Prentiss Riddle: Travel

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Gay Afghans or homophobic westerners?

A news report from The Scotsman claims that British marines in rural Afghanistan are regularly propositioned by "swarms of gay local farmers". One marine was quoted, "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." The marines were also startled by attempted kisses and invitations to dance. `"It was hell," said Corporal Paul Richard, 20. "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."' (Via New World Disorder.)

Am I the only one who finds this interpretation implausible? I know that men in many Middle Eastern cultures kiss, hold hands and caress one another without overt sexual connotations. I have seen photos of Afghan men (Taliban soldiers, in fact), wearing traditional kohl or eyeliner without any implication of cross-dressing. I'm doubtful that same-sex dancing or even (gasp) toenail polish necessarily proves homosexuality in an Afghan context. Were the British marines imposing their own sexual stereotypes on the scene? Were their Afghan Army interpreters pulling their legs? I'd have to hear more to believe this story.

It also puts an interesting light on a claim Jeffrey Goldberg published in the New Yorker last year, and repeated in a Fresh Air interview. He says that when he visited a radical Muslim madrasa in Pakistan in 2000, the young male students repeatedly propositioned him and his photographer (also male) for sex. He ascribes this to the prison-like atmosphere ("when you take 2800 young men and keep them entirely away from women...") and the students' exaggerated ideas of American licentiousness ("they expected that in the anything-goes American climate, I'd be ready to have sex [with them]"). But was he, too, misinterpreting signals from his interviewees?

Maybe only the students and the farmers know for sure. A Google search for gay Afghanistan turns up an astonishing 85,000 hits. Among them is this thoughtful piece about an "indigenous and hidden homosexual tradition" in Afghanistan. But nothing in the piece seems to correspond to a rural gay scene with cross-dressing and discos, as evoked by the Scotsman.

travel 2002.05.29 link


Prentiss-- I'm with you, actually. I tend to doubt the article's veracity. Although homosexuality in Afghanistan is as certain as sunshine, the tone of the piece just seems too tabloidy to be believed.

mat • 2002.05.30
Someone, now I've forgotten who, referred me to this article on Afghan homosexuality from the LA Times (registration required). More illuminating detail, but still nothing that corroborates the Scotsman's report.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle ARROBA io PUNTO com] • 2002.06.04
??? I've read the piece in question, and I thought it was meant strictly as a satirical Onion-esque piece. You mean folks are *truly* taking it seriously? Oy.

Clay Colwell [eris ARROBA io PUNTO com] • 2002.06.04
I've heard that it is extremely common in Afghanistan for adult men to have sex with boys, and even that some of the fights between warlords were in fact over teenage boys. However, I can't remember the source of this, sorry.

Afghanistan isn't the only place where restrictions on contact with women lead to male/male relationships. This was also true among Buddhist monks in traditional Tibetan society. (An account of this is found in "The Struggle for Modern Tibet" by by Siebenschuh, Tsering, & Goldstein.)

However, in Tibet actual penetration was still taboo. This does not seem to be the case in Afghanistan, given that a doctor interviewed in the LA Times article said he treated boys for sphincter incontinence.

Judy Serenity [judy ARROBA theserenity PUNTO com] • 2002.06.12
I am afghan, in my countery about 90% man are gay. They look at cute boys more than a good looking women.

Masood [masoodafg31 cxe yahoo punkto com] • 2004.06.22
I too am an Afghan and It is ridiculous to hear such people as MR. Masood, whom probably is Gay himself since 90 % of his country men are gay...but that is another story, I too am an Afghan and yes it is traditionally true that in certain parts of Afghanistan, unfortunately, cute boys are worth more than cute girls....and it is a very bad misconception that if a Male inserts his penis in another male, than it is not concidered homosexuality, rather, it is a symbol of manhood and having power...I wouldn't doubt that if an American or a westerner who happens to have blonde hair and blue eyes, they are worth some $$$$ if you will, but people will never ever polish their nails or cross dress no matter how low he may be, there is still some dignity that people will not do such things...Thanks..

Submitor [xy cxe yahoo punkto com] • 2004.07.05
you may all want to take a look at my website:
I am a gay journalist who has been all over Afghanistan.


Mike [mtluongo cxe aol punkto com] • 2004.09.13
My friend recently returned from his tour of duty in Afghanistan and said there was something called "Man Love Thursday", and seemed to think that homosexuality had some place in Afghan culture. Though, he didn't mention being propositioned or seeing Afghan males exhibiting what Westerners would consider female behavior or dress.

Matt [matthu185 cxe hotmail punkto com] • 2004.09.23
I am a Westerner living and working in Afghanistan, and Afghans routinely discuss sex between men without making any moral judgments. It is just a fact of life here. I have even been told that 80 percent of adult men in Kandahar and Logar provinces engage in same-sex activity on a fairly regular basis. No one cares. And it is not true that it is "caused" by the unavailability of women, as most of the adult men who engage in it are married anyway -- sometimes to more than one wife.

Stephen [stephen_bgn cxe yahoo punkto com] • 2004.12.24
hi friends
i am from quetta, we like male sex but we can,t open ourself due to religious they will kall gays.
there i request to all euroean society to fight for gay right in pakistan

loyal khan [northstar_122001 cxe yahoo punkto com] • 2005.01.02
Was Brazil's hero Tiradentes gay? Sources?

wallywally [lifelonged cxe hotmail punkto com] • 2005.01.06
Tiradentes was gay? That's news to me, but then all I knew about him was that he was a dentist.

Google turns up this reference:

"As mulheres do Alferes": "o historiador Márcio Jardim afirma que Tiradentes tinha tendências homossexuais", O Estado de Minas, 25-5-1998.

Since there are claims that Abraham Lincoln was gay and Sam Houston was a practicing transvestite, I suppose anything is possible.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2005.01.06
hi, I'm an afghan girl and i'm from kandahar. Well believe it or not, but that is true. There is too many afghan gays, specially in Kandahar. Many fights happened not because of woman but because of men. What my mam tells me its like that because in Kandahar woman not allowed to even show their face to the guy and i;m not even talking about body. So thats why we have too many gays because the woman wouldnt have a sex with them and if some one finds out about prostetudes she would be killed. If you gay dont go to afghanistan cause you gonna be killed if many people finds out ,

Guldastaka [i_dont_know cxe hotmail punkto com] • 2005.06.06
i am aman and i belongs from quetta.
if you nows that alot of boys from our area they are sexy, and they realy want sexywomans but they can't find that. so at the movement they taks some more actions wich are very dangerious for their helth. and some of them they have put themselves behind love wich is lai.
and they can never find a girl and no any one wil love them. there is no any love in our area all fo them they going to complete their personal wishes.

amanullah [alaman cxe inbox punkto com] • 2005.11.08
i am from afghanistan living in uk, i am gay so i am prude of myself to be a gay, alot of afghan people thinks this is not right but i think those people are absolutely mad and they dont know about sexuality and human being so its right to gay or stright it all about the persone how to be born so you suckers dont say anything wrong about gay

yama [samsouth cxe hotmail punkto co punkto uk] • 2006.05.31
One afghan was going with his western friend. They saw a hot chic. The western said What a hot chic she is. Afghan said if she so hot imagine how hot her brother would be. LOL>

A joke about afghan [hehe ahaha] • 2006.08.03
Dear Readers

It shouldn't be a surprise to you to find a well established gay community in Afghanitan. I'm working on behalf of many unrepresented Gay Afghans to bring justice and equality, please make donations via Al-Fatiha Organisation.
Gay Afghanistan is a charitable organisation started in Paris. Massoud WAISI

Massoud WAISI [m punkto waisi cxe yahoo punkto fr] • 2007.01.23
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