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Curtin University
Centre for Human Rights Education

After the Event – Photo exhibition by Barat Ali Batoor

By Gaylene Galardi 12 December 2013 Past Events Comments Off on After the Event – Photo exhibition by Barat Ali Batoor

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It was a privilege for the Centre to organise the Perth photo exhibition showing the works of Nikon- Walkley award winning Hazara Afghani photojournalist Barat Ali Batoor. He exhibited 21 of his images taken in Afghanistan at the Kidogo Art House in Fremantle, Western Australia, from the 21st of November until the 8th of December 2013. The exhibition attracted interest from many people who were drawn to the story the photographs tell of daily life in Afghanistan and the story of the Dancing Boys.

While Batoor was in Perth (visiting from Melbourne), there were several activities he was involved with through the Centre, surrounding the exhibition. Batoor spoke to a small group at Curtin University on the 22nd of November, telling his journey from being an asylum seeker to becoming an award winning photographer a few months after arriving in Australia from Indonesia. Director of the Centre, Mary Anne Kenny, introduced Batoor to the attendees of the seminar before Batoor showed his photos from his journey as an asylum seeker.

The official opening of the exhibition was held on the evening of the 22nd of December. There were approximately 70 people who came along to the gallery from 6pm to 8pm. Mary Anne Kenny from the Centre and Kevin Cooper from Fuijifilm Australia both spoke about Batoor and his work, prior to Batoor addressing those who had come to the opening to support the exhibition.

On Saturday the 23rd of November, Batoor gave an Artist’s Talk at Kidogo to approximately 20 people who were interested in hearing more about the story of the photographs and how Batoor managed to get permission to take the photographs that forced him to flee Afghanistan and attempt to get to Australia on a sinking ‘leaky boat’. A brief background to the series of images called ‘The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan’ is below, written by the artist:

“Bacha Baazi is a Persian word meaning ‘being interested in children’.  In Dari (Afghan dialect) it means ‘playing with kids’.
Practiced since ancient times in Central Asia it was largely unknown in the west. Its practice was banned during the time of the Taliban but since the arrival of the allies in 2002 and the integration of the Afghan warlords into the government and positions of power it has had a resurgence.

The age-old ritual of man-boy predatory sex has proliferated after decades of poverty, corruption, and a lack of enduring social institutions. Bacha Baazi is now illegal but perpetrators rarely pay for their crimes.  Poor families sell their children and orphans are snatched off the street. They are the meekest, preyed upon by the strongest – the kind of wealthy, powerful men who have benefited most from the Western occupation and generous foreign aid. It took me 7 months to get access to meet these boys and document the dreadful lives that they lead.  They are constant victims of sexual abuse by their owners who then pass them around to other men after a price has been negotiated.  Many of them turn to heroin or opium to relieve the pain of their existence.

The Afghan government is unable and some say unwilling to tackle the problem. The justice system is weak, poverty is widespread, and there are thousands of children on the streets trying to survive and make a living for their families.”

Thank you to Barat Ali Batoor for exhibiting his work in Perth and for speaking to different groups to explain his work and his journey. Thank you to Kidogo Art House owner Joanna Robertson and staff who were fantastically helpful throughout the exhibition process and for extending the exhibition until the 8th of December. Thank you to all who went along to support the exhibition. Batoor will be releasing his book and documentary about his journey to Australia in 2014.

Photographs by Gaylene Galardi 2013.

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