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Three Afghan schools, 165 accounts of students being raped

  • Published at 12:31 am November 27th, 2019
Logar province- Afghanistan
The accusations in Logar province, pictured in 2018 Twitter

In a 2018 report, the United Nations documented 78 cases of sexual assault against boys in Afghanistan

The 14-year-old Afghan boy said his teacher had asked him for “a little favour” in return for not failing him on his final exams. Then the man took him to the school library, locked the door and raped him, the boy said.

At the same school, a 17-year-old boy reported similar treatment from the school’s principal. He said the man had threatened to kill him if he told anyone.

But the boys did talk, giving their accounts to a child advocacy group in their province and repeating them later in interviews with The New York Times. 

The advocacy group discovered that those two boys were not the only victims. From just three schools in one area of Logar Province, south of the Afghan capital, the group said it had taken statements from 165 boys who said they had been sexually abused at their schools, or by local officials they went to for help.

Now, Afghanistan is again caught up in discussion of rampant sexual abuse of children, and of a deep reluctance by many officials to deal with the issue at all.

After talking with the Tolo news channel about the investigation, the leader of the Logar advocacy group, Mohammad Musa, and a colleague, Ehsanullah Hamidi, were detained by Afghanistan’s national intelligence agency late last week, the group says.

On Monday, former President Hamid Karzai said that if verified, the detention of Musa by the intelligence agency was “a very wrong thing.”

A spokesman for the National Directorate of Security declined to comment Monday. Musa has not been reachable for comment since late Thursday.

‘Boy play’

It is unclear whether the cases at the three schools are related. But the prevalence of systematic sexual abuse of boys in Afghanistan has been a problem for generations. 

Bacha bazi — it means boy play — is common among men in powerful positions who keep boys as sex slaves. Bacha bazi boys are forced to dress as girls and to dance for men before being raped. Sometimes the boys are prostituted to the highest bidder.

In an interview with The New York Times this month, Musa said that his group — the Logar Youth, Social and Civil Institution — began intensively investigating after a troubling Facebook post in May that showed men with boys in sexual positions. One video provided by the group shows a teenage boy dancing barefoot for about two dozen men who stand or sit in a circle around him.

The Logar group began methodically talking to students in the area, finding dozens who said they had been raped. Many of their accounts were confirmed by teachers or other people in the area, who along with four of the boys were also interviewed by The Times.

As the accounts unfolded, at least seven boys who said they had been raped were found dead,

Musa said, that the advocacy group took the boys’ statements to Logar provincial police, but that no action was taken. He said several boys who had agreed to be questioned by the police were subsequently raped by officers.

The Logar provincial governor, Mohammad Anwar Ashaqzai, said officials were examining boys’ statements provided by the advocacy group. He said he was not aware of any rapes in the province’s schools.

Still, in response to the group’s accusations, the Ministry of Education in Kabul said on November 14 that it was sending a delegation to the province to investigate.

In Logar, Shafiullah Afghanzai, the executive officer of Hamid Karzai high school, where the 14-year-old and the 17-year-old said they had been raped, told The Times that the school’s headmaster had been transferred to another district earlier this year after he was accused of sexually assaulting a boy.

Hassibullah Stanikzai, the head of the Logar provincial council, said the bodies of several boys had been found in areas of Logar under Taliban control. But he said there was no evidence that their deaths were related to sexual assault.

Musa, of the advocacy group, said 25 families abandoned their homes in shame after their sons said they had been raped. In some cases, he said, the boys’ faces had been visible in images on the anonymous Facebook page before it was taken down.

In several cases, boys had been banished from home by their fathers, he said.

Mohammad Qasim Sediqqi, a member of the Logar provincial council, said there was no evidence of widespread rape in schools. “Maybe there are one or two cases, because this is Afghanistan and crime exists everywhere,” he said.

In a 2018 report, the United Nations documented 78 cases of sexual assault against boys in Afghanistan, adding, “Impunity for perpetrators remains a serious challenge.”