The Chai Boy

Kabul, Afghanistan
 This is a composite case study. Although this story is not of a real child, it reflects the lived experiences of child soldiers in this context.


Meet Atsah. Atsah was originally from a rural province, but now lives in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Atsah lives with his father; his mother died when Atsah was very young, when an armed group attacked his village. His father was seriously injured during the attack and is now unable to find consistent work due to his injuries.


While only 12 years of age, Atsah is now the breadwinner for his family. Atsah thought he had found employment when he met a unit chief for the local police in the market. The unit chief wanted to make Atsah his bacha-bazi, or chai boy. Atsah had witnessed other boys his age with unit chiefs; they would follow their patrons closely wherever they went with chai close at hand.


Atsah knew of a number of local children who had become permanently injured by improvised explosive devices while working in the markets or transporting goods for local businessmen. Astah was especially afraid of being recruited by the local armed group, a threat that had terrorized children in his village for years, because he had heard that some of children had been forced to be suicide bombers. Atsah thought he would be safe working with the police and being a chai boy appeared to be the safest job for Atsah to have at such a young age.


For the first couple of days, Atsah served chai to the unit chief. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary. However, as the days turned to weeks the unit chief became increasingly physical toward Atsah. Atsah was soon forced into sexual servitude for the unit chief.


The physical and mental trauma that Atsah experienced was severe. In order to cope, Atsah began to use drugs, particularly heroin, which was accessible due to drug traffickers operating in and around the area. After a year of abuse, Atsah was able to escape when his “boss” was too drunk to stop him. While he wanted to stay close to his father, Atsah was ashamed of the “work” he had been made to do. When he tried to go back home his father and community did not welcome him back because of the stigma.


Atsah eventually moved to Pul-sokhta, a slum in the outskirts of Kabul. Atsah continued to use heroin because it was the only escape from shame and stigma he still felt.



Who is a Child Soldier?

The Paris Principles on Children and Armed Conflict

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative defines a child soldier using the 2007 Paris Principal and Guidelines on Children Affected by Armed Conflict. Using the definition within the Paris Principles of a child used and associated with armed groups, the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative defines a child soldier as:


“Any person below 18 years of age who is or has been recruited or used by an armed group in any capacity including but not limited to children, boys and girls, used as fighters, cooks, porters, messengers, spies, or for sexual purposes. It does not only refer to a child who is taking part or has taken a direct part in direct hostilities”

Composite Material

and Recommended Readings

Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict Afghanistan Country Page: Webpage Link

2014 Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict: Report Link

2013 Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict: Report Link

Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Afghanistan (2011): Report Link

Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict: Setting the Right Priorities: Protecting Children Affected by Armed Conflict in Afghanistan: Report Link

New York Times: U.S. Soldiers Told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies: News Article Link

Foreign Policy: Bacha Bazi: An Afghan Tragedy: News Article Link

Not Every Child Carries a Gun

The Chai Boy

Sexual violence is defined as “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic women’s sexuality, using coercion, threats of harm or physical force, by any person regardless of relationship to the survivor, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.” The scope of the definition also includes forced sex, sexual coercion and rape of adult and adolescent men and women, and child sexual abuse.

Gender based violence is physical, mental or social abuse that is directed against a person because of his or her gender or gender role in a society or culture. In these cases, a person has no choice to refuse or pursue other options without sever social, physical, or psychological consequence.

Sexual violence continues to be used in every conflict situation around the globe.