Quivering with quiet rage, Shirin holds a photo of his teenage brother-in-law, who now lives as the plaything of policemen, just one victim of a hidden epidemic of kidnappings of young boys for institutionalised sexual slavery in Afghanistan.
Shirin is among 13 families AFP traced and interviewed across three Afghan provinces who said their children were taken for the pervasive practice of “bacha bazi”, or paedophilic exploitation, in Western-backed security forces.
Their testimonies shine a rare spotlight on the anguished, solitary struggles to free sons, nephews and cousins from a tradition of culturally-sanctioned enslavement and rape.
Shirin recalled how his 13-year-old brother-in-law screamed and writhed as he was taken from his home earlier this year by a police commander in southern Helmand.
“When I begged for his release, his men pointed their guns and said: ‘Do you want your family to die? Forget your boy’,” Shirin told AFP in Lashkar Gah.
“Our boys are openly abducted for bacha bazi. Where should we go for help? The Taliban?”
A federal judge has tossed out a Marine Corps decision to remove an officer from the service after he sent classified information through an unclassified email server while warning colleagues in Afghanistan about the security threat posed by a police chief whose teenage servant later killed three Marines.
A servant working for the police chief opened fire on a makeshift gymnasium used by Marines on Aug. 10, 2012, days after Brezler’s warning, killing Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson, Cpl. Richard Rivera Jr. and Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley. A fourth Marine suffered five gunshot wounds but survived. The teenager involved in the attack has been identified by the Marine Corps as Ainuddin Khudairaham. He is said to have bragged about the attack afterward, boasting “I just did jihad,” and was convicted of murder as a juvenile.
Military documents filed in the case showed that Marine and Navy officials in Afghanistan knew before the attack about allegations of abuse against [police chief] Sarwar Jan but allowed him to keep his position in Helmand. A Navy analysis of the case, disclosed in court in August, assessed that if the Brezler case was reviewed again it would renew attention on the scandal surrounding child sex abuse in Afghanistan — something the service wanted to avoid.