What is it like to be gay in today's Afghanistan? Ten years have gone by since the war in Afghanistan toppled the Taliban regime, and gave way to the process of creating a brand new country. It is an extremely meaningful anniversary, both for Afghans and for the West, who has played a major part in Afghan history in the last ten years and who has a very high moral stake in the reconstruction of the country. Much has been said about Afghanistan having finally gotten rid of its restrictive regime and embracing - especially in the major urban centres - a new season of freedom.
It may be partially true. But it still does not apply to the Afghan homosexual community, which according to some statistics amounts to as much as 20 percent of the population. Gays in Afghanistan are still forced to hide, as the law considers homosexuality a capital offense.
For most heterosexual youngsters, in a country where women are still secluded, and the majority of marriages are arranged by family, pre-marital contact between the two sexes is virtually nonexistent. Thus the first sexual experiences are forcibly made with the same sex. It is widely accepted that "forced temporary homosexuality", as the phenomenon has been called by sociologists, involves more than 50 percent of the young male population. And this includes the Army.
In the past ten years, I have been traveling extensively to Afghanistan, at least twice a year, and I have been covering a lot of aspects of its daily life and social issues. Afghanistan has almost become my second home, and despite its issues, it's a country that you can easily fall in love with.
Through my fixer, interpreter and good friend Fridoon, my travel companion for a decade, who is a young, passionate Afghan, and who, though heterosexual, has had homosexual experiences, I have come in contact with the gay community. I felt their deep suffering. The suffering of those who are unable to openly express their feelings and sexuality. Even though they are citizens of a country where male "dancing kids" as young as ten have been used by warlords and local chieftains as sex toys for decades, and openly exhibited by their "masters", adult homosexuality is frowned upon.
After months of thorough research, I am now in the position to start exploring and documenting this world of social contradictions, which is (no matter how the law regards it) a fundamental pillar of Afghan culture. It will take time and patience to win the trust of the many people I want to photograph. In Afghanistan, in order to make things happen, and convince people that you are really serious about what you do, you have to be there, and be prepared to spend a long time with them.
Having covered so much of this beautiful and unfortunate country in the past, I believe today there is really no story in Afghanistan that is more worthy of being properly told.