Barat Ali Batoor, recipient of a Documentary Photography Project Production Grant, focused his project on bacha bazi (literally “boy play”) in Afghanistan, a practice in which young boys are sold to and kept by male patrons—often powerful warlords, former military commanders, and wealthy businessmen—for entertainment at private gatherings, for use as sexual objects, and as a sign of prestige. The bacha bereesh (meaning “boy without a beard”) range in age from as young as 11 to 18 and are trained to dance and sing in women’s clothing, with bells tied to their feet.
As many are abducted into the practice or are sold by their families, orphaned, homeless, and underprivileged boys are particularly vulnerable. Although illegal in Afghanistan and condemned as a form of child trafficking and sexual slavery, prohibition of bacha bazi is rarely enforced, as many of its patrons hold positions of power and influence.
Batoor documented the lives of former bacha bereesh in Kabul who were able to escape their owners. In doing so, Batoor aims to shed light on not only how the ancient practice of bacha bazi has been revived, but also how it has affected these youth over time.