Afghans still selling off daughters to survive under Taliban rule

AP Photo/Mohammad Asif Khan

On the rare occasions that the mainstream media bothers to mention the situation in Afghanistan it generally involves the American citizens and Afghan helpers who still remain trapped there months after the disastrous pullout in August. But that’s far from the only ugliness unfolding in the country under the rule of the Taliban. The Afghan economy was never particularly strong even when the previous government was in charge, with many provinces regularly experiencing poverty and hunger. But once the Taliban took over, the entire system collapsed completely. There is very little money to go around anywhere (unless you’re a Taliban leader) and famine is endemic now. Work is very hard to find and the few available jobs barely pay anything to speak of. Many desperate families that have fallen into debt are making what sounds like an unthinkable decision. They are selling off their prepubescent daughters to wealthier families in exchange for a dowry to keep the rest of the family alive. (NBC News)

The days are filled with hardships for children here in Shaidai, a desert community on the mountainous edge of Herat in western Afghanistan.

Children like Benazir and her siblings beg on the streets, or collect garbage to heat their simple mud homes, because they don’t have enough money for wood.

Her father, Murad Khan, looks much older than his 55 years — his face worn with worry. A day laborer who hasn’t found work in months and with eight children to feed, his decision to sell Benazir to marriage at such a young age comes down to a cold calculation.

“We are 10 people in the family. I’m trying to keep 10 alive by sacrificing one,” he said in Pashto.

The child described in the excerpt above is Benazir Khan. She has been sold to a family in Iran for the price of $2,000, which is currently a fortune in her family’s province of Herat. And she is eight years old. When the family delivers the money to her father, she will be taken away to do domestic chores for them until she reaches puberty, at which point she will be married to one of the family’s sons. Benazir’s best friend Saliha is seven years old and she too has already been sold off for marriage.

Saliha’s father says that he hasn’t been able to find work in months so some local shopkeepers agreed to give him some food as a loan, but only if he could show that he had a way to get the money to repay them. That led to his decision to sign a contract to sell his seven-year-old daughter to another family.

These situations clearly represent the “new normal” under Taliban rule. When the terrorists rolled in and took over the entire country in a matter of days, they assured the world that they planned to quickly establish a functional government and take care of their people. They either had no intention of doing so or they quickly realized that they had no clue how to do it. There is aid coming into the country on a daily basis, but it’s obviously not reaching all of the people in need. Meanwhile, the Taliban leaders seem to not be missing any meals.

Other abuses being committed by the new “government” are seen on a daily basis. The Taliban quickly began demanding a “tax” payment from any business that managed to remain in operation after they arrived. The crippling fees have put many owners out of business quickly, depriving their communities of even more jobs. In other words, the Taliban are looting their own people under the guise of being a legitimate government instead of making sure their people are being fed.

Assuming the majority of Afghans somehow manage to survive the coming winter (a very big assumption at this point), the reputation of the United States and our allies isn’t going to very good in the years to come. The two decades that we spent attempting to help them will be forgotten and all we’ll be remembered for was abandoning them to the animals currently running the country. I have to wonder if we didn’t inadvertently create a new generation of terrorists who will grow up hating the west and everything we represent. That might work out brilliantly for the Taliban, who are no doubt always looking to recruit a new class of fighters and suicide bombers.

I’d love to offer a solution to this horrendous mess, but I honestly don’t think there is one on the table. It’s too late for that now. Afghanistan will remain a broken, failed state for the foreseeable future.