When the family displaced by the drought in western Afghanistan told her husband Fahima that they were going to sell their two young women to keep them from starving, she “cried a lot”.
The girls, Farishte, River, and Shokriya, one and a half, are in a clay shelter covered with perforated tarpaulins, their clothes and faces covered in mud.
Not knowing that they were recently sold to the families and minors of their future husbands. They spent about $ 3,350 on the eldest and $ 2,800 on his sister.
Once this amount is paid in full, it can take many years for both girls to say goodbye to their parents and say goodbye to this migrant camp in Kala-e-Na, the capital of the province of Patkis. District, found refuge to live.
The story is sadly common among thousands of families displaced by the drought in the region, one of the poorest families in the country.
In IDP camps and villages, AFP journalists met with about fifteen of them, forcing young women to sell themselves for $ 550 to about $ 4,000.
The practice is widespread. Representatives from camps and villages have counted dozens of cases since the 2018 drought, which has increased with 2021.
The family of Sabehre, 25, a neighbor of Fahima, had taken a food loan at the grocery store. The owner threatened to “put us in jail” if we did not return the money.
To pay off their debt, the family sells a three-year-old Zakir, who marries a four-year-old Jabiullah, the son of a grocery store owner. She suspects nothing, and decides to wait until her fianc’s father is old enough to take her with them.
“I’m not happy to have done that, but we have nothing to eat or drink (…) If this continues, we will (more) have to sell our three – month – old daughter,” Sabeh said frustrated.
“A lot of people sell their daughters,” asserts another neighbor, Gul Bibi, who sold his eight- or nine-year-old Asho to a 23-year-old man.
The man is in Iran today, and fears he will return tomorrow to pick up Gul Bibi Asho.
“We know this is not good (…), but we have no choice,” said Hayatullah, a resident of another camp who heard the conversation, cowardly walking near the tent.
At another camp in Kala-i-Na, Mohammad Assan shows pictures of his daughters Siena, nine and Eddie Gul, six, wiping away his tears as he leaves with his young husbands not far from the city.
“We never saw them again,” the person said. “We didn’t want to do this, but we had to feed our other children.”
“My daughters are definitely better with the food out there,” he tries to comfort himself, before showing the loaves of bread the neighbor had given him, which was the only meal of the day.
Mr. who has to take care of his ailing wife. Assange is still in debt. A few days ago, he began looking for a picker for his four-year-old daughter.
“Some days I go crazy, I leave the tent, I don’t remember where I’m going,” said his wife, Dada Gul, sitting in the dilapidated tent.
For mothers this test is endless: the decision to sell their baby, the wait to leave, often leads to daughters 10 or 12 years of age, then separates.
Rabia, a 43-year-old widow displaced by the drought, is doing everything she can to postpone the terrible deadline. Her 12-year-old daughter, Habibie, was sold for about $ 550 and should have left a month ago, but Rabia begged her husband’s family to wait another year.
“I want to be with my mom,” the skinny young man whispered, her eyes sad.
Rabia will rescue her daughter if she “eats and drinks”. But that was not enough for her and her three children to survive. His 11-year-old son works for half a dollar a day in a bakery, while a nine-year-old boy picks up trash for 30 bucks.
“My heart was broken (…), but I had to save my sons,” Rabia explains.
In the camps, we earn a few bucks a day by begging or earning by trolley. We wonder how we will survive the approaching winter.
Every evening Abdul Rahim Akbar collects bread to help poor families. “I saw a hundred families doing this camp. Even my brother, ”he says of child marriage.
The previous day, he had gone to Taliban officials for help. But 90% of the population is powerless in the province where they are at risk due to lack of adequate food.
Badghis’ acting governor, Malawi Abdul Sattar, told the AFP that the marriages were “caused by economic problems and not by the Taliban.”
Before the Taliban came to power in August, the minimum age for marriage under the previous government was 16.
According to a 2018 UNICEF report, 42% of Afghan families have a daughter who gets married before the age of 18. First, for financial reasons, marriage is often seen as a means of ensuring the survival of a family. But women who get married prematurely are also at serious risk from complicated childbirth to domestic or domestic violence.
For the husband, buying a young daughter is advantageous because she costs less than the older woman.
In the south, the scourge is spreading to camps for displaced people in Herat, the third-largest Afghan city. Allauddin, a displaced man from Patkis, explains that he sold his 10-year-old daughter there.
“I would never have done it if I had the will,” he says. He has another daughter who is five years old and, if he can, will “sell her too”.
However, behind the harsh words, the plight of the fathers shines through. Their voices and their eyes reflect their boundless frustration at not being able to meet the needs of their family.
“I know it’s not good,” laments Boss Mohammad, a former farmer in Patkis. “But I thought we were all going to die.”