When American and British marines started returning from the war in Afghanistan in early 2002, they brought along with them curious stories about Afghanistan’s peasants who put on make-up and consistently followed them around or even sexually abused them. This was a very shocking experience for the soldiers.
- They were more terrifying than the al-Qaeda. One bloke who had painted toenails was offering to paint ours. They go about hand in hand, mincing around the village – a terrified marine, James Fletcher, told the Scotsman upon returning from Afghanistan.
- We were pretty shocked. We discovered from the Afghan soldiers we had with us that a lot of men in this country have the same philosophy as ancient Greeks: ‘a woman for babies, a man for pleasure’ – Fletcher continued recounting his experience.
For every Pashtun there is an Ashna
After the fall of the repressive Taliban regime in which homosexuality, sodomy and generally any kind of relations outside of marriage between a man and a woman were punishable by death, Afghans have finally become free to enjoy homosexual relationships that have been an integral part of their culture for several centuries.
In the city of Kandahar, which is considered the gay capital of Southern Asia, there is an ancient custom among the ethnic Pashtun people. An adult man picks a young boy, a teenager, called an “ashna” and gives him money and presents in turn for sexual favours. This Pashtun tradition is even represented in their poetry, in odes written about the beauty of young “ashnas”. This is a tradition that is present in all facets of society, practiced by the rich and poor alike. The parents of young boys who are sex slaves are usually aware of their sons’ relations with their “sugar daddies”. And although their parents keep this a secret from others, they do not contest the custom. Especially if the Pashtun is rich.
You can see some Afghanistan male couples HERE.
Traditional dancing in women’s clothing
Such a form of prostitution has been quite widespread in recent years due to poverty among teenagers and the strict rules that forbid any contact among singles of the opposite sex. American Fox writes that in 1994 two Afghanistan officers got into a fight over a boy they both took a liking to. The government even had to pass a law forbidding Afghan soldiers from living with their “ashnas”. After the Taliban regime, the Afghanistan Supreme Court ruled homosexuality illegal and sodomy punishable by death. But in reality, nobody will lose their life because of homosexual relations. Rather, they will be given long-term prison sentences or just get away with a fine, which is a very lenient punishment in this Islamic country.
The British wrote about gay love in Kabul as far as a century and a half back, which is proof that homosexuality was pretty widespread even back then. Some gay tourist guides claim that there used to be stores in Kandahar which held pets that were considered gay symbols, quails, for example. There are even customs in which, during wedding ceremonies, entertainers dress up in women’s clothing and dance traditional dances. The local population says that birds fly above the city using only one wing. They use other wing to cover their derrieres. Taliban leader Mullah Omar curried favour with Taliban officers by offering them young boys.
Contact with a woman is taboo; contact with a man is not
There are no organised gay associations in Afghanistan, but contrary to many Western countries, men can freely walk the streets holding hands. This was especially shocking for foreign troops who became fascinating for the Afghan men. Armed and ready to engage in conflicts with Al-Qaeda, the only conflicts the foreign troops had were with local men who only wanted to stroke their hair.
- It was hell. Every village we went into we got a group of men wearing make-up coming up, stroking our hair and cheeks and making kissing noises – 20-year-old Corporal Paul Richard uttered.
One can only speculate about the roots of sodomy and homosexuality in Afghanistan because the fact is that a long-standing tradition is always the result of various factors. Some claim that the main reason for this is the ban of any contact between men and women who are not married, while men constantly spend time together.
Most indigent boys do not even know what a woman’s body looks like until they are married. And marriage is a very expensive endeavour in Afghanistan – the dowry usually consists of several average Afghanistan salaries, which only a few can afford.
Taking into consideration the reports of Western marines, much is forbidden in Afghanistan. But it would not be surprising if in a few years’ time Kandahar throws its first gay parade.