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Initially banned by the Taliban, the practice is making a come-back as wealthy merchants and armed illegal groups create growing demand, and increased poverty and homeless children create growing supply. Boys are generally lured or abducted and become the property of an ‘owner’. Although generally released at the age of eighteen, after years of exploitation they find it hard to build a new life.

massacred. He returned to his ancestral country for the first time after September 11 2001, when the Taliban regime was still in Kandahar, despite the United States-led campaign to oust them. After visiting the devastation and destruction of twenty-three years of war, Batoor decided to work for his country and draw the world’s attention to the plight of the Afghani people. He chose photography as his medium of expression.

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There is great denial by ‘owners’ that their boys are subject to abuse; however, after their performances many boys can be sexually abused by a group of men. The United Nations attempted to increase awareness of the issue in 2009, but faced a significant challenge in a conservative country that shuns homosexuality. The Bacha Bazi has deep cultural roots and the abuse is hidden. Therefore, attempting to change something that is not acknowledged can be almost impossible.

Batoor Started photography in 2002 and launched his first solo exhibition in 2007. His photographs were exhibited in Denmark, Dubai, Australia, Pakistan, Italy, Japan, Switzerland and Afghanistan. His works have been published in magazines, newspapers and catalogues such as the Washington Post, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, Stern, India Today, Afghan Scene, Risk Magazine, The Global Mail, The West Australian, Strategic Review and others. He participated in ‘Lahore Artist Residency’ in Pakistan and was the 2009 recipient of a photography grant from New York’s Open Society Institute for the project of ‘Child Trafficking in Afghanistan/The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan’. At the Nikon-Walkley Awards in Australia this year, Batoor won Photo of the Year and was a winner in the Photo Essay category. To see more of Batoor’s work please visit his website http://bit.ly/1yC58gI

To battle this abusive ritual a strong campaign needs to emerge pushing for laws to protect the boys, and punishment for the culprits. Unfortunately it will not be an easy battle as victims generally refuse to report their abuse for fear of stigma, honour killings or retaliation. The artist who captured these images of the Bacha Bazi ritual is Barat Ali Batoor. He was born in 1983 to a family that was driven out of Afghanistan during civil war when most if his people were 14

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The 3rd edition of AM-UNITY magazine is out now! Just click on the magazine cover on the left to view our latest edition - in it we explore...

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