The Dancer by Bashir Sakhawarz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Thsi stry is available online
In the #MeToo age here is a sad story about paedophilic abuse of a young 8 year old boy struggling with hunger and poverty on the streets in a war torn Afghanistan. His need for food makes him susceptible to the whims of an older powerful man, Akram with the position of army Commander, who traffics him far away. The boy's naivety makes him confuse the receipt of food and drink, a place to stay and schooling in dance as love, the abuser as more than the forgotton father who had abandoned him in a now forgotton place. He lives with Akram "in a big fortress with his children and wives, guarded by his private soldiers" in "a big room at the entrance of the fortress" and learns "the art of dancing from the best dance teachers, accompanied by excellent musicians."
***SPOILER ALERT *** Shrouding the older man's abuse in illegal same sex marriage bought with a brib to the mullah, the young boy is painted and dressed as a woman, dances for the men's entertainment, performing like a well taught pet. Now 14 years old, he is the best dancer "in the province of Farkhar" But in his cloistered life, he is the only one who does not know his ultimate fate
"He doesn't know but the moon above the cloud, the cloud above the mountain, the mountain on the shoulder of the earth, the earth on the back of a dragon know that some years later when the boy is just sixteen years old everything will change. But at the moment he is the moon on the calm water of the lake, the sun behind sutton cloud, the gentle breeze in the summer, the canary, the music. He walks on the heart of the men and his footprint remains. They have seen many boys before him but not like him from heaven, a ghilman. He is king and queen at the same time, king of dance, queen of Akram."
The boy's life will turn full circle when he is too old for the Commander's desires, becomes the discarded play thing, flung out onto an unknown street without friend or food once again. Although set in Afghanistan, the impact of what the story tell is universal - the cyclical sadness of poverty, the cruel disregard by the perpetrators of abuse for the humanity of their victims.
Note https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghilman Ghilman (singular Arabic: غُلاَم ghulām ,plural غِلْمَان ghilmān) were slave-soldiers and/or mercenaries in the armies of the Abbasid, Ottoman, and Persian Safavid, Afsharid and Qajar empires.
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