Anuj Chopra reports that the Taliban are using child sex slaves to mount crippling insider attacks on police in southern Afghanistan, exploiting the pervasive practice of bacha bazi – paedophilic ‘boy play’ – prevalent inHelmand.
This sickening practice, condemned by the Taliban, is prevalent across Helmand where young boys become the object of lustful attraction for powerful police commanders. ISAF not only failed to stamp out this vile bent but also shamefully excused it as ancient custom. The Nahr-E-Saraj District Chief of Police was no exception:
“Next on the list was the District Chief of Police, the appropriately abbreviated D‑CoP, Ghullie Khan. Like his boss the Governor, the D‑CoP was predictably involved in the narcotics business. To supplement this income he also used the Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) department he commanded to collect illegal taxes from local citizens. There were a number of ISAF apologists who defended this unlawful activity as ‘culturally normal’. I even read a paper on the subject, quite possibly published by the DCSU, the same organisation that had come up with the wizard idea of FEOs and then assigned them male interpreters.
Personally, I was deeply sceptical of this point of view. The truth was that ISAF seemed powerless to prevent the endemic corruption that pervaded every level of the AUP, and not a little ashamed that the primary source of these illegal taxes was a levy on the use of the main highways that bisected the district – all of which had been funded at great expense with international aid.
No one in ISAF was really sure how much the illegal taxation business was worth in Nahr‑E‑Saraj but it wasn’t petty cash. Ghullie Khan had previously been a senior police officer in the neighbouring district of Sangin. He had been removed from this post after an ISAF investigation revealed that he’d been sodomizing little boys there. In the wake of this scandal his boss, Nabi Elham – the Provincial Chief of Police – naturally promoted him to be top cop in Nahr‑E‑Saraj, although it was rumoured that he’d first demanded a bribe of half a million US dollars.
There were ISAF papers defending paedophilia and bribery as culturally normal activities too, although I didn’t waste any time reading them. Culturally normal or not, I reckoned that the citizens of those countries that had helped to fund the district’s new highways would be dismayed to learn that they were now being used to line the pockets of a known pederast, drug baron and all round bad guy.
Ghullie’s favourite son, Zaibiullah was a chip off the old block and had followed his father into the AUP. When a local shopkeeper failed to pay his taxes on time he tied his arms and legs together and drowned him into the Nahr‑E‑Buhgra canal to teach him a lesson. Such was Zaibiullah’s intellect that it was possible to imagine him warning the drowning man that next time he failed to pay Zaibiullah would put a bullet in his head.
It was just as possible to imagine some obscure ISAF department publishing a paper defending drowning as a culturally normal method of deterrence in much the same way that waterboarding was a culturally normal interview technique in the United States.
Neither Ghullie Khan’s parenting skills, nor his predilection for underage boys, nor any of the myriad illegal activities over which he presided as the district’s chief upholder of law and order did much to temper his indignation when he learned of the Qur’an burnings.
However, unlike their Governor or their Police Chief, and despite our worst fears, the residents of Gereshk seemed unmoved by the turmoil engulfing the rest of the country. We waited with bated breath but much to our surprise there were no violent demonstrations, the bazaars remained open, and even the local Taliban’s attempts to exploit the situation seemed half‑hearted.
If I’d thought there was any chance I could pull it off I would have attributed this muted response to my brilliant engagement plan, but even I had to admit that this was unlikely. There were other forces at work here.
In stark contrast, a few months later angry protests ensued following a series of mysterious child abductions. The most likely explanation was that the D‑CoP had resumed his paedophile activities and this was certainly what the citizens of Gereshk appeared to have concluded. Directing most of their anger towards him in a number of emergency shuras, they demanded that he return their children and bugger off, literally, back from where he came.
In MOB Price our intelligence analysts scratched their heads in wonder. What were the citizens of Gereshk so upset about? Surely child abduction was just another one of those culturally normal activities that we Westerners couldn’t get our heads around?
We were at a loss as to what all the fuss was about and lobbied hard for Ghullie Khan to keep his job. Yes, he was a terrible father; yes, he was corrupt; yes, he was a kiddy fiddler; yes, he was facilitating the illicit opium trade but his Danish Civilian Police mentors assured us he was still much better than the last guy, or than any of his potential successors.”
SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is the unauthorised, unvarnished and irreverent story of one man’s midlife crisis on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan where the locals haven’t forgiven the British for the occupation of 1842 or for the Russian Invasion of 1979. Of course, all infidels look the same so you can’t really tell them apart.