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In the News The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan

December 5, 2010

VIEW: An excerpt from FRONTLINE's undercover report last season, "The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan." The clip offers unique background on bacha bazi, an ancient practice in which young boys dressed in women's clothing are trained to dance and entertain men. It's widely acknowledged that the boys, sold by their families to wealthy merchants, warlords and military commanders, are often sexually exploited.

Wikileaks' November 2010 release of diplomatic documents includes a U.S. embassy cable detailing Kabul's concerns about private security firms after a 2009 incident in which employees of the private contracting firm DynCorp bought drugs and hired dancing boys for the entertainment of Afghan police they were responsible for training in the province of Kunduz. (See the Guardian's report.)

View the full FRONTLINE program and learn more about the world of bacha bazi on the website.

In August, President Hamid Karzai alarmed many when he issued a decree ordering all private security firms out of the country by the end of the year, a ban that since has been softened. Wikileaks' release of the cable on DynCorp also follows the October release of a report [PDF] by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee detailing concerns about how the role and lack of oversight of private security contractors in Afghanistan are jeopardizing U.S. goals in the region. (Check out "Private Warriors" FRONTLINE's in- depth report on the Iraq war and the dangers in bringing in private contractors to support and prosecute the war.)



Let me get this straight. American tax dollars are being paid to an American company to pimp little boys out to Afhghan police???

Please tell me this is just a bad dream.

Shuddering / December 5, 2010 2:26 PM

I am disgusted this culture still exists. I am even more disgusted my tax dollars are supporting it. Dyncorp was caught red running brothels in Bosnia. Should anyone be surprised they buy boys to entertain in Afghanistan. The US Government, whether DoD or DoS is very well aware of Dyncorp's track record and yet still award them contracts and give them access to their victims in these war torn countries. Who's really at fault here?

Ms Sparky / December 5, 2010 10:05 PM

Unfortunately, slavery is and has been a constant of the Mid East. This according to my husband, a Turk, who worked in Saudi Arabia in the 50s.

Let us not be too proud since sexual slavery of children, boys and women continues in our own country today.

It is not a dream.

ab / December 5, 2010 11:52 PM

I keep thinking of history (Vietnam) and society (Roman). We are moving rapidly toward a dehumanization of our society.

Paul Stephens / December 6, 2010 9:00 PM

If DynCorp can arrange this, just imagine what Halliburton can do for your next party!

Michael / December 6, 2010 9:31 PM

This is a universal reality. Naturally, it's taboo. It's taboo everywhere because it's slavery, it's pedophilia and an all-around human rights violation. Another universal reality, and taboo, is the corruption of people in high places who enable and participate in this.
It always demands attention and prevention but unforunately, it's not as easy as it sounds because those who can put it in check are more interested in empire building.
It's a shame it takes the exposure of this being indulged under the auspices of the United States while it occupies and is presumably liberating a foreign nation. Meanwhile, those hostile toward Europe and the U.S. ("the West" as we're called) can only feel proven right and emboldened by this story. Hopefully, the release of this kind of story is not blamed for ongoing hostility but instead those who enable are found, proven guilty and prosecuted.

dharmaman / December 7, 2010 7:15 AM

the basic fact that women are not to be touched until marriage, unless a prostitute, for which is also punishable. equals amorous men/boys

Randall Howell / December 7, 2010 5:25 PM

I am not suggesting that bacha bazi should happen ever, but I also don't understand why DynCorp is being accused in the blogosphere of having endorsed it. The incident referenced in the cables was reported at the time by the Washington Post, which said the State Department had concluded there had been no criminal activity. Still, DynCorp fired some folks for displaying questionable judgment that was culturally insensitive. Seems this is now getting blown way out of proportion. For more, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/26/AR2009072602358.html?.

Ed / December 8, 2010 9:32 AM

Ed, this story is getting "blown way out of proportion" precisely because of the difference between the what's portrayed in the cable, and the watered-down, neutered reports the US media issued at the time. I doubt the party would have had even tacit approval from any executive at DynCorp, but it's clear that the event wasn't a "tribal dance" (as the WP termed it) as part of a of celebration of traditional folk music and food. It's not cultural insensitivity, it's pedophilia.

The risk is that this inflames anti-US sentiment in Afghanistan, the reward is that the US takes a cold hard look at the perils of outsourcing our military operations to mercenary staffing agencies with little to no oversight (though given the lack of outcome after DynCorp employees' previous embroilment in a sex slavery ring in Bosnia, that's no sure thing).

More than anything, this is a good example of the reporting that the US media corporations aren't doing that they should be, and the value of what Wikileaks is doing.

natophonic / December 8, 2010 5:22 PM

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