An unclassified study from a military research unit in southern Afghanistan, released earlier this year, details how homosexual behavior is unusually common among men in the large ethnic group known as Pashtuns—though they seem to be in complete denial about it.
The study, obtained by Fox News, found that Pashtun men commonly have sex with other men, admire other men physically, have sexual relationships with boys and shun women both socially and sexually—yet they completely reject the label of “homosexual.”
The research was conducted as part of a longstanding effort to better understand Afghan culture and improve Western interaction with the local people. The report reveals some stunning other information as well.
According to the study, Pashtun men interpret the Islamic prohibition on homosexuality to mean they cannot “love” another man—but that doesn’t mean they can’t use men for “sexual gratification.”
The report also detailed a ‘traditional’ practice in which older “men of status” keep young boys on hand for sexual relationships. One of the country’s favorite sayings, the report said, is “women are for children, boys are for pleasure.”
The new report authenticates previous stories, dating back to 2002, which appeared in the Times of London. Those features noted that Kandahar, the capital city of the Taliban movement, is also the “homosexual capital of South Asia,” and that a boy-sex trade is rampant.
The Times report concluded that the “preferred pastime for wealthy and powerful Afghani men, including many former Taliban and mujahideen commanders, is the procurement of young boys as sex slaves.” Nothing in the new military study acquired by Fox News suggests anything has changed in the years since.
The boys, called ashna, beloveds, or halekon, young male lovers, have been specifically groomed for sex. Before the brutal and theocratic Taliban swept into power, the streets “were filled with teenagers and their sugar daddies, flaunting their relationships,” recorded the British daily. Few deny that the practice is widespread.
The Koran imposes the death penalty for consensual relations between members of the same sex, even for cross dressing. Not just any death penalty. By tradition, one of three punishments is mandated- either burning at the stake, being pushed over the edge of a cliff, or being crushed by a toppled wall.
Many locals accuse the Taliban of hypocrisy when it comes to keeping young boys for sex slaves.“The Taliban kept it secret,” one local southern Warlord told the Los Angeles Times. “They hid their halekon in their madrasas [religious schools].”
The Los Angeles Times report included an interview with Dr. Mohammed Nasem Zafar, a professor at Kandahar Medical College, who estimated that around 50% of the former Taliban stronghold’s men have sex with men or boys at some point in their lives. Zafar said the prime age at which boys are believed attractive is between 12 and 16, before their beards grow in.
He told the Los Angeles Times sometimes when the halekon grow up, “older men try to keep them in the family by marrying them to their daughters.” Zafar said he once caught a local religious leader having sex with a younger man on an examining room table in his medical office.
“If this is our mullah, what can you say for the rest?” he asked.
Outside of Kandahar
Even in Northern Afghanistan, homosexual issues have generated controversy. In 2007, Reuters reported that young Afghan boy dancers were being turned into sex slaves by wealthy and powerful patrons, often former warlords, who dress the boys up as girls, shower them with gifts and keep them as “mistresses.”
“The practice, called ‘bacha bazi’—literally ‘boy play’—has a long history in northern Afghanistan,” Reuters reported, “but sometimes it does not stop with just dancing.” Reuters interviewed numerous mujahideen fighters that admitted to the practice. One interviewee stated “The boy’s smell and fragrance kills me. I dress him in women’s clothes and have him sleep beside me. I enjoy him and he is my everything.”
“I was only 14-years old when an Uzbek commander forced me to have sex with him,” a 24-year old named Shir Mohammad told Reuters. “I am used to it. I love to dance and act like a woman and play with my owner.”
On his future plans, the sex-slave told Reuters: “Once I grow up, I will be an owner and I will have my own boys.”
“It is sad to state that this practice that includes making boys dance, sexual abuse and sometimes even selling boys, has been going on for years,” said Gen. Asadollah Amarkhil, who commands security forces in Kunduz province..
“We have taken strict measures to save the lives of the boys and punish the men,” Amarkhil insists. But there is skepticism about the likely results, since many of the owners of the boy-slaves are well-armed and powerful former mujahideen and their commanders.
Those who are found guilty of abuse could receive at least 15 years in prison. That may not be enough of a disincentive to a practice that dates back centuries.
“We know it is immoral and un-Islamic, but how can we quit?” mused a 35-year-old Afghani man to Reuters. “We do not like women, we just want boys.”
The war, meanwhile, goes on. And Americans are dying so Afghan warlords can have their boys to play with.