The Taliban is manipulating one of Afghanistan's local evils to mount attacks on authorities. The terror group has started using child sex slaves, boys in particular, to allegedly kill Afghan police officers.
Locally known as "bacha bazi", which is a pervasive practice in the country where young boys are sexually abused – is being used by the Taliban to infiltrate security ranks. The ancient custom of using "bacha bereesh" – or boys without beards – is apparently prevalent in Afghanistan and is especially prominent in the province of Uruzgan where senior police officials sexually assault boys.
"The Taliban are sending boys – beautiful boys, handsome boys – to penetrate checkpoints and kill, drug and poison policemen," said Ghulam Sakhi Rogh Lewanai, Uruzgan's former police chief who was removed in a security reshuffle in April amid increasing violence. "They have figured out the biggest weakness of police forces – bacha bazi," he told AFP, which also spoke to a number of survivors of such attacks.
Matiullah, a 21-year-old police officer is reportedly a lone survivor a 2015 plot in Dherawud district. He claimed that insurgents were using bachas (boys) as honey traps. Describing the incident, he stressed that the attacker was the checkpoint commander's own sex slave Zabihullah, who killed seven policemen including the commander as they slept.
"He brought the Taliban inside and poked all the bodies with rifle butts to see if anyone was alive. I pretended to be dead," said Matiullah.
"As his Taliban accomplices gathered our weapons and ammunition, Zabihullah declared: 'Everyone is dead'."
Meanwhile, the Taliban has denied using underage boys for the attacks. "We have a special mujahideen brigade for such operations – all grown men with beards," a Taliban spokesman clarified, a point they have made on numerous occasions despite the fact that human rights groups have proved the use of children as soldiers.
Bacha bazi had been banned by the Taliban when they were in power in Afghanistan (between 1996 and 2001). However, it has reportedly become a common practice once again.
Bacha bazi among Afghanistan's security forces
Sexual exploitation of young boys has allegedly become such a prominent practice in various provinces of Afghanistan that many senior officials apparently ask for a boy as one of the perks of their jobs. The children are then treated like sex-slaves until they reach puberty. Many are also trained to fire weapons.
Because the conservative rules prohibit women from being visible, young boys are used to replace them. They are made to walk and gesture like women and sometimes wear makeup and bells on their feet. Sex slave ownership issues between officials have often led to gun fights as well.
Explaining the situation, one provincial judge said, "To restore security in Uruzgan, we will first have to separate policemen from their bachas. But if they are told to reform their ways, a common reply is: 'If you force me to abandon my boy lover, I will also abandon the checkpoint'. The Taliban are not blind to notice that this addiction is worse than opium."
The US State Department has called Bacha bazi a "culturally sanctioned form of male rape".
"Bacha bazi is pervasive sexual slavery of children, seen widely as a cultural practice and not a crime," Charu Lata Hogg, director at the London-based charity Child Soldiers International said.
"Since it is mostly practised by those in positions of power – warlords, commanders, politicians – it is hard to stamp out. It appears sustained partly by the fact that access to women is limited."