Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Lives Shattered by Sexual Abuse

Authorities say that incidents of young boys being kidnapped and abused by commanders may actually be increasing.
By Wahidullah Noori

The troubling practice of powerful commanders kidnapping and sexually abusing young boys appears to be continuing in Afghanistan, despite efforts to build a civil society.

And according to at least one expert in the field, the problem may be getting worse.

Abdullah, 13, who lives at the Child Correction Centre, a facility run by the justice ministry, told IWPR what it was like to be subjected to such abuse.

"I was abducted about three months ago in Baghlan city," the youth said, holding back tears.

"First I was held at command headquarters and later at the commander's house. The conditions were barbaric.

"The first time he wanted to take me I fought back. But he was a giant with great strong hands and tied my hands and feet before throwing himself at me."

Abdullah says that, during the next few weeks, he was raped by 10 to 15 of the commander's male relatives.

"I was tired and disgusted with my life and would have preferred death,” he said.

"One day when we were alone in the house I discovered his rifle. I shot him dead and fled and took shelter with the older boys of the region,” he said. “They took me to the police and I have been [at the shelter] for one month."

There are currently 12 residents at the centre, all under 18, who have been either the victims or perpetrators of abuse.

Shafiqa, 17, is another resident at the facility.

"My brother was being kept for sex at the home of a commander in Baghlan province," she said. "In order to win more favour with the commander, my brother asked me to attend a party at the house.

"When I was there, I was raped by the commander's brother and now my family doesn't want me at home."

Abdul Ghafoor Baseem, chief of Baghlan's human rights department, fears the problem may be getting worse.

He said that in November he received 12 reports of child rape in the province, a number he described as “unprecedented”.

"This phenomenon, especially with gunmen being involved, is a very serious threat to children,” he said. "And the number of cases that go unreported is unthinkable. We pass on some of these reports to the police but they don't appear to be taking much action."

Baseem disagrees with the practice of placing abused children in correction centres.

"I feel that they could easily fall victims in the very places where they should feel safe," he said. "The best way is for them to reunited with their families and if their families are not prepared to take them back, then the government must take care of them."

General General Faziluddin Alyar, security commander of Baghlan, confirmed he had received reports about these crimes, and said he would undertake investigations into the cases.

Wahidullah Noori is a freelance reporter based in Mazar-e-Sharif.