In the aftermath of a major leadership change in his country, Hazara photographer Barat Ali Batoor exhibits the timely photographs that forced him to flee Afghanistan aboard a sinking boat.
Reporting for the Washington Post, Batoor brought unprecedented international attention to the ongoing and horrifying practice of ‘bacha bazi’, an exercise involving the sexual exploitation of young boys by wealthy Afghans. Poor, orphaned and homeless children are dressed in women’s clothing, made to perform at parties and are prostituted.
Banned under the rule of the Taliban, its practice has had a resurgence since the arrival of the Allies in 2002. Through his photographs, he aims to show “how children's rights are being violated by the very people they are supposed to trust to implement the justice system”, says Batoor, “bacha baazi is a form of modern day slavery and that reflects the poverty of the people”.
Batoor spent months chronicling the issue but was dismayed to discover he would not receive support from non-government organisations to exhibit the work. Moreover, the photographs saw him lose his job as a photojournalist with the US embassy and following death threats, he was forced to escape the country to save his life.
During his journey to Australia, Batoor came close to facing death on a boat that nearly sank in rough seas, then was consequently stranded in the jungle and faced deportation. He photographed it all.
“[I want to raise awareness of] the plight of the asylum seekers who travel a long hazardous journey and risk their lives to reach safety,” says Batoor, “Most of the time the asylum seeker issue is misrepresented here by the mainstream media. People do not leave their homes, country, family & friends for no reason –bacha baazi is just one of the problems”.
Batoor is now living permanently in Melbourne. His future is unknown, but he is freelancing, working with the Victorian refugee community and hoping for good.
Batoor’s exhibition The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan is showing at 10x8 Gallery until October 12.
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