FRONTLINE: The Dancing Boys Of Afghanistan
Airs Friday, April 23, 2010 at 10:30 p.m. on KPBS TV
Friday, April 16, 2010
As the United States deepens its commitment to Afghanistan, "Frontline: The Dancing Boys Of Afghanistan" takes viewers inside the war-torn nation to reveal a disturbing practice that is once again flourishing in the country: the organized sexual abuse of adolescent boys.
In Afghanistan today, in the midst of war and endemic poverty, an ancient tradition — banned when the Taliban were in power — has re-emerged across the country. It’s called Bacha Bazi, translated literally as “boy play.” Hundreds of boys, some as young as 11, street orphans or boys bought from poor families by former warlords and powerful businessmen, are dressed in women’s clothes, taught to sing and dance for the entertainment of male audiences and then sold to the highest bidder or traded among the men for sex.
With remarkable access inside a Bacha Bazi ring operating in northern Afghanistan, Afghan journalist Najibullah Quraishi investigates this practice, still illegal under Afghan law, talking with the boys, their families and their masters, exposing the sexual abuse and even murders of the boys, and documenting how Afghan authorities responsible for stopping these crimes are sometimes themselves complicit in the practice.
“What was so unnerving about the men I had met was not just their lack of concern for the damage their abuse was doing to the boys,” Quraishi says. “It was also their casualness with which they operated and the pride with which they showed me their boys, their friends, their world. They clearly believed that nothing they were doing was wrong.”
The program concludes with a detailed update of attempts to arrange the rescue of one of the dancing boys profiled in the film, an 11-year-old boy bought by Dastager from an impoverished rural family. It is a dramatic final chapter, full of new shocks and surprises, and, in the end, provides a measure of justice for the boy and his master.