Saving Afghanistan’s dancing boys doesn’t fit with US army narrative and ignores their own alleged abuse


Bacha Bazi, boy play in Afghanistan (Image, Washington Post/Wikileaks)

Joseph Goldstein New York Times stirred a hornets’ nest this week with his excellent article showing the double standards of the US military in Afghanistan. He alleged that American soldiers had been warned not to intervene if they saw Afghan allies sexually abusing young boys in Afghanistan. Goldstein detailed the disturbing story of Dan Quinn, a former Special Forces captain who acted otherwise and “beat up an American-backed militia commander for keeping a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave.” It emerged that members of the military alleged that they “faced discipline, even career ruin”obeying such military directives, see following link,

“U.S. Soldiers Told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies”

British Forces also raised concerns over abuse of minors. As Ben Farmer pointed out in the Telegraph, Anna Maria Cardinalli was called in to write a report which she entitled, “Pashtun sexuality” after soldiers expressed discomfort. She wrote,

“they (British Forces) were having young men who were beginning to feel uncomfortable because they felt they were being approached.” She said the study gave no advice about what action troops should take if they confronted paedophilia.

Farmer’s article did point out,

“a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “Afghanistan is a sovereign nation with its own law under which the sexual abuse of children is illegal.

“British forces working as part the wider [coalition] force continue to work with and assist the Afghan National Security Forces, including the Afghan National Army and Afghan Police, to ensure that the rule of law in Afghanistan is adhered to and upheld.’”


On British government website under “improving women’s opportunities in Helmand” (Image, Save The Children)

In contrast to confusion over what to do about abuse of young boys, occupying forces have long used imperialistic narratives of soldiers “saving” local women from “native savages” to boost ratings and justify adding a few years to their presence on foreign soil. India and Algeria come to mind in this respect. The US military has just about beaten this narrative to death in Afghanistan though this self gratifying “cause” had nothing to do with why they invaded the country post 9/11, retaliation for Taliban sheltering Osama bin Laden. The Taliban have however also regularly formed part of the popular occupiers’ narrative that they mistreat females and prevent girls’ education.

The theme of rescuing Afghan women and young girls (whether they want to be saved or not) allows Americans to feel good about war, helps boost support at home and soldiers can take on a traditional hero status often more akin to Hollywood movies than real life. The macho narrative is welcomed by many despite the high level of abuse against females within the US military itself not to mention the multitude of domestic abuse cases within America including ironically violence against women from some members of the Armed Forces suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of participation in conflict. Then there are the night raids in Afghanistan where civilians may find their doors kicked down on suspicion of sheltering Taliban and terrified women and children cower in fear wondering what will be the fate of their families.

However US “saving the vulnerable” does not sit quite so well when it comes to bacha bazi (playing with boys). This a long standing cultural tradition between powerful Afghan men and young often impoverished male children which may involve an abusive sexual relationship. These boys are attired in female clothing, adorned in make-up and wigs and will perform dances for excited mature suitors. They become “ashna” (beloved) and are prized enough to be fought over by jealous pursuers. As Joel Brinkley, a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle aptly put it, “so, why are American and NATO forces fighting and dying to defend tens of thousands of proud pedophiles, certainly more per capita than any other place on Earth?”

Films such as “Saving Private Ryan” can draw in  patriotic American audiences, rooting for the soldier next door fighting to survive in hostile enemy territory, “Saving Afghanistan’s dancing boys” doesn’t conjure up quite the same emotions and could possibly ignite homophobic fears that still lurk in the minds of some Americans. Consider also how the US military loves to find stories of allegedly escaping Taliban dressed as women as part of its propaganda to parade and mock them as being unmasculine and weak. Again this is to boost the macho image of the American soldier (though Taliban videos display a different image often of recruits, weeping in fear allegedly wearing nappies and urinating in their trousers.) Gender stereotypes are used on both sides in the war of words.

Patriots in the US might be surprised to learn that whilst US military are made to turn a blind eye to the horrors of bacha bazi it was in fact the Taliban who tried to stamp out this practice under Mullah Omar who taught that it was not compatible with the Quran and against the laws of Islam. As journalist Christian Stephen explains, to the young boys trapped in this role,

“subservience consists of accompanying the older man or “Lord” on errands, giving private dance performances and, in the majority of cases, enduring repeated violent oral and anal rape.

These assaults are not only a form of sexual slavery, most cases result in some form of grievous physical injury due to rape trauma including internal/anal haemorrhaging, rectal prolapse, protrusion of intestines, displaced pelvis bones, throat injuries, heavy internal bleeding, rectal wall tearing, as well as injuries that stem from the pure force of coercion. These include broken limbs, broken fingers, fractures, broken teeth, savage beatings, strangulation, asphyxiation, and in some cases death.”

For detailed article on abuse of boys in Afghanistan and its consequences see,

“Hand Covers Bruise: The Destruction of Afghanistan’s Boys!

Ignoring such abuse has several knock on effects in a society where the purity of young is regarded as essential and sex before marriage is forbidden. An allowed practice of paedophilia aids the oppression and degradation of women in Afghan Society where male abusers (who must marry in traditional society) view women for procreation and young boys for sexual pleasure. Stephen tells the alleged story of one Afghan man being given health education at a US clinic whilst undergoing a medical examination as his wife was unable to conceive due to his practice of anal sex (again considered against the teachings of Islam).


A Statement from Gen. John F. Campbell in response to recent media has now been released (posted by Wings Over Iraq, News, Media Website, Image Snipview)




KABUL, Afghanistan (Sept. 22, 2015) – Statement from Gen. John F. Campbell, Commander, Resolute Support and United States Forces – Afghanistan:

Recent media reports citing alleged cases from 2010, 2011, and 2012, have claimed that in the past a command policy existed within the Afghan theater of operations that U.S. forces were to ignore suspicions of sexual abuse committed by Afghans against children. I personally have served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and am absolutely confident that no such theater policy has ever existed here, and certainly, no such policy has existed throughout my tenure as commander.

Consistent with clear U.S. Department of Defense policy on the issue of sexual assault, trafficking of persons, and similar matters, I expect all personnel to treat others with respect and dignity. I further expect that any suspicions of sexual abuse will be immediately reported to the chain of command, regardless of who the alleged perpetrators or victims are. The chain of command will take appropriate action under applicable law, as well as DoD and service regulations. If the abuse involves Afghans, a report shall be forwarded to me through operations channels, copied to the Staff Judge Advocate, so that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan can be advised and requested to take action. I have personally spoken with President Ghani on this issue and he made it clear to me that the Afghan government will not tolerate the abuse of its children, or any of its people, and will thoroughly investigate all allegations and administer justice appropriately.

I want to make absolutely clear that any sexual abuse or similar mistreatment of others, no matter the alleged perpetrator or victim, is completely unacceptable, and reprehensible.

My expectations also apply to non-U.S. personnel assigned to the Resolute Support mission, consistent with their national policies and regulations.



Although the statement from Gen Campbell condemns child abuse and states there is an expectation cases will be reported for investigation, there is a huge question mark as to whether this fits with ground realities? As stated, earlier stories of abuse against young girls are regularly used to promote military action in Afghanistan and as a reason to stay longer in the country. There is no such narrative for boys where turning a blind eye is said to be common perhaps because it is too close to home in some cases. The public should remember accounts of alleged CIA torture including sexual abuse against males by the US military or their allies in prisons and threats against children. As Reuters wrote in June 2015,

“the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency used a wider array of sexual abuse and other forms of torture than was disclosed in a Senate report last year, according to a Guantanamo Bay detainee turned government cooperating witness.

Majid Khan said interrogators poured ice water on his genitals, twice videotaped him naked and repeatedly touched his “private parts” – none of which was described in the Senate report. Interrogators, some of whom smelled of alcohol, also threatened to beat him with a hammer, baseball bats, sticks and leather belts, Khan said.”

Rolling Stone also pointed out the following which appeared in a report.

5) CIA interrogators threatened to rape or kill the detainees’ mothers and to harm their children.

“CIA officers also threatened at least three detainees with harm to their families – to include threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee, and a threat to ‘cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.'” [Findings and Conclusions: Page 4] 

8) The CIA sexually assaulted detainees with brutal “rectal exams.”

“CIA leadership… was also alerted to allegations that rectal exams were conducted with “excessive force” on two detainees at DETENTION SITE COBALT…. CIA records indicate that one of the detainees, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, was later diagnosed with chronic hemorrhoids, an anal fissure, and symptomaticrectal prolapse.” [Executive Summary: Page 100] 

Read more:

“10 Truly Terrible Things the CIA Did In Our Names”

Mint Press also published a disturbing article, “Classified Evidence: US Soldiers Raped Boys In Front Of Their Mothers” in which respected journalist Seymour H refers to a secret Pentagon tape detailing alleged abuse by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq, stating,

“The women were passing messages out saying ‘Please come and kill me, because of what’s happened’ and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It’s going to come out.”

Kasim Hilas, a former detainee also gave testimony saying,

“I saw [name blacked out] fucking a kid, his age would be about 15-18 years. The kid was hurting very bad and they covered all the doors with sheets. Then when I heard the screaming I climbed the door because on top it wasn’t covered and I saw [blacked out], who was wearing the military uniform putting his dick in the little kid’s ass, I couldn’t see the face of the kid because his face wasn’t in front of the door. And the female soldier was taking pictures.”

See following link,


Omar Khadr allegedly tortured by US whilst in custody as a child (Image via Montreal Simon)

Then there was the US alleged torture of Omar Khadr (captured as a child soldier in Afghanistan) at the hands of the CIA and detained in Guantanamo as appeared in Vox,

“a few months into Khadr’s detention — he was, keep in mind, still only a child — guards chained him to the floor of an interrogation room. They pulled his arms and legs behind in a “bow” position, until his limbs strained painfully at their sockets. This was known in the officially sanctioned American torture guides as a “stress position,” and victims often pass out from the pain. Over several hours, the guards contorted Omar into different stress positions, each time shoving him into a painful position on the ground. Eventually, inevitably, he urinated himself.

The MPs returned, mocked him for a while and then poured pine-oil solvent all over his body. Without altering his chains, they began dragging him by his feet through the mixture of urine and pine oil. Because his body had been so tightened, the new motion racked it. The MPs swung him around and around, the piss and solvent washing up into his face. The idea was to use him as a human mop. When the MPs felt they’d successfully pretended to soak up the liquid with his body, they uncuffed him and carried him back to his cell. He was not allowed a change of clothes for two days.”

There is still no accountability for alleged US sexual abuse and torture of children.

To return to Goldstein’s article, he also highlighted the case of Lance Corporal Buckley who may have been killed due to having to ignore alleged abuse carried out by a US ally working for police at a base in Helmand province. One boy who was allegedly violated turned on marines including Buckley and 2 others.

As for expecting President Ghani to act on abuse of children, human rights reports from 2015 suggest that the situation in Afghanistan may be getting worse and abusers are allegedly being regularly funded by US and allies. As Dan Quinn pointed out after serving in Iraq, “we were putting people into power who would do things that were worse than the Taliban did — that was something village elders voiced to me.” Surely its time for the public to start questioning how government monies are being used. How can it be in the interests of US citizens for their government to support and finance the evil practise of paedophilia.


“Bacha Bazi: An Afghan tragedy”

“The filthy culture of Bacha Bazi in Afghanistan”

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights, WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.


About Carol Anne Grayson

Blogging for Humanity.... Campaigner/researcher global health/human rights/drones/WOT/insurgency Exec Producer of Oscar nominated documentary Incident in New Baghdad, currently filming on drones.
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