opium brides afghanistan

Harrowing and tragic story in Newsweek Int’l on Afghan farmers who now in debt (to opium traffickers and the Taliban) are now selling their daughters to cover the financial difference.

It’s a stark reminder among other things that low-level drug dealers, whether in inner city Baltimore or Eastern Afghanistan, don’t make the coin, it’s the higher ups that do.

A snippet:

The family’s heartbreak began when Shah borrowed $2,000 from a local trafficker, promising to repay the loan with 24 kilos of opium at harvest time. Late last spring, just before harvest, a government crop-eradication team appeared at the family’s little plot of land in Laghman province and destroyed Shah’s entire two and a half acres of poppies. Unable to meet his debt, Shah fled with his family to Jalalabad, the capital of neighboring Nangarhar province. The trafficker found them anyway and demanded his opium. So Shah took his case before a tribal council in Laghman and begged for leniency. Instead, the elders unanimously ruled that Shah would have to reimburse the trafficker by giving Khalida to him in marriage. Now the family can only wait for the 45-year-old drugrunner to come back for his prize. Khalida wanted to be a teacher someday, but that has become impossible. “It’s my fate,” the child says.

The government crop eradication program in question has been pushed by the US against elements of the Afghan government (and even some NATO members).   One suggested way out of this is to buy up the opium (NATO) and find a use for it that does not involve turning into in heroin and ending up on the streets of Paris.  (Or alternatively and more controversially, control the drug trade).  But crop eradication is clearly not the answer.  This year will see record profits (for the warlords and Taliban and crooked government/police go betweens) but not for the farmers depicted in this story.  The eradication program only furthers enmity towards the NATO forces/mission.  You can’t win hearts and minds by destroying a man’s livelihood, so he is forced to sell his daughter to a trafficker–think about what that poor girl’s life is going to become for a moment.  Death would likely be a sweet release compared to what she is likely to endure.

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Published in: on March 30, 2008 at 9:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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