Afghan tourists in Tajikistan

by Alec Metz on 10/30/2012 · 10 comments

Photo courtesy of Shoayb-Bokhdi News Agency

Years ago, a Western Farsi-speaker would tell me stories of Tajik groups from Northern Afghanistan he took to Tajikistan as part of an exchange program, and the hilarious culture clashes that would occur between the two groups, usually involving vodka and the role of women in society. Despite sharing a language, ethnicity, and (arguably) similar religious sentiments, a few minutes of latitude and less than 100 years of history had rendered the two groups befuddling to one another. When the Tajikistan Tajiks wanted to speak privately around their Afghanistan Tajik colleagues, they would simply switch to Russian, something the Afghanistan Tajiks, having lived through the Soviet invasion of their country, did not look favorably upon. Anyway, the Wall Street Journal has an interesting story on the prurient activities of some Afghans in Tajikistan today. From the story:

Afghan tourists—numbering some 10,000 last year—are the most numerous visitors from beyond the former Soviet Union, says Davlat A. Khabibov, chairman of Tajikistan’s Association for the Development of Tourist Industry…

“The Russian tourists come here for climbing, the Westerners for hiking in the mountains,” Mr. Khabibov says. “The Afghans, they come for entertainment.”

Strangely, the story goes between the implication that Afghans go to Dushanbe (and really, the story talks about nowhere else in Tajikistan) because it’s cheap:

Dushanbe is one of the few places where Afghans—especially government officials—can feel rich. At outdoor beer gardens, stout waitresses ferry foamy glasses of beer that cost the equivalent of a few cents per pint.

Or spend lavishly:

Barman Sahib Nurbayev marveled at the whiskeys and cognacs that the club’s Afghan guests tend to order, speculating darkly on the source of their cash.

“They spend the kind of money that we don’t even see in our dreams,” he said.

Undoubtedly, there is a lot of money unaccounted for in Afghanistan, but I would still guess that the lion’s share is going out to Gulf nations. Either way, the story is an entertaining read, highlighting the complex cultural geography of the region.

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– author of 18 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Alec Metz is an independent policy analyst focusing on security and development in South and Central Asia.

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tnerb October 31, 2012 at 3:56 pm

I read the WSJ article as well and I do agree that what Afghan tourists do in Tajikistan is more of a reflection of Afghanistan’s repressed mores and rather than Tajikistan’s vices. It is an understatement to say that because of weird interpretation of Islamic laws in Afghanistan sexes do not mix there. What you have in that situation is masses of sexually frustrated young people who create a lot of problems for the wider society. Bachabozi, having sex with young boys, a nefarious activity that every other Afghan men is involved in. Especially Pashtun men are notorious for this. Ironically, almost all Taliban are Pashtuns. That should tell you how hyppocrat they are. Also beastiality is widespread in Afghanistan. The Afghans should look at themselves first than thinking that Tajikistan is a country with loose morals. At least in Tajikistan you do not see people engaged in bachabozi or anything filthy like that.

Moose November 5, 2012 at 11:35 am

Kudos to WSJ for writing this article and to Alec Metz for his commentary. As an Afghan-American, it’s refreshing to read honest reporting on Afghan culture beyond the bullshit about how it’s a “graveyard of empires” or how “30 years of war” is why Afghanistan is in the situation it’s in. Afghans have been going abroad for “entertainment,” for as long as I can remember. When the West opened its doors in the 1960s and 70s, it was an open-door market for wealthy Afghans to go to the States or Europe for an “education.” When these asses returned (having barely cracked a book, but very well-entertained), they treated everyone like crap b/c they had been to Europe and were better than everyone else. We saw this same story play out in Iran. The elites were eventually thrown out and now pull the same crap in the Western countries they call home. In their place, a new generation of locals has taken over. Wash Rinse Repeat.

Afghanistan is neither sexually frustrated nor a victim of 30 years of war. It is a bandit culture… always has been, always will be.

tnerb November 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm


I must say you are an honest and objective person. I wish there were more people like you. Usually when people read something less than positive about their culture they get defensive and their patriotic feelings blur their vision. You deserve credit for taking this criticism bravely.

That being said I do stand by a part of my comment regarding Afghan men being sexually frustrated and going lengths, unimaginable by Western standards to get sex. The very reason that they go a half way around the world to get sex under a pretense of “education” does tell me that they can’t get it in Afghanistan. If they were allowed to date in Afghanistan they wouldn’t have to spend so much time and money in search of sex. But they do it and that observation tells me that they are sexually frustrated. The worst of all is bacha bazi. Below is a Washington Post link about it. This sort of filth unimaginable in Tajikistan, so Tajiks should roll their eyes at the mention of Afghanistan, not the other way around…

Moose November 6, 2012 at 2:00 am

Lol, thanks tnerb for the compliment. I criticize Afghanistan b/c I don’t consider myself Afghan. The truth is that Afghanistan is not a natural country, it is a man-made one. The concept of Afghanistan has only ever existed in Kabul where my family is from. I remember meeting a Pashtun person for the first time and thinking to myself that I have nothing in common with this person. I speak Dari and consider myself Tajik.

I think the world and the people of a region are better served if man-made countries are broken up and repatriated to their natural borders where at least some linguistic or cultural bond exists.

Afghan November 7, 2012 at 11:43 am

Moose, I don’t know from which part of Kabul you come from but dude stop the exaggeration. Your statement ” I remember meeting a Pashtun person for the first time and thinking to myself that I have nothing in common with this person. I speak Dari and consider myself Tajik.” The Pashtuns, Tajiks and other ethnicities don’t have specific quarters in Kabul, we all grew up with peoples of other ethnicities in Kabul from the day we openned our eyes, so how can you say when you met a Pashtun for the first time, when in fact you have been exposed to Pashtuns since you openned your eyes. If a Kirghiz in Wakhan said that it would sound much more plausible, but from someone from Kabul it is laughable. Where in Kabul did you grow up? I know no region of Kabul that has ONLY Tajiks living there. The largest ethnicity in Kabul province is Pashtun, so to have not interacted with Pashtuns in school, parks, in neighborhood, shopping centers, is proposterous. Its like saying I lived in Germany and never met a German :-).

Afghan November 7, 2012 at 11:29 am

tnerd, you are out of place to think that Afghans are sexually frustrated. Afghans are not sexually frustrated any more than any other nation. They are just seeking an easy path to sex. Bachabozi and beastiality is not unique to Afghans or Afghanistan, so plesae don’t sound like Ahmadi Nejad of Iran who denies there are homosexuals in Iran, as homosexuality is everywhere, including Tajikistan which you seem to deny. New York, London, Vancouver, Sydney have Bachabozi—homosexuality, so why are you picking on Afghans? In fact Maryland in the United States just approved same sex marriage, which means it is a real phenomenon, and now accepted in that state. So to pick on Afghanistan is shameful. As for your allegation that Bachabozi is more so amongst Pashtuns is another bias. Show me that statistics? How do you know that besides your opinion. The term Bachabozi is a Dari/Farsi word foreign to Pashtuns, and its origins are in Farsi/Dari, the word isn’t even Pashto.

Bangkok, Thailand survives on European and non-European sexual tourism, and we know how sexuality is open in Europe, so why are they flying all the way to Thailand? Its called easy sex; path of least resistance.

As for Afghans going half way around the world, it was primarily for education and when the sexual opportunity arose some of them took the advantage; this is just human nature and has nothing to do with being Afghan or non-Afghan. The fact that Tajikistan provides the sexual opportunity and some Afghans are taking it doesn’t mean that either is correct. It just means that there is a supply and demand interaction. Tajikistan should curb what it offers and I am sure Afghans will avoid going there for that reason; it is simple logic.

Having said that I think Tajik people are great people and one that we can get along with more than any of our other neighbors.

Alec Metz November 7, 2012 at 11:47 am

Let’s not confuse bachabazi with homosexuality; the former has as much in common with the latter as underage forced concubinage does with heterosexuality.

Afghan November 7, 2012 at 1:56 pm

In Afghanistan Bachabazi refers to both pedophila and homosexuality as one category, both of which are universal and non-restricted to certain regions or peoples. So, to imply that our society is widely engaged in it is pure delusion and false. Pedophila and homosexuality exist everywhere and it will continue to exist, even in your so-called less sexually repressed nations.

tnerb November 12, 2012 at 1:26 pm


You asked for statistics of bachabazi in Afghanistan. My statistics is google. Fel free to search. You say that in some states in the US and in Europe gay marriage is legal. But gay culture in the US and Europe is totally different from Afghans’ bachabazi practice. People in the US and Europe have a choice, if two grown men want to be with each other rather than with a woman, so be it – it is their choice. However, Afghans’ bachabazi is a practice is a totally different thing – it is a practice of raping children by grown men.

Many reports say that rich Afghan men prey on young boys’ poverty, buy them off of their parents or just kidnap them – all in the name of having forced sex with them later. Those boys are tossed aside once they are used and abused. That being said what I find most disturbing, more disturbing than the practice itself is how it is widely accepted in Afghan culture (to some degree in Pakistan too).

Afghan November 13, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Your opinion is your opinion, but to stereotype is unjust. There are plenty of pedophiles around the world and Afghanistan is no exception. I accept that we have pedophiles and I also accept that it is in every nation. Afghan culture doesn’t accept nor allow it; the few cases doesn’t represent the entire nation of 30 million people. Here is the statistics in USA: “Statistics on pedophilia are as difficult to come by as anecdotes are easy. The definition itself is misunderstood and often ill-used. Pedophilia is a mental disorder that belongs to a larger group known as paraphilias: sexual lust that is not connected to adult romantic love. Pedophilia is sexual contact between an adult and a child who hasn’t reached puberty. Another disorder in the paraphilias group is ephebophilia — intense sexual interest in teenagers. According to the FBI, 61% of rape victims are under age 18, and 29% are younger than 11. Generally accepted academic studies say one out of every four women was sexually molested by an adult before she was 18. For men: 1 out of 10. Yet only one out of every 10 cases of child sexual abuse is reported to law enforcement, the FBI reports”.

There it is ONE OUT OF EVERY 4 American female was molested before 18, and 1 out of 10 men. So does this mean American culture accepts pedophila and rape?

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