Under the Taliban, families in debt are selling off their children

Hot Air via the Wall Street Journal

Desperate to feed her family, Saleha, a housecleaner here in western Afghanistan, has incurred such an insurmountable debt that the only way she sees out is to hand over her 3-year-old daughter, Najiba, to the man who lent her the money. The debt is $550. Saleha, a 40-year-old mother of six who goes by one name, earns 70 cents a day cleaning homes in a wealthier neighborhood of Herat. Her much older husband doesn’t have any work. Such is the starkness of deepening poverty in Afghanistan, a humanitarian crisis that is worsening fast after the Taliban seized power on Aug. 15, prompting the U.S. to freeze $9 billion in Afghan central-bank assets and causing a halt in most foreign aid. A reporter spoke to the lender to who Saleha owes the money. He admits that he made an offer a few weeks ago to cancel her debt if she hands over her daughter to be “married” to one of his sons when she reaches puberty. Until that time, the daughter will do domestic work around the house. In the phone interview, the lender made no bones about the arrangement. “I also don’t have money. They haven’t paid me back,” said Mr. Khalid Ahmad, reached by phone in Badghis. “So there is no option but taking the daughter.” Let that sink in for a moment. “So there is no option but taking the daughter.” Something that struck me when I was reading this horrifying story was the realization that our failure in Afghanistan didn’t only come with the botched evacuation. (Though that was a massive failure also.) We were never going to “remake” the country into some democratic bastion of freedom because we never really changed the culture of that nation, aside from perhaps among some of the younger women in urban areas. After twenty years of western influence, it took a matter of weeks before the locals (and we’re not even talking about the Taliban here) were back to treating females as literal property. This lender clearly has no qualms about buying that toddler – another human being – and forcing her into a life of servitude until she becomes the closeted sex slave of one of his sons… when she reaches puberty. In other words, when she’s somewhere between eight and fourteen years old. And that assumes there are enough scraps of food in the home to keep her alive until then.

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