about real science... because seriously... there are more "evangelical Americans" who believe the earth is 6000 years old... there are MANY more Muslims who follow science and the idea of evolution into Macro-Evolution.

Also aren't there like 3 open thread for LOL-MUSLIMS HATUS AMIRITE (
so let us now be vile and wish all manner of horrible fates on them... oh also Religion is the root of all evil, oh, also, religion is a perversion. hey, I can say this, because one time, there was this part of their holy book that someone pointed at, and it seemed on first glance to be saying I was going to a bad place, so now I am going to "get em back" for being evil and mean to me...)
SRSL COME.ON
Not criticizing the post, interesting topic. Appreciated.
Thank you to the 'experts' here though, I am sure this will help people who are deciding if "we" (which I am less and less enjoying being a part of) are actually as open, and as critical thinking as the rest of the world.
Help. I have seen so many lazy generalizations lately.

sorry for using my loudly talking voice. But it had to be done.

Maybe if I had an ipad... I would stop wanting to talk about the subtleties, rather than the hurfdurfz, and cheapshots against people who have had ten years of cheap shots against them and BOMBS FROM THE SKY, and "legitimate targets" written on their names, and on their applications for jobs.

Wait... know what... second thought... keep up the outrage (it doesn't seem vile coming from people bombing the same nation at all.)... it may bring back the Taliban... and we can start all over again, and maybe if we are extra good we can get a new war, but this time it can be shiny, and not all old and broken and misguided and incomplete like the one we already have.

dr- you may like to point out how 'bloody' and 'violent' and 'repressed' and any number of words "the" "muslims" may be... but what you forget is that You, and your culture are driven by the same engine and operating system... it is not helping the ability to act and try to solve the very real problems of society to act like we were "cured" of all our failings in some "enlightenment".

You may not see those evil and vile things in 'our' society day to day... but they are present just the same.
posted by infinite intimation at 10:46 PM on April 23, 2010


The people doing this are the same people who were 'contracted' by the United States to fight the "opening" of the Afghanistan operations. (recall that our forces did not "enter" immediately, we bombed, and armed these guys, and these guys helped clear out "taliban" (and as many sources show, they also rounded up various people who they simply did not like.)

This is less Ronald Reagans baby... and more W. Bush's Baby.
Give credit where due.
posted by infinite intimation at 10:59 PM on April 23, 2010


This reminds me of the Ghost Road, by Pat Barker:

Just as sexuality works along a spectrum, so human sensibility in the face of war cannot be divided into 'officer' or 'Tommy', 'enemy' or 'ally'; nor can the shell-shock victim be labelled 'sane' or 'mad'. 'My nerves are in perfect working order,' Prior writes to Rivers. 'By which I mean that in my present situation the only sane thing to do is to run away, and I will not do it. Test passed?'

Rivers, whose ethnographical activities are interpolated into Prior's narrative and journal, pondered questions of human universality on Eddystone Island, Melanesia, where he studied the kinship systems of headhunters. The word 'mate', he discovered, meant death in the local language - which brilliantly foreshortens the sexualised view of 'matey' masculine camaraderie in Prior's trench scenes. Elsewhere, Rivers draws women's stockings on the legs of a patient with hysterical paralysis to shock him into motion, bringing the death-sex connection full circle.


As far as I remember in the book, boys and men live apart from women in some traditional Melanesian societies and homosexual activity (like that apparently practiced by some Afghanis) between men and boys is pretty common.

Ritualized Homosexuality in Melanesia
posted by KokuRyu at 7:47 PM on April 24, 2010


I am sorry that I attacked the idea of ipads and technology with a huge reactionary brush, and for my response to the responses here also, I may have unintentionally caricatured everything (really, I did not mean to suggest that 'everyone' was wrong, or that being angry was somehow not ok). –I think my response speaks to my frustration and feeling of being powerless to stop something that is so clearly vile exploitation needing to be stopped.

Anger seems fully justified as a personal response to the horrifying actions by these war-lords, and others like them who are egregious abusers of power. I get angry also that things like this happen, I think in response to how it is almost impossible to do anything directly to stop such abuse.

In the specific case of Afghanistan as a nation where our troops are, I wonder if we might need some 'new' way of dealing with this, and so many of the other 'after-wars' that are really not even remotely related to what the armed services mission in Afghanistan represent (this is not to disrespect, or cast anyone serving there as a “bad person”) but unless we are prepared to vastly increase the army fighting and killing in Afghanistan, and increasing who we are willing to target, we need to start thinking of alternative ways of putting pressure on people to stop this. Also, as is mentioned often regarding Afghanistan, more education, more learning tools, more teachers. For the United States role, we have Air army, we have water army, we have an army army... so why don't we have a "Morning after the fighting ends" army, a "cultural/social cooperation army/reconstruction force"?

This new force, not trained first to fight, but trained primarily to help specific cultures, trained in the intricacies of particular societies and cultural differences. Trained for the "kind of" mission that would need to be done to stop things like this abuse... but which is not part of a 'war', we need some kind of U.S.Second YearForces.
A multi-disciplinary reconstruction force; Teachers, Engineers, Professors, education specialists, medical educators, designers, and more; if the consensus is that wars must be fought, as an ‘imperative’ to defense, and I believe that is a fair assessment of reality and the voice of votes… Therefore we have a duty to consider these issues very carefully, and put great effort into making sure resources are applied most effectively.

Imagine if instead of the chaos that was allowed to crop up after the shock and awe stage, if Iraq had been given heavy assistance early in the ‘after war’/

Imagine if we could SEE that today, and remember it in context, and recognize the similarity of that point in that separate war, in relation to where we are right now in the separate war in Afghanistan, we are still in time now, to initiate some kind of ‘second face’ crew.

The most important aspect would be a "co-ordination" with matters of respect for the value that the ancient afghan culture has, and yes, that sounds foolish on a post about such horrifying abuse, that seems to be culturally derived; but there is great value within the Afghan culture and that need to be enhanced, embraced, and appreciated, if there is to be hope for Afghanistan as a Nation in a society of Nations.
A network of ipad type devices, or terminals, connected to main 'servers', fully loaded with software, and the information needed to teach engineers, and builders of a society freely available and usable, start by building energy systems like wind generators seems like it would be a nice start.


In writing this, I finally remembered which ideas I was trying to remember in terms of rethinking strategies in global politics, and geo-strategic ideas.
Thomas Barnett , an American military geostrategist with some really creative ideas, and suggestions for this sort of force, and his ted talk titled “Thomas barnett draws a new map for peace”.
Lastly, sorry again if anyone feels that I have allowed my personal feelings of powerlessness in this situation to boil over into frustration with people who should not have been the recipients of that frustration, I apologize for my quick, inaccurate and misdirected anger. No one simply posting words here on the internet was deserving of any unkindness from me, it was not needed, and for it I am sorry
posted by infinite intimation at 9:59 PM on May 1, 2010


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