Prostitution Under the rule of Taliban
RAWA report, August 1999
What you are about to read by no means gives a panoramic picture of the suffering and misery of the most victimized, the most deprived and the most trampled section of the agonized people of Afghanistan -in particular of its ravished capital city, Kabul. The report which follows only serves to highlight the following points:
- Contrary to the ludicrous assertions of Taliban and Jihadi criminals, the savageries of the “Islamic State” and of its substitute “Islamic Emirate” of Afghanistan have not only not had the slightest impact on reducing prostitution -this gross violation of women's rights- in the country, their “pious” criminality have increased the flesh trade by leaps and bounds.
- Once again, in contradiction of the Taliban and Jihadi fundamentalist bands’ ridiculously childish opinionating, the scourge of AIDS knows no national or religious boundaries. HIV infection has long since infiltrated Afghan society and is rife especially among prostitutes where it claims unmarked and un-remarked silent victims. The fundamentalist rulers of Afghanistan are too insensibly ignorant to appreciate the threat of AIDS. In their puerile, arrogant “erudition”, they believe that by chanting their refrain-word “Islam”, their Sharia will perform a miracle and fundamentalist-contaminated Afghanistan will be AIDS-free!
- The “Islamic Emirate” with its perpetual pitching of the banner of “Islam” and “Sharia law” on each and every infamy, including stoning to death and arbitrary executions, can never hope to provide a cure for festering social ills, prostitution in particular. As we have asserted time and again, they can only worsen the situation.
- One of the unforgivable crimes of each and every stooge regime -from Taraki to Najib-is the propagation of prostitution and the physical, mental, and moral devastation of Afghan women. The Jihadi criminals elevated this disgrace to its acme. The more the Taliban hypocrites wrap themselves up in Islam and Sharia law, the more distinguished they become in shame and infamy. The fundamentalists and their sympathizers put prostitutes forward as a defiled, untouchable group in their “pure Islamic” society and believe that the “purity” of their illusory “pure” society lies in persecution and annihilation of prostitutes. It behoves our noble and patriotic intellectuals to point out in no uncertain terms that whatever ignominy that may be associated with the shameful flesh trade is a reflection of the mark of shame and disgrace branded onto the foreheads of fundamentalist rulers. These despicable rulers are most worthy of all contempt as they are the source and the cause of all social scourges, including prostitution, in our mortally wounded country.
Taliban arrival has increased the social and especially the economical problems of Afghan women. The women of Afghanistan live under monstrous oppression of both Jehadi and Taliban fundamentalists in disastrous situations where most of their basic human rights are denied of them. The Taliban denial of women to have a job has created a flood of unemployed women in Kabul. These unemployed women face serious financial problems and as a natural consequence their children suffer from hunger, malnutrition, different illnesses and a chronic state of poverty. Most of them has have lost their last resorts of income and have sold most of their possession to buy food. Those who could afford leaving the country have done so, and those who could not are making the bulk of beggars in our country. A large number of these beggars are ex teachers and civil servants.
Bad state of economy especially in Kabul has hit hard the pity income of these beggars. The ban on female beggars to enter shops, inns and other trading premises is even further affected their income forcing a number of them to enter into prostitution for their survival, and survival of their children.
A large number of young widows who are the sole breadwinner of their families and with all doors of opportunity closed on their face are joining prostitution as well.
According to a preliminary research on the problem there are hundreds of new prostitutes joining the ranks of professional ones. These women are mostly working from their houses termed as “Qala”s. As the income from begging is declining for women the number of prostitutes are increasing. Only in Kabul city there are 25 to 30 brothels actively working which, for security reason, are constantly shifting residence every one or two months. Following is a brief report gathered form some of these brothels in Taimany, Hashuqan-o-Harifan, Qala-e-Zaman Kan, and qul-e-abchakan areas of Kabul:
Each of these brothels has three to five women working and living in them. Some of the terms they use are; “Kharabati” for prostitute, “khala kharabati” for an old woman managing the work of the brothel, “Qala” for the brothel and “Qala dar” for their pimps. The environment is usually hostile and there are arguments and fights over clients. Each Qala has two to three Qala-dars and a khala-kharabati. The male pimps mediate between the prostitutes and their customers. The old women are managing the internal affairs of the Qala; collect money from the clients, prepare food and do other chores around the Qala. Clients either come into the Qala or the women visit the clients house. A third way is through a taxi. Because of its security risk this way is more difficult as the Taliban has banned the use of a taxi without a “muharam” (close male relative). Therefore the prostitute take a 6-9 year old boy with them if they want to work through a taxi. These children are usually witnessing the acts. It has been said that these children are being asked for sexual acts as well. A woman, M. H, told us, “ one day I decided to work through a taxi, along Salang-wat Rd the taxi driver signaled two turban wearing men. The two men got on the taxi and we went to Silo area. In their house they raped my eight-year-old son. I could not do anything. My destitute blackened the life of my son.” Working through taxies is harder. Sometimes the women go without a client for days. Taxi drivers usually don’t want to take the risk and get involved.
Women who are not members of a Qala are considered a security risk as they may report them to Taliban. The women who work in a Qala usually carry three types of identity cards. One id, showing them as a widower with children, is used to get aid from UN offices or Red Cross. These Ids are not used a lot as they change place quickly and don’t want to get involved with the local officials. Another id, showing them as a married woman, is used for renting houses and so on. If Taliban arrests them for Zena (crime of sex outside marriage) they use their third id showing them as a single women. Being single helps them avoid being stoned to death. As an example last year a women, (SH), resident of Gala-e-Mussa was arrested for Zena. She spent two and half month in Taliban’s jail. Finally she paid six million Afghanis bribe to the judge of military court (Abdur Rahman Aqa) and were freed after receiving eighty strokes of lashes. She said, “Mula Abdur Rahman (the military judge) receives bribes not only from prostitutes but from pick pockets and gamblers. Sharia (Islamic Law) is applied only on those who can not pay.”
60% of the money that the clients of these women pay goes to their pimps and the old women working for them. Fear of Taliban has reduced the number of clients. The average ages of these women are from 20 to 35 years. The hygiene of the their working environment is quite bad. A large number of these women are infected with chancre, syphilis, skin irritations and possibly aids. Aids might have been brought here by those traders who spend months in Arab countries and have visited brothels their. Due to present unfavorable conditions these women can not visit the doctors or use contraceptive pills. The traditional and old techniques put them in risk and often cause medical problems.
In addition to above problems the clients create headaches as well. (P) (Due to security reasons their names have been omitted) who is not more than 30 says, “what can I do? This is my fate. I was starving and that turned me into a prostitute. Men should have some compassion. Our clients are cruel. In exchange of 200,000 Afghanis they wants us to follow each and every whim them. They force us to smoke hashish, which has turned some of us into addicts. Some clients expect us to do unnatural acts or other stuff…. Some clients leave with out paying, for not accepting their demands. Most of our clients are gamblers but there are good people among them too, like travelers or people who have problem at home. Now a days most of our clients are turban wearers. If we do not follow their whims (which are mostly to organize pederasty with young boys or unnatural sexual acts with women) they introduce themselves as Taliban and claim that they have come to discover brothels in the area. F tells her story “ a client, who introduced himself as Mula Salim Akhund (Taliban) said he was working in the local police station and asked for anal sex. He said he would pay as much as we wanted. The request was not accepted and he left the Qala. On March 1999 I was arrested by few armed men outside my house and was taken to “Wulaiat” (police headquarter) and had to spend 20 days in Kabul’s women jail. I was finally freed on lack of any substantial evidence. However I was given seven lashes before being freed.”
Most of the complaints are against “turban wearers” who are Pashto speaking Taliban. This is because of their rough manners, not paying enough or threatening as they leave the “Qala” and sometimes they enjoy torturing the women working there.
The mediator for one of these houses in Hashuqan-o-Harifan, (MI) tells his story “Need and destitution forced me into this notorious work. My first wife is dead and my second wife and I have four children. I was working in a government office as messenger but after the Taliban I didn’t get paid for six months and didn’t have any other income. My kids were hungry and ill. Finding no other way I interred into this job which is not with its dangers. A few days ago I was bashed by two clients and then robbed of my money as I was accompanying them back out of the area along a graveyard.
R, who is around sixty years old and whom the women around house call Ko-ko is an experienced woman who manages the affairs of the house. She keeps contact with other houses and gets her money from each woman. She was a cleaner in a Kabul hospital before and in her youth she was a prostitute. She tells her story “during Najeeb’s regime our Qala was discovered and I was put in jail. When they learned that I was a cleaner in one of the hospital they asked me to work as a spy for them which I accepted and they let me free. I was spying for them for a while when the ward manager asked me to solicit sex from the nurses for him, for which I received good money. A couple of nurses fell into his trap. Those nurses were later recruited into KHAD's 11th branch, however a third nursed reported the whole thing to the head of the hospital who then fired me.” She added, “all the women who had worked with me have their own stories. Each had been forced to this line of work, no one is satisfied with this work”
With Ko-ko’s help we listened to the stories of some of the women in one of the Qalas in Hashuqan-o-Harifan.
There are a number of Qalas in Hazrat St in Hashuqan-o-Harifan. In one of these houses four women by the names Sh, L, P and Z are working during different times. The house is manages by Ko-ko and a man (MI).
(SH), tells her story as follow “My name is (SH), and my father’s name is M, S. I am originally from Kohistan in Parwan Province. Other women in this Qala call me P, G. my father worked in the Construction Company of Kabul. I lived with my two brothers, mother and an aunt in a very poor family. My father’s wage wasn’t enough and we were living by borrowing money from the people we knew. In 1977 I graduated from high school. One of my brothers left school unfinished and went to Iran. My father was the only breadwinner of the family and he asked me to find a job. At that time it was hard for a woman to find a job. My father and I had to look for work and after a long time we managed to find a job in the ministry of public work. The minister at the time was Faeq who was from Saidkhail of Parwan and us being from the same region he employed me in one of the sections headed by Baqaie. Baqaie was from Panjshair, one day he asked me into his office and said, “if you do as I tell you I will give you a raise and a 56 kg regular coupon”. Because I got the job for economical reasons at the first place and I wasn’t aware of his bad intentions I thought maybe the minister has ordered this out of kindness, being from his province and all. However one day he said something to me which made me quite nervous and I left his office without mentioning anything to anyone. Another day when I went to his office two other women who were working there warned me about Baqaie’s bad intention however before I could leave the office the minister interred the office and asked me to stay and thanked Baqaie for his services.
That day I got to eat with the minister and drunk something that I had not drunk before. Being affected by the presence of the minister and the drink, I was almost unconscious when Faeq (the minister) raped me. However that wasn’t the last time it happened to me but repeated more than hundred times. I got pregnant. My mother learned about it and told my father. My father beat me and wanted to kill me but my mother stopped him. She told him that he’ll go to prison and then my father wanted to kill himself because he wasn’t able to do anything to that minister. The minister told me to stopped coming to his section for a while and paid me 1500 Afghanis. I went to a gynecologist however the gynecologist was saying that abortion is a sin. After I begged him he said he would do it if I paid him 5500 Afghanis and a ring that I was wearing. That doctor also raped me before the abortion. The abortion took a week to be completed. My colleagues learned about everything and were offering their sympathy.” While intensely crying she added “I asked for a loan from the ministry to pay the 5500 which owed but the request was denied. My salary wasn’t enough for the house expenses. I wasn’t able to pay the rent, the electricity bill and so on. I was finally pushed into prostitution. One day when I was going to Sarai Hazar Gull a cloth seller by the name of Zahir stared at me. After a while we established a relation. I told him about everything. He promised me that he would pay all of my debts if I don’t go with anyone else but him. I kept my promise for a while but because I found myself totally lost I started going not only with him but also with two or three other men. Despite my income helping my family they intensely hated me. I was growing stranger to my friends. The poverty of my family pushed me into this but I am also guilty. That dishonorable minister Faeq and his deputy Baqaie darkened not only my life but also the lives of tens of other women and young girls. In the meantime my mother fell ill and I needed more money. I continued with my work and was making some money when the Saur Revolution happened. Faeq (the minister) was dismissed. I complained about him and reported him to Rafih and Watanjar but to no avail. Baqaie was promoted to head of “Asnad wa Irtebat”. He was threatening me to withdraw my complaints.
While my mother was still ill I lost my father. During that time I was living with my other three family members. In 1985 or 1986 I was invited to join the Parcham Party. After a short time I was promoted and became the local secretary of bureau and also an official member of the party. Traditional morality was not the priority for Parchamies. I was busy in recruiting other women and girls to the party and was even threatening them to join the party. Everybody knew about my past but no one could dare mention it now that I was a party member. I took part in house to house search of Cement Khana. I also worked in post offices. Others and I were slowly forgetting my past. I made a little bit of money and was included in social gathering of the party. I might have pushed some innocent girls into the same ways that I was. It wasn’t terribly important to me. I was accepted into the women organization headed by Dr. Anahita Ratibzad. There were hundreds of women like me not much concerned over moral issues and quite easily accepting overnight rendezvous. Later I became a professional worker of the party in the national organization of women and was regularly sleeping with my “comrades” during night shifts. Women’s garrison and “self defense” was established under the umbrella of women organization. I volunteered in the garrison. Our place of work was “the Mairmono Toulana” where we were getting military training and I gained quite good skills in the use of arms. I was spending the nights with party “comrades”. There were more than 120 women in the garrison all of them professional workers of the party. I used my connections to send my brother to Russia. In 1988-89 I became a member of KHAD (Afghanistan section of KGB) under General Baqi. There were a number of other women and young girls. They were sharing in every area of the work not to mention the beds of other colleagues.
The areas that we were working were:
1- Administrative Section
2- Environmental and Art
3 - And brothels - there were a number of prostitutes in this section who were used for political reasons. Sometimes we were invited by Russian advisors in Microrayans.
In KHAD in addition to security and espionage and house searches we were in the services of male members and a man by the name of Pasoon were managing our meetings with Russian advisors. I don’t know how many other women and noble girls I pushed into the traps of KHAD and how many of them were raped. I also participated in the interrogations of young and educated girls many of them were raped. It wasn’t important to me as I was in it as well. In 1991 or 92 I gave birth to a girl whose father I don’t know. She is eight now. By then I was the head of my family. My mother did not interfere in my affairs but all other relatives and friends hated me and stayed away from me which continuous to this day.
When Najeeb’s regime was destroyed and Jehadis came to power I stayed at home for a while. My mother died during that time. I returned to KHAD in Kabul and they accepted me and gave my job back to me. This time I was with Jehadies. The Jehadis were not less than Parchamites and were using the female workers for sex. Because “they were communists.”. The Nizar council provided us with veils and sent us to Maidan Shahr, Paghman, Char Asiab to gather information on the enemy. When Hizb-e-Islami (Islamic Party led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar) entered Kabul I left my job again. With the money that I had I managed for a few months but when the Taliban entered Kabul I faced my economical difficulties again. I left the house that I was renting, as all the neighbors knew about my past and I was facing more problem everyday. Finally I started on prostitution again. I knew some prostitutes when I was working in KHAD. I looked for them and found R (Ko-ko). it has been three years since I am working in this Qala. All the women working here have their stories. But all of them are working here because of their poverty.”
I don’t accompany clients outside the brothel anymore. A few times that I did accepted invitations to go went out, I was treated very badly. I don’t take part in music and dance parties and only meet clients inside the brothel. I am very worried about my daughter’s future. Although I am less than 30 year old I get very few clients. The police and the Taliban do not pay at all when they visit us. The middlemen and Ko-ko get the bulk of the money, especially Ko-ko, she gets the lion share.” (Sh) continued, “after the arrival of Taliban our business has been quite bad, our income has slumped and it is not covering our expenses. When Taliban learn of our whereabouts they ask for money and have sex without paying. We go without a single client for days, and live with lots of difficulties. All the doors are closed on us.”
(L) daughter of (GH. R), originally from Behsood of Ghazni Province is another prostitute who works in the same brothel in Hashuqan-o-Harifan area. She told her story as follow, “my father was an ordinary government worker. I was living with my two brothers and three sisters in a leased house in Karte Sakhi. I have studied up to year twelve and I am from Hazara ethnicity. It has been two years that I am working with Ko-ko. The women around the brothel call me (Gh). My elder brother joined the military force during Najeeb’s regime and later went to Russia. My younger brother worked as an apprentice for a mechanic. He was later conscripted and was killed in action. From childhood we were living in poverty, and day to day survival was a struggling. My father never got a raise because of his Hazara background until he retired. My mother worked as a servant in Kabul’s maternity hospital. I was a student at that time. Even up until the period of Najeeb’s regime, despite our poverty, we were living a quite life and were thanking God for the piece of bread that we were receiving. When the non-Muslim government of Rabbani and the Jehadi demons took power, the Hezb-e-Wahdat (Party of Unity, lackeys of Iran) established their military check posts around Karte-Se and started to control the Hazara localities of Kabul. The treacherous Wahdat Party was in conflict with other Jehadi organizations and because of that all Hazaras were restricted in their part of the city and we could not walk around the city freely. The fighting between Wahdat party and other Jehadi organizations intensified and I was unable to attend school and also we had nothing to eat. The war destroyed most of the houses in our area, but our family was unable to move to another area. My brother was accused of being a communist and was regularly being threatened by the Wahdatites. One day some men from Wahdat party took my brother away. Because my brother was a lieutenant in the previous regime the Wahdatites forced him to work for them in their military check posts and was later given the responsibilities of the check post in ‘Khan-e-Ilm Wa Farhang’ and ‘Barikote’ cinema. The Wahdatites were forcing each Hazara family to give a young man to fight for them or pay in cash. Wahdatites were saying that they had to hunt one Afghan (Pashtoon ethnic) and one Paghmani (a resident of Paghman, a district in Kabul) everyday.
The Wahdatites asked my brother to prepare a feast from them. I remember they had captured a person from Paghman that day. They took his bicycle and few hundred thousand Afghanis that he was carrying and then started beating him. I don’t know what they did to him later. They divided the loot money and gave my brother his share. They put some money aside for the feast.
The feast was organized and a number of people with long hairs and beards came to our house. They were laughing on my brother because of our old carpets and furniture. They were calling my brother “Mr. Rezaie” and were encouraging him to loot someone from Paghman or surroundings. They were reminding him that the people of Paghman have done so many wrongs to our people, and he should capture one and get some cash from him. “Killing them is not a sin” they were saying. My brother wasn’t used to such acts but Wahdatites forced him to steal and to commit murder. Accused of being a communist and also he had worked in the army of Najeeb’s regime, if my brother had resisted them they would definitely have killed him. Hundreds of other men like my brother were killed for not following the orders of Wahdat Party. The feast was prepared in our house. I served the food and every one praised my hard work. However that feast was the beginning of my nightmares. Among the guests was a man by the name of Qiadi. I noticed that he was staring at me in a lustful way. I didn’t pay much attention to it and didn’t mention it to my brother. From that day Qiadi started to come to our house. Because he was a powerful man in Wahdat Party my brother was scared of him. He accused my brother of being a communist and was always threatening him my brother and was saying that my brother had to pay for his past sins. Despite the fact that my brother was armed and was working in a military post he had no real power and could not do anything about that man.
The fighting intensified even more. One day we received the message that my brother has been severely injured and we had to visit him along with Qiadi in the surgical hospital. My mother and I started crying and wanted to go to hospital together, but they stopped my mother from going to the hospital. I was very nervous and could not decide what to do. My brother was everything to us. Anyway I left the house along with Qiadi. It was late in the afternoon and Qiadi asked me to go with him to the Party’s health center first so that he gets the necessary medical material as there was none in the hospital. I wasn’t aware of the ominous trap that he was setting for me. The truth was that my brother had been sent to another area on that day. We drove to a deserted house and he asked me to wait in one of the rooms for a few minutes. Without thinking I accepted it, I wasn’t thinking about anything else but my brother.
Qiadi entered from another door and laughingly told me that I shouldn’t worry, nothing has happened, my brother has gone for a mission to another area. He said that he wanted me to rest for a while and be his guest for the night. That is when I learnt of the filthy intentions of that treacherous Jehadi, but there was no way of escape for me. Like a small bird, I was in the claws of that bushy savage. I fought him very hard but to no avail. Then I begged him to let me go I kissed his foot, I reminded him of my brother, my mother, and the food that he had eaten in our house, but it didn’t work. Then I started struggling again. He asked his cook by the name of Qurban to help him. They together tied my hands. Then he threw his cook out of the room with abuses. He told him that this is the way that the communists should be punished. I was struggling till very late in night but there was no one that could help me. The house was deserted with all the furniture being looted. Treacherous Qiadi finally got what he wanted and raped me.
Later I told him that I would be his wife and won’t complain to anyone, at first he said no but then he swore on Quran that he would if I put myself at his will. He raped me a number of times that night. In the morning I told him that my mother might be dying from grief for her son, we should go and tell her and he should also ask her for my hand. He agreed and said he would do it after breakfast. I was wrong. I was a prisoner in that room for another twenty nights or so. Treacherous Qiadi was meeting my brother every day and was pretending that he shares my family’s grief. He was telling them that they received a false report of my brothers injury “I left your sister in some street and I went to the frontline”. He blamed my disappearance on Sunni Muslims.
Qiadi had forced the owner of the house, that I was a prisoner in, out of the house. It situated behind the ministry of trade. All the furniture of the house had been looted. I was begging him every day and was asking for mercy. I reminded him of God but he did not even believe in God. Without a slight bit of humanity, he was doing whatever he wanted. One day he brought two other men with him and asked me to serve them food without wearing any clothes. I told him that he had sworn on Quran and Ali that he would ask for my hand and would marry me. He ridiculed me and looked at his friends and told them that at the end he will give me to his cook, and then they laughed. That night all three of them were raping me till I don’t know what time in the night. Qiadi freed me after two months and he moved to somewhere else.
My mother and brother had lost all their hopes for me when I entered our house. I told them everything. My mother was crying. My brother said that he would find Qiadi and will kill him like a dog. But I stopped him. I told him that my life has been destroyed, he shouldn’t destroy his life. He did not have the power to fight that murderer and rapist. We were still not able to move from that area. Also Wahdat Party had decreed that Hazaras should not move from their houses. A few days later Qiadi returned to our house with some armed men. My brother was not at home. He told my mother “where is that communist who has joined the ranks of Mujahideens? These communists are the reason that Mujahideens are going astray. They should be killed”. My mother wanted to say something about me but he kicked my mother and ordered his men to throw her in a car. My shouting didn’t help at all. Around our house was all deserted. Because of our poverty and the cruelty of Wahdatites we were the only ones left there. This time Qiadi took me to Barikot cinema’s check post where some women and girls of Sunni Muslim background were imprisoned as well. They were being treated very badly and were dying under the tortures of Wahdatites. I was forced to cook for them during the days and was being raped repeatedly during the nights. This continued for ten to twelve days. Other women imprisoned in other rooms of the cinema were treated even worse than I was. Wahdatites didn’t care I was one of their Hazaras, they were committing their acts on whoever they could lay their hands. I was working during the days and was raped during the nights. They were saying that I had the taste of a communist, “These communists are something else.” They were saying. Repeated rapes and sometimes group rapes had wrecked my physical and mental health. I witnessed, with my own eyes, how other women were being raped. They brought people’s wives and sisters on different pretexts and were raping them. I was missing my mother and brother and I did not know where they were. There was no way of escape and even if I had escaped I could have get caught by even more savage wolves. I got pregnant but they were still raping me every night. My brother learnt of my whereabouts but he couldn’t do anything. I learnt that he later left for Iran. My mother is gone with one of her relatives but I don’t know where.
When they let me go I started working in other Hazaras’ houses. My stomach was getting bigger. The husband and wife of the house that I was living in got suspicious. I told them everything but they throw me out of the house. I aborted the child with lots of difficulties and got sick. A person by the name of Sakhi Dad Karbalaie, who knew my family, let me stay in his house for a while. They started to treat me badly and I left the house. The disgrace that I had received from the hands of Wahdat Party had taken everything and everyone from me. Our destitute caused us to stay in our neighborhood and could not move from there, which resulted in my brother working for Wahdatites. At the end I was left with choices. I could sell myself or commit suicide, and that is how I became a prostitute in this Qala (brothel). I have no where to go All the doors are closed on m. My life is the result of the wrongs that the foul Jehadies have done to me. They turned my and my families lives into an agony.”
About her work she said, “I am still young, not more than 27. I don’t have any saving from my income. At least I am not supporting a family like most others around here. I don’t know about my future. Because of my ethnicity I don’t get many clients as Hazaras don’t work in the same brothel with Pashtoons and Tajiks.”
“When I was thrown out of that house I was wondering in the streets for a while. I met auntie (Ko-ko). She is so experience that she had worked out that I had no place to go. She offered me to stay with her for the night. She said that she would protect me like her daughter. When we entered her house she congratulated other for their new colleague, then I knew where I had come. From that day I am working here.
(P) was born in Kabul. She has been working as a prostitute for the past three years. She is less than 30 years old. She told her story as follows. “I left school when I was in year eight. My father was running a teashop and my mother was an housewife. My father’s income did not suffice our expenses, especially the rent and therefore we were always in debt. At the time we were living in Deh Afghanon. The young wife of the owner of the house who were living in the same house with us used to leave the house every day for some unknown reason. After a while she became closer to me and my family and we became good friends. She used to come and talk to my mother most of the nights. My father used to sleep in his shop. During one Eid (Muslim equivalent of Christmass) she bought me a dress and asked me to work with her. She had convinced my mother that I should go with her to the city. That day we walked around the city and she bought me some women stuff and bought a Pakistani veil for my mother. In 1988 my father was imprisoned for helping the Mujahideen. My brothers were young and we didn’t have any other income. We had to sell our teashop to pay for food and rent. After a while we were no longer able to pay our rent. The wife of the owner of the house let us stay in the house for free and convinced my mother that I should work with her.
One day she took me to an old house where a number of women and young girls were there there. She introduced me to them and told them that I was their new colleague and I had to be trained properly. They gave me a psuedoname. I didn’t know what was going on, and could not dare to ask. The head of the group was a women by the name of P. N, who was in relationships with many men and also had many contacts in the police stations and criminal units and were paying tax to them. Soon I learned that I had joined a female pickpocket ring. All of the women were professional skillful pickpockets. R used to take me to the city and train me in picking pockets. (P. N.) was managing the ring and was setting location of the city for each women to work at. She stayed at the house and divide the money that everyone had gained equally after taking the expenses and her lionshare and police tax etc.
I learned the skills quickly and used to accompany her in public buses. I remember once she stole 2000 Afghanis from a man very skilfuly and gave 200 Afghanis to me as a gift. I slowly got used to stealing and became an expert. My mother knew about what I was doing but she told me that we don’t have any other way. My father was in jail, my brothers were young, how else we would have paid the rent and bought food?
I used to find victims in different ways. Some times I would have followed men from banks or shops if I saw that they were carrying money. I used to wear very tight and colorful clothes and attract the attention of men. I would get close to them from behinde or sideways and would keep them busy. I would show them some affection and men usually got comfortable quickly and I would cut their pockets. In the next stop I would said farewell to him and would have gone after the next victim. We preferred men’s pocket. Women’s purses were harder. I used to do this until 1992 1993. I got caught three times but (P. N) paid bribes to people in criminal units and rescued me from jail. In exchange she increased her share. (P. N) was also running a illegal gambling house. (R) used to go to these gambling houses and she took me along. After a while I became addicted to gambling. My mother tried to stop me gambling but I didn’t listen. (P. N) help us got my father out of the prison using her contacts who knew General Boba jon. My father when he got out of the prison he couldn’t find a job. Because of my gambling I was in (P. N)’s debt and one day a man who introduced himself as a military officer and was from Uzbek ethnicity raped me in her house with (P. N)’s help. From that day on I was pushed to prostitution in addition to my gambling and picking pocket. (R) and other women in the ring were prostituting as well. Because I was younger I was being paid very well. The crime of zena (sex outside marriage) was not that important during that time. I got a police record and officials of criminal unit especially major Habib Noor used to invite me to his office on his duty nights and …
Rape of female prisoners by the prison officials was a daily occurance at the Wulaiat (police headquarters). With (P. N) and Habib Noor’s help I was freed from the prison after three months. I was meeting Major Habib Noor until he left Kabul. He had introduced me to tow of his police friends.
From then on I am alone. When I was in prison I met with every kind of criminals including prostitutes and midlewomen. I wanted to leave (P. N)’s gang and met some women who were organizing work for prostitutes. I had their addresses from the prison. I started working for one of them as well as on picking pockets again. I had a good income which could pay for my gambling addiction. I needed a lot of money and therefore I was picking pockets during the day and sell myself during the night. I didn’t have a house or a family. I was going with anyone who asked. Nothing was important for me. I had lost my mother, father and brothers and I was missing them.
When Jehadies came I was meeting them as well. They were spending a lot of money and were good gamblers. But they were asking me to dance for them which I wasn’t very good at. But they were offering good money.
I lost my pick pocket job when the Taliban came. They segregated public buses into male and female only one. Women were not carrying much money in their purses. I had to move to Ghazni Province. But there I couldn’t find work too. I returned to Kabul and quit picking pockets. I was afraid of they cutting my hand if I get caught. Except for picking pockets, steeling and prostitution I didn’t have any other skill. Poverty striked again. I didn’t have a place to stay. Nobody wanted my in their house. I had to go back to prostitution. I came to Ko-ko’s brothel as I knew her for a while. I have been working here for a long time now. Ko-ko is making a lot of money on me. Because I am young and never had children he is charging a lot of money for me but keeps a large portion of that for herself.
Our lives are terrible, the brothel is unhygienic, the rooms are dump, all the women in the brothel have genetal infections and are infected with physical and mental illnesses. We are all going toward destruction.
Taliban arrival has destroyed our work. We don’t get many customers. The Taliban who come here don’t pay and on top of that they threaten us to be silent. They ask for anal sex from women.
Finally she addressed me “ Brother, if you are an important person, tell the Taliban to save us from the difficulties of high prices and scarcity. Don’t beat the people but work for them. If there were jobs for everyone why would thy steal and lose their limbs. Why are we in these problems. We ourselves hate our job. If I don’t find an husband at least I will work for the sick in one of these hospitals and earn an honest living. Otherwise we have no other way. You people brought us to this day. You people raped hundreds of innocent girls like (L) and destroyed their lives. Your are the actual sinners, you are the ones who used vulnerables not us. On the judgment day you will be asked not us.”
(Z), another prostitute told her story us follows “my life was made miserable because of my jealousy toward my husband’s friends and love for luxury. I have studied till class six. My husband became a militry officer during Najeeb’s regime. I was living with my husband in Dai-Burri. One of my husbands relative who was an educated women and was also a party member received a Macrorayan apartment from the Babrak’s regime. She was showing off the apartment to us on whatever chance she got. I got jealous and was burning to have my own Macrorayan apartment. I asked my husband to get an apartment but he told me to stop competing with his relatives and refused to do anything about it. Few days later without talking with my husband I got out of the house and started preparing an application to Kabul muncipality. I did not have enough literacy and also did not know how the system worked, which made me go around for months. I got disappointed for a while and stopped for a couple of years but then took up the case again and went to the muncipality. In the muncipality I met a guy named Karim. He prepared an application for me as an homeless and himself completed the adminstrative process for the application and gave it to me to go through the usual red tape of going through regional offices, party organisational offices and trade union offices. I completed all the process in a hurry, the papers were completed and were intered into a dossiers and became part of the waiting list. I used to go and check the waiting list every now and then and got to know Karim better. My husband was unaware of the whole thing. After a while Karim said that my application has been rejected but I could have a chance in the second round. That rejection affected me very badly. I decided that I should get an apartment in Macrorayan in anyway possible. After looking around for a while I met a person named Azizi who told me that he could get an apartment for me. I was wondering in offices for a few days with him and he lied to me that soon the distribution of apartments will start and a three bedroom apartment is under my name, but before we get the apartment he suggested that we have to celebrate the occasion. Finally I fell in his trap and let my self to his well. After getting what he wanted he contacted another man who promised the key of the apartment and also we intered into a sexual relationship. But there was no news of the apartment. As I was losing the control of my life I decided to get the apartment in anyway possible. I told the two men to meet Karim in the distribution office, they accepted it and invited him. I met him for a few nights.
The nights that I was spending in Karim’s house I was making excuses to my husband but in the last days he learned about my secret. After a year of fights and arguments we got seperated and my husband throw me out of the house and told everything to my fathers family. I lost my reputation and my friends left me. That was the start of my miseries.
No one wanted me in their house, and I didn’t get the apartment. I didn’t have a job or money and no one wanted to help me. I started to live in people’s houses but was thrown out when men started to come in go into my house. My two daughters were with my husband. I went to the court but the judge said I am not a good woman and gave my daughters to my husband. I was formally divorced. In 1988 and 1989 I was wondering the streets and found clients from buses and streets. I was in a bad financial situation. I got a job in the ministary for trades by one of my clients. My salary was not enough and had to work as a prostitute as well. After two years of work I was fired for having bad morality. For a while I was unemployed and was going to clients houses. During that time I was recruited into 7th division of KHAD by a women named (S). in addation to spying and entrapment of men and women I was used for sexual purposes by the bosses on duty nights. My income was good. I was renting an house in Yaka Toot and had that job until 1991.
When Jehadies came I left my job and wanted to get married. No one wanted to marry me. I proposed to one of my colleagues in KHAD. He refused at first but then asked me to sleep with him and he will tell me later. That is how he said no. I was working in some of the brothels that I knew but my income was very bad. Fate brought me to this Auntie Ko-ko. She took me into one of the houses and like a snake circled all around me. She told me that no other man except for the mediators would merry me because of my work and my past and has made me to work under her eyes.
My unreasonable desires and wants and jealousy with friends pushed me into this job. I ended up as a professional prostitute.
In one of the brothels in Qala-e-Zamaan Khan region, two young women by names of (L) and (Q) are working. (Q) were away looking for clients or/and was begging and (L) told her story as follows. “ she was a virtuous widow that was dragged to prostitution by bad luck, poverty and Jehadies civil war. She lost her husband and was alone with two children and because she had no one, poverty and begging turned her into a prostitute. She has no one to help her. Her husband died after a few months of being ill, despite the medical treatment that they were doing by selling their furniture.
(Q) was alone. She was living with lots of difficulties. In Kabul no one helps you. Either you die of hunger or live as we do.
The civil war among the Jehadies was raging in Kabul. Dostum’s soldiers had their posts around Jada and Chaman areas. (Q) used to go their to gather the leftover food from the soldiers.” (L) who had heard (Q)’s story many times quoted it to us “ I used to wear an old veil and looked for food in the military posts. They were used to me coming and going and left some rice and bread which was enough for my kids. I was hiding under my veil and they didn’t know that I was young. They used to call me “mother” and they told me “ come here every day, we will leave you some food”. One afternoon I went to one of the military posts at the end of Jaada, my veil were not covering my face. Two of Dostums militia told me to go to the back of the building where they had left me some rice and cooking oil. I got happy and walked to the back of the building. I opened one of the rooms, nothing was in there. Suddenly, both of them attacked me from behind and raped me. To keep my honor I left the area without making a sound. I didn’t leave the house for a few day. Because my children were hungry I send them to beg for food. They were very young and no one was giving them anything. I was forced to go out and beg again. Begging wasn’t enough. Hunger is a very bad thing. I couldn’t put up with it my two children were asking for food. I saw no other way. Poverty turned me into a prostitute. Those Jehadies who raped me were another reason to push me into this filthy job. Now whenever I get a chance I sell myself to men. Secretly from my two children.”
(L) added about (Q): “ Now she is working with me in this brothel. Whenever we don’t get any customers she goes out and beg for money or find customers through taxies. She goes during the nights. Her tow children are getting older and she tries very hard to hide it from them. She knows a taxi driver who always take her with him.”
(L) told her won story as follows “ My husband (D. M.) was a builder. We had three children. Our life, although in poverty, was passing without any major headache. From our bad luck my husband fell from a roof while working and got paralyzed. Treatment could not fix him. My husband lived for a while, during that time my brother who is fixing radios was supporting us. When he got married he stopped supporting us. My daughters had to stop going to school and our life got miserable. We didn’t have food. I applied for a job in ministry of electricity and waters. They gave me a job as a servant. After a while all of the workers including me were asked to attend the office of Parcham party’s administrator for the ministry. We were asked to join the party, otherwise they said, we assume you are supporting the enemy. Fearing losing my job I joined the women’s organization of the party. They gave me the responsibility of preparing reports on individuals who were working with me and to find out whether or not they are against the government and … . I moved from my house to a suburb closer to the city (from Qala-Cha to Bibi-Mahro, party membership was dangerous in the outer regions of Kabul) and was attending the party meetings once a week. Nahid, a corrupt woman who was also the administrator of our women’s organization would seduce good-looking young girls and introduced them to the ministry officials. I wasn’t aware of this fact which made hundreds of women to lose the honor of their family. And one day it was my turn. The administrator of the ministry’s organization whose name I have forgotten asked me to come to his office one afternoon. He asked me something about the work and give me some money as gift and then told me that I can come to his office whenever I had any problem because this organization was that of hard working proletariats. Next time I went to his office he was different, with very kindness he put his hand on me and finally he asked me for sex. I told him that I am not that kind of women and “nobody had dared asking for such things from me before and you are saying that it is workers’ party and you are defending their rights, now you are using us the proletariat” He replied that "this is not immoral, I am not forcing you or oppressing you. We will both enjoy it. Look, this kind of acts should be Ok between comrades. Comrade Nahid has no problem with it.” That day I went home without doing anything. Now that I knew of his intentions I knew that I was in a very bad situation. On one hand I was facing poverty and on the other my honor was at stake. My husband was not able to walk and I had to feed my son and three daughters. We had no supporter. My brother sold our house and without giving us our share migrated overseas.
Our problems were increasing everyday. My salary wasn’t enough to pay the rent and buy food. I had the salary of a level-10 contracted-worker. The administrator asked me to his office few days later while being intoxicated and told me that I should work overtime as he knew about my problems. And told me that he was doing it as a favor for me. I accepted the offer. The administrator was asking me to his office every now and then and was repeating his requests and that it was not unethical. He told me that I should concentrate on solving my financial problems, and I should do what he is saying. Sometime he threatened me and sometimes he was kind. At the end he asked for help from notorious Nahid. She had said that “these women are still asleep. They should be waken up. These things still matters to them.” And one day she told me “Dear (L) your husband is sick and you have needs like everyone else, it is not such a big deal” and left the office.
Finally the administrator got what he wanted, and forced himself on me in his office. This act was repeated a number of times and I was in his disposal whenever he wanted.
My husband died after a while, my daughters were getting older and I was working as a servant and a toy for the administrator. I found someone who wanted to marry me but when he found out about the administrator, he left.
Another person came and got married to my elder daughter. After a while she told him everything about my illegitimate affairs and my son-in-law threw me out of the house and kept my other daughter with him. My son went to his uncle and became an apprentice in his radio workshop. Although I am happy that my daughters didn’t became like me but I regret not being allowed in their house. I did what I did because of them and now they call me a prostitute. I left my job when people learned of my relation with the administrator. I was wondering around for a while and went everywhere that I got invited without any hesitation and finally I got here. I am getting older, clients don’t show any fondness for me anymore and I go without a client for days. Sometime I don’t even get a piece of bread. My steady clients most of whom are gamblers don’t come to me anymore. Only one or two of them still come but only when they have won money Because of security problems we have to change our house very quickly.”
Three women and one girl are working in this brothel; they are constantly under threat of being arrested. The women introduced themselves as (QR), (F) and (N). The brothel is managed by a man, who did not tell us his name, and a middle aged women (N. Z.). N. Z. told her story as follow “I am one of the original people of Kharaabaat. I have been doing this work for years. I used to sing and dance at the weddings when I was young. I also worked as an artist in the Old Marastoon Sahna, which located in the Kabul mandawi. My youth passed nicely. My daughters got married and went to their husbands’ houses; I don’t have any son. My husband was an instrument player. When he died, a number of years ago, I lived alone for awhile. When the Taliban and the Mulas forbade music and dance I started doing this work. I have been doing this for the past two years. We can not live in one area for a long time. When people learn of our secret, we move. Jehadies were good, they paid well, especially the Dostumies were very generous.”
Q. R. told her story as follow “We came to Kabul a long time ago. My husband (G) had a gambling house in Bagh-e-Qazi and also worked as a bus driver in Kabul-Qandahar highway. He was a gambler and gambled away whatever he could get his hands on and worst of all he was a pederast. He still gambles and commits pederasty. When he loses his money he comes after me and forces me to give my money to him. During Karmal’s regime he was imprisoned because of a fight in his gambling house, and although I didn’t liked him anymore I tried to help him. I went to the head of Shotor Khana Police Station who was a party member as well, he told me that in addition to the gambling offence, my husband had stabbed someone and he told me to come to his office the next day. The next day during talking to me he told that “you are a beautiful women, why are you married to a gambling addict. You should free yourself from him. If you wanted I can help you and we could get married.” I told him that although he is a bad man but he is my husband and we have a child and we have lived together for a while now. He told me that he would pay for my expenses if I become his mistress but I can’t go with other people. I rejected his request and tried to free my husband from some other way. Because the key to my husband’s freedom was with that officer my endeavors didn’t get anywhere. One day that officer sent for me that I should meet him because they are sending my husband to Wulaiat (headquarters) that day. I visited my husband and told him about the situation. He said that I should do whatever that officer wanted me to do. I put my self in that officer’s disposal. My husband was freed and he moved to work in Herat Highway. The officer started to come to my house when my husband was away and he was paying for some of our expenses. My husband learned about the situation but didn’t get upset he only told me that I should watch it because I am getting out of control.
My husband went back to gambling and left his job. One day he got into a fight and was imprisoned in Qandahar. I was meeting that officer regularly until one day he went somewhere and I didn’t see him after that. I got broke and establish relationship with two other men. My husband got out of the jail after six months and came home. He learned about my relations but didn’t say anything. A week later he told us that we are going to Iran. I thought we are going there because he is concerned about his bad name and want to get away from it all. When we got in Iran I was thinking that he would get a job but alas, he was a very dishonorable.
In Iran we rented a house, he was bringing Iranian clients for me in the house. He told me that he could not work as laborer. I was selling myself for two years in Iran.
When Najeeb got in power we returned to Kabul and bought a house in Shar-e-Kohna with the money that I had made prostituting. G started gambling again and lost all of my money. In addition to gambling he had became a pimp as well, he had found another women and was bringing client to her house. My daughter was getting older and knew about the work that her father and I were doing. I am very careful that G may throw our daughter into this miserable life. Before the Taliban, this job did not have much danger in it but now we live in constant fear and we don’t find many clients either.
I don’t have a friendly relation with N.Z and the other man that look after this brothel. They always threatening me that if G doesn’t reform his behaviors I have to leave the brothel. Sometimes G brings clients to this brothel, or he organizes for pederasty with some people from ministry of intelligence that he knows (one goes by the name of Gul Mohammad) against the will of N. Z. and my other colleagues. He brings beggar boys for sexual acts.
Last winter they had a fight over pederasty and our secret was nearly disclosed. We have decided to move from this house. Another reason for moving from this house is that some of the people that are coming here are ask for anal sex which is a bad thing.”
(F) told her story as follow “My husband worked as a driver. The Jehadies killed him while he was working in Jabul Saraj and burned his truck. My children became orphans and we were no longer able to pay our rent or buy food. I had to borrow money and I am still under a lot of debt. No one is supporting us. I started to working in people’s houses, washing clothes. In one of the houses I got involved with a man. I received a bad name because of that. After that I became a prostitute and work as a prostitute for the past five years. Before Taliban I danced in the weddings to pay off my debts. I made some money and leased a house. I take my old clients or new ones that I find when I work as a beggar to that house so I could keep all of the money that they are paying.
Last winter one of the police from Deh Afghanan police station found out about my house and used to bring two guys with him one of them was an Arab by the name of Abdullah who used to pay but the other man wasn’t. They have left the station and I no longer have to put up with them.
If I don’t find any client I go for begging and if I don’t find anything begging I prostitute myself. I have to find food someway. I live in constant fear. Taliban don’t give us food and they don’t let us beg, if they catch us prostituting we will be stoned to death. They never ask how we ended up here. If my husband was not killed why would I have become a prostitute or a beggar. Jehadi criminals put us in this situation.
N. Y. is the name of the girl who works in this brothel. She hasn’t been married and told her life story as follows “my father wanted to marry me off to my cousin who I didn’t like. I have studied up to year nine and can read and write. I was in love with a shopkeeper in Sarak-e-Qala-e-Mousa. Our house was around that area. One day I told that shopkeeper about my feelings but he apologized and said that he can not marry without the permission of his parents. I insisted but he did not accept and told me to get out of his shop.
When the Jehadies came I left the school. My mother went and met that shopkeeper, but he reassured my mother. My parents forced me to get engage with a young man, who was a laborer and I wasn’t interested in him. Factional fighting had just started between the Nizaar Council and Wahdat Party around Char-Qala-e-Wazir-Abad and Nizaar Council established a post near our house. My father started working for them as a cook which was a good financial help. Because of my father’s job one of the men from Nizaar Council, who was a Parwaan resident too, by the name of Agha Bacha started coming to our house and we got close. One day we secretly went to the city where he bought a gold ring for me. My fiancé was a protective and hard working guy.
I continued my relationship with Agha Bach who was head of a group in Nizaar Council. One day he came to our house and found me alone there so he committed anal sex on me. He repeated that act a number of times until people learnt about it. When my fiancé learnt of it he fought with Agha Bach and wanted to kill him but he couldn’t and he was arrested and imprisoned by Agha Bacha’s friends on the pretext that he had contacts with Wahdatites.
Because of fear for my life and shame that I brought on my parents I went to Peshawar, Pakistan accompanying a boy that I knew. I spent a few nights in one of his relative’s house but because we didn’t have a place or money we came back. That boy didn’t do anything to me but he said that sex with other people’s wife was dishonorable. He told me that I was shallow and untrustworthy otherwise he would have married me when we were in Peshawar. We got separated in Pul Mahmood Khan, that is he left me and went away. For a while I was wondering in relatives’ houses, those relative who did knew of the situation didn’t let me in their houses. To make a long story short I got here. Because I was young and a virgin they happily accepted me in this brothel. At the beginning a good amount of money was paid for me to the brothel owner and they bought a watch and few dresses for me.” She said, “ I regret everything that I have done. When I remember my fiancé I want to commit suicide but N. Z. is watching me and doesn’t give me much chance.
From the day that I have started this work all the men who come here prefer to come with me and because of too much contact with men I have contracted a painful disease which is hard to treat.”
In addition to professional prostitutes who work in brothels a number of women, because of family problems, can not work in brothels. These women work on the streets as beggars and invite clients to their houses.
It is an undeniable and unarguable fact that young women in Kabul because of economical problems, poverty and hunger join the ranks of beggars and ultimately go toward prostitution. These women number in thousands and their numbers are increasing.
Persian version | Italian version
Large number of Afghan women are turning to prostitution
RAWA Interview with some prostitutes (June 2002)
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