Welcome to Afghanistan: home to some of the world’s most gorgeous mosques, breathtaking national parks, and booming markets for selling little girls.
Every American is probably well aware of the war that we have been fighting in Afghanistan for the past 17 years, but there is a more sinister aspect of Afghanistan that we are not told about. Families have now found themselves in situations where they need to sell their daughters in order to provide for their other children.
You might ask: how could a mother or father do such a thing? Well, it’s more common than you would think.
Right now, Afghanistan is experiencing one of their most severe droughts ever recorded, which has destroyed most crops in the country. This has inevitably led to mass starvation throughout the country, specifically targeting single mothers, which places a price tag on children.
Mamareen is one such woman, who has sold her 6 year-old daughter to a man, Najmuddin, as part of an agreement to marry his 10 year-old son. How much was her life worth? Najmuddin promised her mother $3,000, but Mamareen has only received $70.
In fact, the man who bought Akila, the young girl, believed himself to be doing a charitable act for the family. He said that although he is poor, he wanted to help this family and ease their hunger. Akila must now suffer rape, torture, and who knows what else, and Najmuddin will sleep soundly every night vehemently believing he did a good thing.
Unfortunately, Alika’s story is the norm rather than the exception. Many young girls are sold off to marriage every day to men over 50 years their senior, now younger than ever. The girls are the most valuable possessions these families have, worth upwards of $3,000.
The transactions start with a deposit, which offers the other children in the family a chance to eat apples instead of gravel and wear shirts instead of dirty rags. The rest is paid off in monthly increments until the girl is completely paid for and is sent away to her new owner.
But how much can we blame the parents? If they sell their daughter, she has a chance to escape death. Instead of living off sugar water, she can go to a home that was able to afford her, therefore giving her the possibility of real food. What is worse: watching your child wither away until hunger eventually overtakes them, or selling them off to give them a chance at survival, in spite of the psychological and physical damage?
But it is not just girls who are being sold away. Boys are dealing with the same horrifying reality. Little boys are expected to go through the same process, while at the same time dealing with the standards of being a male, which in Afghani culture (and in most places around the world) means showing no emotion. While the girls are at least given an explanation as to what their future will hold in a child marriage, the boys are often sold without any explanation or comfort.
Boys are also primary targets for abductions. Kidnapping has become another central characteristic of Afghanistan’s economy. Children, boys from wealthy families in particular, are taken and held for ransom.
Take, for instance, Mateen Khan, who was interviewed by The Telegraph after kidnapping a young boy. What will happen to the child? He was blindfolded, tied up, and given two options: mutilate his eyes and call his relatives demanding money in exchange for his life, or be sold to the Taliban.
The Taliban, as many people know, is a major extremist, Islamist, political movement that has taken over the Middle East. What happens to the young boys that are sold to the organization? They are trained to be suicide bombers.
Just a little over a year ago, the Afghani police force infiltrated a sex-trafficking ring. They found 25 kids: 25 victims who were kidnapped and drugged in preparation of being transferred to Pakistan, where they would be instructed on their duties to the Taliban. The ages of the children? They ranged from 4 to 14 years old.
Children in Afghanistan may very well be living the worst form of Hell on Earth. Of course, not every Afghani child is sold off to the Taliban, kidnapped, or married off. There are a few lucky ones.
For instance, take Lina, a 12 year-old living in a refugee camp in Kabul. She is one of the lucky ones. She gets to cram herself, her 12 sisters and brothers, and her parents into 2 tents. She does not have to worry about school because she needs to focus on making money to feed herself. She also does not have time for the luxury of school, seeing that she has to make an hour-long journey, 2-3 times a day, just to get water. She is considered fortunate compared to what other horrors she could be dealing with.
Many people say that we have enough lives to be worried about in America; that we cannot divert our attention to some third-world country that also needs our help. But a life is a life. A child is a child, no matter where he or she is. We are fortunate in this country to be in a position where most parents do not have to sell their children to feed the rest of their family, where our government is not taking our children and brainwashing them to kill themselves and thousands of other civilians. Afghanistan is another story, a completely appalling story that sounds like it comes out of a dystopian novel, yet the people living through this could tell you in horrifying detail the reality of what is happening. I think these Afghani kids deserve to have their stories known.