This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/654
May 29, 2005
MIM: The orgy of righteous indignation being indulged in by Muslims in world wide due to a false report involving a Koran in a toilet, has sent US officials 'bending over backwards' to assure Muslims of how much respect they have for the religion of Islam. Perhaps US officials would not be as quick to defer to Muslim sensibilities, if Muslim hypocrisy about their own religion becomes public knowledge and that many of the Muslims screaming about wanting to martyr themselves for the sake of the Koran are flagrantly violating one of the Islamic laws strictest prohibitions, that of homosexuality. Afghanistan is a case in point.
"...Such is the Pashtun obsession with sodomy -- locals tell you
that birds fly over the city using only one wing, the other covering
MIM:Ousting of the Taliban brought Afghanistan gays out of the caves .
Startled marines find Afghan men all made up to see them 5/02
Three similar stories by major newspapers:
2 Shh, It's an Open Secret: Warlords and Pedophilia (New York Times) 2/02
3 Kandahar's Lightly Veiled Homosexual Habits (Los Angeles Times) 4/02
4 Kandahar comes out of the closet (Times of London) 12/02
5 Kandahar: Closely Watched Pashtuns--A Critique of Western Journalists' Reporting Bias about 'Gay Kandahar 4/03
6 Afghanistan has its first official AIDS deaths 6/04
7 Interview with Michael Luongo on his return from ‘gay Afghanistan': on Afghani male intimacy and sex 7/04
8 American arrested in Afghanistan on suspicion of soliciting gay sex 9/04
The Scotsman, EdinburghScotland ( http://www.scotsman.com/ )
24 May 2002
Startled marines find Afghan men all made up to see them
by Chris Stephen
In Bagram British marines returning from an operation deep in the Afghan mountains spoke last night of an alarming new threat--being propositioned by swarms of gay local farmers.
An Arbroath marine, James Fletcher, said: "They were more terrifying than the al-Qaeda. One bloke who had painted toenails was offering to paint ours. They go about hand in hand, mincing around the village." While the marines failed to find any al-Qaeda during the seven-day Operation Condor, they were propositioned by dozens of men in villages the troops were ordered to search. "We were pretty shocked," Marine Fletcher said. "We discovered from the Afghan soldiers we had with us that a lot of men in this country have the same philosophy as ancient Greeks: 'a woman for babies, a man for pleasure'."
Originally, the marines had sent patrols into several villages in the mountains near the town of Khost, hoping to catch up with al-Qaeda suspects who last week fought a four-hour gun battle with soldiers of the Australian SAS. The hardened troops, their faces covered in camouflage cream and weighed down with weapons, radios and ammunition, were confronted with Afghans wanting to stroke their hair. "It was hell," said Corporal Paul Richard, 20. "Every village we went into we got a group of men wearing make-up coming up, stroking our hair and cheeks and making kissing noises."
At one stage, troops were invited into a house and asked to dance. Citing the need to keep momentum in their search and destroy mission, the marines made their excuses and left. "They put some music on and ask us to dance. I told them where to go," said Cpl Richard. "Some of the guys turned tail and fled. It was hideous."
The Afghan hill tribes live in some of the most isolated communities in the country. "I think a lot of the problem is that they don't have the women around a lot," said another marine, Vaz Pickles. "We only saw about two women in the whole six days. It was all very disconcerting."
A second problem the British found came minutes after the first helicopter touched down at one of the hilltop firebases, when local farmers appeared demanding compensation for goats they claimed had been blown off the mountains by the rotor blades. "Every time we landed a Chinook near a village, we got some irate bloke running up to us saying his goat has just got blown off the mountain ridge by the helicopter - and then he demanded a hundred dollars compensation," said Major Phil Joyce, commander of Whisky Company, one of four companies deployed. As patrols moved away from the landing zones, the locals began pestering Afghan troops attached to the marines with ever more outrageous compensation demands--topping off at a demand from one village elder for $500 (£300) for damage to a tree by the downdraft from helicopters.
But the marines were under orders to win the "hearts and minds" of local farmers in what is one of the few remaining Taleban bastions. "I managed to barter him down to two marine pens, a pencil and a rubber," Major Joyce said. "He went away quite happy ."
New York Times
February 21, 2002
Shh, It's an Open Secret: Warlords and Pedophilia
By Craig S. Smith
Back in the 19th century, ethnic Pashtuns fighting in Britain's colonial army sang odes talking of their longing for young boys. Homosexuality, cloaked in the tradition of strong masculine bonds that are a hallmark of Islamic culture and are even more pronounced in southern Afghanistan's strict, sexually segregated society, has long been a clandestine feature of life here.
But pedophilia has been its curse. Though the puritanical Taliban tried hard to erase pedophilia from male-dominated Pashtun culture, now that the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is gone, some people here are indulging in it once again. "During the Taliban, being with a friend was difficult, but now it is easy again," said Ahmed Fareed, a 19-year-old man with a white shawl covering his face except for a dark shock of hair and piercing kohl-lined eyes. Mr. Fareed should know. A shopkeeper took him as a lover when he was just 12, he said.
An interest in relationships with young boys among warlords and their militia commanders played a part in the Taliban's rise in Afghanistan. In 1994, the Taliban, then a small army of idealistic students of the Koran, were called to rescue a boy over whom two commanders had fought. They freed the boy and the people responded with gratitude and support. "At that time boys couldn't come to the market because the commanders would come and take away any that they liked," said Amin Ullah, a money changer, gesturing to his two teenage sons hunched over wads of afghani bank notes at Kandahar's currency bazaar.
Most men here spend the vast majority of their time in the company of other men and rarely glimpse more than the feet of any woman other than their mother, sister or wife. The atmosphere leaves little room for romantic love, let alone recreational sex between men and women. But alternative opportunities are not hard to find. Muhammad Daud, 29, says he first spotted Mr. Fareed seven years ago at an auto repair shop owned by Mr. Fareed's father and pursued the boy for months.
"If you want a haliq"--a boy for sex--"you have to follow the boy for a long time before he will agree," said Mr. Daud, smiling at Mr. Fareed in a hostel in Kandahar where the two consented to give an interview. "At first he was afraid, so I bought him some chocolate and gave him a lot of money," said Mr. Daud, laughing. "I went step by step and after about six or seven months, he agreed." "At that time, I had no beard," Mr. Fareed said, smiling.
The Taliban took care of that problem by resorting to an ancient punishment prescribed by the Shariah, a compendium of Islamic laws: they pushed a wall on top of anyone found to be homosexual. Odd as the punishment sounds, it resonates with many Afghans who live in a world of mud-and-wattle walls, many of which have long since lost their usefulness. There are plenty of 12-foot-high, 2-foot-thick earthen walls around waiting to be toppled.
On the outskirts of Kandahar, Mr. Fareed pointed to a mound of rubble and described how he had watched the Taliban lay a man there in a shallow pit in front of a high wall and then ram the wall with a tank from the other side, knocking it over on top of him. "When the wall fell, people said he was dead, but later we heard that he wasn't dead," said Mr. Fareed.
The man was Mullah Peer Muhammad, a former student of the Koran who had become a Taliban fighter and was later put in charge of boys then incarcerated at Kandahar's central prison. He was convicted of sexually abusing the inmates. After the wall fell on him, his family dug him out and took him to the hospital. He spent six days there and another six months in jail, but according to the punishment, survivors are allowed to go free. He now lives in Pakistan, his former neighbors say. A man who said he owns the wall that fell on Mr. Muhammad said he had seen the Taliban knock successive sections of the wall on another man seven times, digging him out each time and moving him along the remaining wall before he died.
The man had been convicted of raping and killing a boy. "We had to be very careful then," said Mr. Fareed, shrinking instinctively from the crowd that had gathered around the site during a reporter's visit. He said he and his lover could meet only at night in each others' homes, but that they tried to refrain from physical contact for fear that the Taliban's extensive intelligence network would discover them. Now the Taliban are gone and the commanders have returned, some with their predilections.
The problem is so widespread that the government has issued a directive barring "beardless boys"--a euphemism for under-age sex partners--from police stations, military bases and commanders' compounds. While men are courting boys once again, few do so openly. "Still, we feel ashamed in front of our older brothers or parents," said Mr. Fareed. But he insisted that he does not regret being lured into a relationship by his older friend. When asked if he would do the same to a young boy, Mr. Fareed said, yes. "I'm looking for one now," he said with a smile.
Los Angeles Times
April 3, 2002
Kandahar's Lightly Veiled Homosexual Habits
Society: Restrictions on relations with women lead to greater prevalence of liaisons between men, a professor says.
By MAURA REYNOLDS
In his 29 years, Mohammed Daud has seen the faces of perhaps 200 women. A few dozen were family members. The rest were glimpses stolen when he should not have been looking and the women were caught without their face-shrouding burkas.
"How can you fall in love with a girl if you can't see her face?" he asks.
Daud is unmarried and has sex only with men and boys. But he does not consider himself homosexual, at least not in the Western sense. "I like boys, but I like girls better," he says. "It's just that we can't see the women to see if they are beautiful. But we can see the boys, and so we can tell which of them is beautiful."
Daud, a motorbike repairman who asked that only his two first names and not his family name be used, has a youthful face, a jaunty black mustache and a post-Taliban cleanshaven chin. As he talks, his knee bounces up and down, an involuntary sign of his embarrassment.
"These are hard questions you are asking," he says. "We don't usually talk about such things."
Though rarely acknowledged, the prevalence of sex between Afghan men is an open secret, one most observant visitors quickly surmise. Ironically, it is especially true here in Kandahar, which was the heartland of the puritanical Taliban movement.
It might seem odd to a Westerner that such a sexually repressive society is marked by heightened homosexual activity. But Justin Richardson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, says such thinking is backward--it is precisely the extreme restrictions on sexual relations with women that lead to greater prevalence of the behavior.
"In some Muslim societies where the prohibition against premarital heterosexual intercourse is extremely high--higher than that against sex between men--you will find men having sex with other males not because they find them most attractive of all but because they find them most attractive of the limited options available to them," Richardson says.
In other words, sex between men can be seen as the flip side of the segregation of women. And perhaps because the ethnic Pushtuns who dominate Kandahar are the most religiously conservative of Afghanistan's major ethnic groups, they have, by most accounts, a higher incidence of homosexual relations.
Visitors might think they see the signs. For one thing, Afghan men tend to be more intimate with other men in public than is common in the West. They will kiss, hold hands and drape their arms around each other while drinking tea or talking.
Moreover, there is a strong streak of dandyism among Pushtun males. Many line their eyes with kohl, stain their fingernails with henna or walk about town in clumsy, high-heeled sandals.
The love by men for younger, beautiful males, who are called halekon, is even enshrined in Pushtun literature. A popular poem by Syed Abdul Khaliq Agha, who died last year, notes Kandahar's special reputation. "Kandahar has beautiful halekon," the poem goes. "They have black eyes and white cheeks."
But a visitor who comments on such things is likely to be told they are not signs of homosexuality. Hugging doesn't mean sex, locals insist. Men who use kohl and henna are simply "uneducated." Regardless, when asked directly, few deny that a significant percentage of men in this region have sex with men and boys. Just ask Mullah Mohammed Ibrahim, a local cleric.
"Ninety percent of men have the desire to commit this sin," the mullah says. "But most are right with God and exercise control. Only 20 to 50% of those who want to do this actually do it."
Following the mullah's math, this suggests that between 18% and 45% of men here engage in homosexual sex--significantly higher than the 3% to 7% of American men who, according to studies, identify themselves as homosexual.
That is a large number to defy the strict version of Islam practiced in these parts, which denounces sex between men as taboo. Muslims seeking council from religious elders on the topic will find them unsympathetic.
"Every person has a devil inside him," says Ibrahim. "If a person commits this sin, it is the work of the devil."
The Koran mandates "hard punishment" for offenders, the mullah explains. By tradition there are three penalties: being burned at the stake, pushed over the edge of a cliff or crushed by a toppled wall.
During its reign in Kandahar, the Taliban implemented the latter. In February 1998, it used a tank to push a brick wall on top of three men, two accused of sodomy and the third of homosexual rape. The first two died; the third spent a week in the hospital and, under the assumption that God had spared him, was sent to prison. He served six months and fled to Pakistan.
Apparently to discourage post-Taliban visitors, the owners of a nearby house have begun rebuilding on the site.
"A lot of foreigners came and started interviewing people," says Abdul Baser, a 24-year-old neighbor, who points out the trench where the men were crushed. "Since then they have rebuilt the wall."
But many accuse the Taliban of hypocrisy on the issue of homosexuality. "The Taliban had halekon, but they kept it secret," says one anti-Taliban commander, who is rumored to keep two halekon. "They hid their halekon in their madrasas," or religious schools.
It's not only religious authorities who describe homosexual sex as common among the Pushtun. Dr. Mohammed Nasem Zafar, a professor at Kandahar Medical College, estimates that about 50% of the city's male residents have sex with men or boys at some point in their lives. He says the prime age at which boys are attractive to men is from 12 to 16--before their beards grow in. The adolescents sometimes develop medical problems, which he sees in his practice, such as sexually transmitted diseases and sphincter incontinence. So far, the doctor said, AIDS does not seem to be a problem in Afghanistan, probably because the country is so isolated.
"Sometimes when the halekon grow up, the older men actually try to keep them in the family by marrying them off to their daughters," the doctor says. Zafar cites a local mullah whom he caught once using the examination table in the doctor's one-room clinic for sex with a younger man. "If this is our mullah, what can you say for the rest?" Zafar asks.
Richardson, the psychiatry professor, says it would be wrong to call Afghan men homosexual, since their decision to have sex with men is not a reflection of what Westerners call gender identity. Instead, he compares them to prison inmates: They have sex with men primarily because they find themselves in a situation where men are more available as sex partners than are women. "It is something they do," he notes, "not something they are."
Daud, the motorbike repairman, would concur that the segregation of women lies at the heart of the matter.
Daud says his first sexual experience with a man occurred when he was 20, about the time he realized that he would have difficulty marrying. In Pushtun culture, the man has to pay for his wedding and for gifts and clothes for the bride and her family. For many men, the bill tops $5,000--such an exorbitant sum in this impoverished country that some men, including Daud, are dissuaded from even trying.
"I would like to get married, but the economic situation in our country makes it hard," Daud says.
Daud talked about his sex life only in private and after being assured that no photos would be taken.
"I have relations with different boys--some for six months, some for one month. Some are with me for six years," he says. "The problem is also money. If you want to have a relationship with a boy, you have to buy things for him. That's why it's not bad for the boy. Some relationships need a lot of money, some not so much. Sometimes I fix a motorbike and give it to him as a present."
It is not easy to conduct homosexual affairs, he admits. Home is out of the question. "If my father were to find me, he'd kick me out of the house," Daud says. "If you want to have sex, you have to find a secret place. Some go to the mountains or the desert."
Opinions differ as to whether homosexual practices in Kandahar are becoming more open or more closed since the Taliban was defeated. For instance, after anti-Taliban forces arrived in the city in early December, some Westerners reported seeing commanders going about town openly with their halekon. But that has changed in recent weeks since Kandahar's new governor, Gul Agha Shirzai, issued an order banning boys under 18 from living with troops. Officially, the ban is aimed at ending the practice of using children as soldiers.
"It is not that way," says one of the governor's top aides, Engineer Yusuf Pashtun, objecting to the insinuation that the boys may have been used for sex. The governor's order said only that "no boys should be recruited in the army before the age of 18," he adds.
Still, the anti-Taliban commander, who is close to Shirzai, acknowledged that one goal of the order was to keep halekon out of the barracks. The move simply drove the practice underground, he says.
Zafar, the doctor, says that in the community at large the Taliban frightened many men into abstinence. "Under the Taliban, no more than 10% practiced homosexual sex," he says. "But now the government isn't paying attention, so it may go back up to 50%."
But Daud thinks the opposite may happen. If coeducation returns and the dress code for women eases, men will have fewer reasons to seek solace in the beds--or fields or storage rooms--of other men.
"As for me, if I find someone and see she is beautiful, I will send my mother over to her" to ask for her hand in marriage, Daud says. "I'm just waiting to see her."
The Times of London ( http://www.the-times.co.uk )
January 12, 2002
Kandahar comes out of the closet
From Tim Reid in Kandahar
Our correspondent sees the gay capital of South Asia throw off strictures of the Taleban
Now that Taleban rule is over in Mullah Omar's former southern stronghold, it is not only televisions, kites and razors which have begun to emerge. Visible again, too, are men with their 'ashna', or beloveds: young boys they have groomed for sex. Kandahar's Pashtuns have been notorious for their homosexuality for centuries, particularly their fondness for naive young boys. Before the Taleban arrived in 1994, the streets were filled with teenagers and their sugar daddies, flaunting their relationship. It is called the homosexual capital of south Asia. Such is the Pashtun obsession with sodomy - locals tell you that birds fly over the city using only one wing, the other covering their posterior - that the rape of young boys by warlords was one of the key factors in Mullah Omar mobilising the Taleban.
In the summer of 1994, a few months before the Taleban took control of the city, two commanders confronted each other over a young boy whom they both wanted to sodomise. In the ensuing fight civilians were killed.
Omar's group freed the boy and appeals began flooding in for Omar to help in other disputes. By November, Omar and his Taleban were Kandahar's new rulers. Despite the Taleban disdain for women, and the bizarre penchant of many for eyeliner, Omar immediately suppressed homosexuality.
Men accused of sodomy faced the punishment of having a wall toppled on to them, usually resulting in death. In February 1998 three men sentenced to death for sodomy in Kandahar were taken to the base of a huge mud and brick wall, which was pushed over by tank. Two of them died, but one managed to survive. "In the days of the Mujahidin, there were men with their 'ashna' everywhere, at every corner, in shops, on the streets, in hotels: it was completely open, a part of life," said Torjan, 38, one of the soldiers loyal to Kandahar's new governor, Gul Agha Sherzai.
"But in the later Mujahidin years, more and more soldiers would take boys by force, and keep them for as long as they wished. But when the Taleban came, they were very strict about the ban.
Of course, it still happened - the Taleban could not enter every house - but one could not see it." But for the first time since the Taleban fled, in the past three days, one can see the pairs returning: usually a heavily bearded man, seated next to, or walking with, a clean-shaven, fresh faced youth. There appears to be no shame or furtiveness about them, although when approached, they refuse to talk to a western journalist.
"They are just emerging again," Torjan said. "The fighters too now have the boys in their barracks. This was brought to the attention of Gul Agha, who ordered the boys to be expelled, but it continues. The boys live with the fighters very openly. In a short time, and certainly within a year, it will be like pre-Taleban: they will be everywhere."
This Pashtun tradition is even reflected in Pashtun poetry, odes written to the beauty and complexion of an 'ashna', but it is usually a terrible fate for the boys concerned. It is practised at all levels of Pashtun society, but for the poorer men, having an 'ashna' can raise his status.
"When a man sees a boy he likes - the age they like is 15 or 16 - they will approach him in the street and start talking to him, offering him tea," said Muhammad Shah, a shop owner. "Sometimes they go looking in the football stadium, or in the cinema (which has yet to reopen).
"He then starts to give him presents, hashish, or a watch, a ring, or even a motorbike. One of the most valued presents is a fighting pigeon, which can be worth up to $400 (£277). These boys are nearly always innocent, but such is the poverty here, they cannot refuse."
Once the boy falls into the man's clutches - nearly always men with a wife and family - he is marked for life, although the Kandaharis accept these relationships as part of their culture. When driven around, 'ashna' sit in the front passenger seat. The back seat is simply for his friends.
Even the parents of the boys know in their hearts the nature of the relationship, but will tell people that their son is working for the man.
They, like everyone else, will know this is a lie. "They say birds flew with both wings with the Taleban," Muhammad said. "But not any more."
This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/654