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Afghan rape sparks arrests

In a country torn between the govt and the militants, a dead boy's family has stood up against ritualised sexual assault by the security forces
Child abuse has become ritualised: One practice, in which powerful men molest young boys and force them to dress and dance in girls’ clothing, is widely known as bacha bazi, or boy play.

David Zucchino , Taimoor Shah   |   Kabul   |   Published 10.10.20, 12:03 AM

It started as a dispute between boys: Naseebullah Barakzai, 13, was irked when a neighbour boy stole fruit and ripped limbs from his family’s pomegranate tree, and he shoved the younger boy to the ground, relatives say.

Just two days later, Naseebullah was dead, and his village, in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, was in an uproar. His family and other residents accuse an influential police checkpoint commander of taking the other boy’s side and abducting and raping Naseebullah, fatally injuring him.

It is the kind of sexual assault that has run rampant within the Afghan security forces. And in other forms, child abuse has become ritualised: One practice, in which powerful men molest young boys and force them to dress and dance in girls’ clothing, is widely known as bacha bazi, or boy play.

Poor families have suffered for years as commanders and their men have preyed on them, part of a broader culture of corruption in the security forces that led to efforts to reform the military and police.

In the case of Naseebullah, though, public outrage appears to be forcing a rare reckoning.

Naseebullah’s family, backed by a throng of elders from the village of Karezak, marched into the offices of Kandahar’s governor, Hayatullah Hayat, to demand justice and the arrest of the police commander, First Lieutenant Mullah Roozi Khan, last month. And it worked: The government quickly arrested Lieutenant Khan and six of his officers, who are in jail while an official investigation is underway to determine whether to charge them.

Naseebullah’s mother and brother said that Lieutenant Khan and his men abducted, beat and raped the sixth-grader, who was dumped the next day at a hospital. They said hospital officials told them that Naseebullah had suffered severe internal injuries before he died, on September 18, and that the men who dropped him off claimed that he had fallen from a roof.

But the doctor who operated on the boy, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that he had observed extensive internal injuries consistent with forced penetration.

The allegations against the commander test the jurisdiction of Afghanistan’s American-backed government, which holds limited sway in provinces outside Kabul. As Afghan and Taliban negotiators discuss a possible peace deal, the militants are still conducting attacks nationwide, exposing the government’s inability to protect its citizens in violently contested provinces like Kandahar.

Under these circumstances, the dead boy’s family and neighbours are demanding government action in a district nominally under government control.

New York Times News Service

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