The Warlord's Tune
Jamie Doran and Clover Films
Over six months an Afghani journalist, Najibullah Quraishi, has risked his life to document the practice of Bacha Bazi (boy play), where young men are forced into prostitution serving the needs of rich and powerful men.
The filmmaker follows those who make a living procuring young boys, and those who abuse them. The result is a deeply disturbing portrait of a society that publicly promotes a strict moral code while effectively condoning systematic child abuse.
Imagine being nine or ten years old. You are orphaned and living on the streets of a city in Afghanistan. You are approached by a man you do not know. He will clothe, feed and "protect" you. All you must do is learn to dance.
At first you will practice your routine with another young man. After weeks of training you will make your debut dancing before a crowd of men. Many are former warlords who helped the Karzai Government make its way to power. Others might be powerful businessmen.
Before you dance you will be given clothes and make up to make you look feminine. After the dancing, the men are excited and they bid for your company. If you please a warlord or businessman they will pay highly for your favours. Ultimately you will be traded, violated and abused by a large number of men.
This is the world of the Bacha Bereesh, which means "beardless boys". These children are groomed to become sex slaves. It is not a new practice. In Afghanistan the Warlords often kept young boys as their sexual partners. But in modern Afghanistan the practice has evolved into a lucrative and expanding business. In a country ravaged by war orphaned boys are being openly targeted by paedophiles. Some families are so poor that they are willing to sell their sons into slavery. Official reports now suggest thousands of children are at risk.
For the first time on television this practice is finally exposed. A locally born reporter has taken a camera and gone inside the world of the dancing boys. He goes with the "protector" as this man buys children. The reporter is told how the boys are trained and he is told how the "protector" will rent them out and take his "cut".
The documentary finds evidence that this practice is not confined to any one area of Afghanistan. Although it is popular in the north it is now spreading across the country.
The investigation also shows what happens when the boys mature or fall out of favour with the men who desire them. Some are abandoned, others are killed. Asked what impact this life has on the boys, one local says: "They are just boys, they will forget about it."
It is an investigation that has a special resonance for anyone watching in Australia. The people committing the abuse on these children are powerful figures in Afghan society. They are given license to commit these criminal acts by the very governments that are supposed to be our allies in the war on terror and the lethal contest against the Taliban.
"The Warlord's Tune" is produced and scripted by award winning documentary maker Jamie Doran.
It goes to air on Four Corners on Monday 22nd February at 8.30pm on ABC1. It is repeated on Tuesday 23rd at 11.35pm. Also available online.