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In December 2001, just after the American invasion, Magnum Studios photographer Thomas Dworzak arrived in Afghanistan. The Taliban had banned all photography that showed people: such images, they said, were prohibited by the Koran.
There was one exception to the rule: men (and only men) were allowed to sit for passport photos. Only instead of using the studios for passports, the men used them for affectionate, elaborate, and clandestine portraits that are, well, very gay. In the photos, the young men combed out their long hair, applied blush, a little lipstick, and painted kohl around their eyes. They posed in front of flowers (and sometimes guns) and wrapped their arms around their friends.
Dworzak began collecting the photos, which he found abandoned in print shops after the Taliban fled. He’s recently put some of them up on the well-known New York photo agency’s site. Looking at the images, Dworzak saw that the Taliban loved being photographed, writes Jeff Severns Guntzel. Dworzak says there’s a strong homosexual tradition among Afghan fighters — in which an older man adopts a young man and he may become his student and his lover. The Taliban had banned homosexuality, and one of the customs they tried to weed out was that of tribal warlords keeping young boys as concubines. Photo via Utne Reader.