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Under Taliban rule, starving Afghan families selling off their minor daughters to ‘keep family alive’

In recent months, many displaced Afghan families facing hardship and starvation have been forced to make the decision to marry off their barely adolescent daughters to men 4-5 times their age.

The humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan is rapidly escalating since the Taliban seized power on August 15, halting most economic activities and plunging the country into a crisis. Poverty-stricken Afghan families are being left with no option but to sell off their young daughters in lieu of money and basic sustenance that would ensure the survival of the rest of the family members.

In recent months, many displaced Afghan families facing hardship and starvation have been forced to make the distasteful decision to sell off their barely adolescent daughters to men 4-5 times their age, as per reports.

One such disturbing story is that of a 9-year-old Afghan girl named Parwana Malik. According to a report by CNN, Parwana’s family sold her to a 55-year-old man named Qorban last month who paid 200,000 Afghanis (about $2,200) in the form of sheep, land and cash to Parwana’s father in exchange for the minor girl.

Parwana’s family of eight, who have been just scraping by at a camp for internally displaced people in the war-torn country’s Badghis district, said they had no choice since jobs were few and foreign aid had dried up since the Taliban took power on August 15.

Speaking to CNN, the distressed and regretful father Abdul Malik revealed that prior to selling off Parwana, he had sold another 12-year-old daughter a couple of months ago. Now he’s been forced to sell another daughter “in order to keep other family members alive.” This decision he said has left him “broken with guilt, shame and worry”.

CNN quoted Abdul Malik as saying: “We are eight family members. I have to sell to keep other family members alive.”

Malik said he had worked tirelessly to find a way to keep his girls from being sold. He went to the provincial capital city of Qala-e-Naw to look for jobs and even borrowed “a lot of money” from relatives, while his wife resorted to begging for food from other camp inmates. But, in order to feed his family, he felt he had no choice.

Parwana, meanwhile, revealed that she wished to study and become a teacher. However, due to her family’s severe financial situation, she is unable to pursue this opportunity. When asked about her impending “marriage,” she expresses concern that the “old man” will beat her and make her labour in his home.

Though extremely heart-breaking, Parwana’s situation is far from being unique. Many more Afghan families have been forced to endure similar anguish in order to survive under the Taliban regime.

Hunger and poverty

Last month ANI had reported how poverty and hunger had compelled an Afghan woman, who was displaced from the Baghlan province to Kabul after the Taliban take over, to sell her one and a half-year-old infant for treating her another 13-year-old daughter, who was very sick and needed immediate treatment. Lailuma, who used to live in a tent in Kabul had sold her baby for 30,000 Afghani (INR 24,850 approximately).

Meanwhile, another mother Fahima cried inconsolably after her husband was compelled to sell their six-year-old Faristehand 18-month-old Shokriya to withstand the poverty that has engulfed western Afghanistan since the emergence of the Taliban at the helm of affairs.

“My husband said if we don’t give away our daughters, we will all die because we don’t have anything to eat,” said Fahima, echoing the sentiments of many such impoverished Afghan families.

Though extremely disturbing, this woeful practice is not new in Afghanistan. In fact, it’s reminiscent of the Taliban rule in the 1990s (Taliban 1.0) when the poverty-driven Afghan families too, were forced to go through a similar ordeal in order to survive.

When the Taliban took over Afghanistan many women had come up to narrate their ordeal during the Taliban rule in the 1990s.

“Living under the rule of the Taliban regime is like being in an abusive relationship. At first, it’s good. They make lots of promises, they watch their steps, they even deliver on some of their promises. But while you are being lulled into a false sense of security, they are making their plans,” BBC quoted one Afghan lady Friba as saying.

Friba narrated her story of how her family were torn apart when her father disappeared during Taliban rule in 1999. “Life under the Taliban went from a living hell to a black hole of hopelessness. As we watch the news of the Taliban taking over Afghanistan again I fear that history will repeat itself. I am married now and live in England. But I am afraid for my mother, sisters and brother who are still in Afghanistan, and for the millions of families who will suffer pain and loss as we did. Their only crime, being born in Afghanistan,” Friba rued.

OpIndia has also reported extensively on how women are facing a tough time under the Taliban rule. In September, women in Afghanistan had again taken to the streets to demand fundamental rights be guaranteed to them under Taliban rule.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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