Sunday, 25 July 2010

Afghanistan: Guns and Roses

"Thursday nights were jokily referred to by the Isaf forces as “man-love Thursday”, the evening of seduction before Friday prayers when certain of the policemen resembled a gaggle of teenage girls preparing for a night on the town: hands dyed deep orange with henna, nails painted, sooty kohl-darkened eyes and brows. They would slow-dance with each other to music from tinny cassettes or played on an improvised sitar-like instrument, its notes drifting on the air from their quarters, mingled with the smell of spliff.
All the feminine primping and suggestive body language could make their police outposts sound like a sleazy, cut-price Marrakesh — but only if you don’t mind the smell and the nearness of death that makes even the most brazen poseurs wild-eyed with nerves. For this is no homoerotic Shangri-La, just a sad, filthy, dangerous and — from the right vantage point — ravishingly beautiful place, where women are nowhere to be seen and men make their own companionship.
On the whole the British soldiers turn a blind eye to their charges’ love lives, except when openly propositioned. “They’re always flirting with us,” laughed one soldier. “They make it very obvious they want to have sex with us. It freaks us out. It isn’t just sex they want from us — it’s a bloody pen, or sweets or sunglasses, whatever we have."
Once cordial relations had been established with the western soldiers, the awkward attempts at affection would follow, sometimes simple gestures of gratitude for Isaf’s help, sometimes more. On one occasion, Symondson witnessed a British Army officer being asked by a local police commander if he would care to avail himself of his chai boy. Had he ever been interested, he inquired. It was quite good fun sometimes. “No, no,” responded the British officer, “I have a wife.” The Afghan smiled. “So do I,” he said."

From 'All's Fair In Love And War', a photo-essay on the Afghan National Police in The Sunday Times magazine. Words Christina Lam, Photographs Bran Symndson.

Fagburn is often surprised at how western journalists are often surprised at how Islamic cultures often condone homosexuality...

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