Girls as bargaining chips in Afghanistan |

Zalmay, who contracted with the family for $8,500, offered to marry the youngest son of his creditors, Habiba.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

Her hair is messy red with henna. Her green eyes sparkle when she smiles and her mouth shows unfinished adult teeth. Were it not for the dirt covering her bare feet in the litter that pollutes the dirt floor, Habiba looks like a seven-year-old girl as we know her.

His father Zalmay was a policeman in the Afghan National Army. A job he was proud of. However, when he realized that the government was going to collapse, he abandoned it.

I don’t make any money at alla man with dehydrated skin sighs from years of exposure to the harsh sun in southern Afghanistan.

Zalmai lost his home and settled with his family in a camp for the displaced. A few curtains, earthen walls, and a few straws served as shelter for them. To survive, the man sank into debt.

Habiba’s father, Zalmay, was a police officer in the Afghan National Army. When he realized that the government would be ousted by the Taliban, he quit his job. He is here with his two daughters.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

He owes $8,500 to a family who is now demanding repayment. He says it’s his right, but he has no money. So he offered to marry the son of his creditors, Habiba.

The family says it’s better to actually go work with them than do nothing with me, but I tell them she’s too young to work.

Habiba clings to her father’s shirt to bury her face in it when she hears it. And Zalmay told her what was happening to her, without explaining to her all that this marriage meant.

She knows and told me she doesn’t want to go, she’s too young. See how you love me.

“She told me that she does not want to go, she is very young. You see how much she loves me,” Zalmai testifies, about her daughter Habiba, who was offered to marry the son of her creditors.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

Most of the approximately 300 people living in a miserable camp in the heart of Kandahar have been displaced from Badghis district due to years of fighting and poverty. The occupied little plot of land is surrounded by a mountain of trash cans rotting in the sun. The smell is coming from your throat.

Gansha Gul and her children are looking for plastic and metal. These items that they sell will enable them to survive.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

Our whole life is this waste. We are looking for it so we can sell the plastic and metal we findsays Goncha Gul.

He only has children. He relies on them to make heaps of scent every day. Goncha Gul insists on humiliating but honest work. This did not prevent the Taliban from arresting one of his sons a week ago. Instead of releasing him, they asked his father to leave him with them, so that he could go to the Quran memorization school.

They told me they would keep him at school and that he could come see us once a week.

Goncha Gul explains that eating is what her children demand. And for that, Daddy needs all their little hands at work.

Sell ​​your daughter to survive

Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

We just watch life go by, there’s nothing hereBibi, clad in a blue burqa surrounded by spots, visited. We are nothing to the Taliban, so why would they help us?

A husband who visited Bibi also incurred debts of several thousand dollars with his distant relatives. A loan that must be repaid. His eight-year-old daughter Rukia will play the propulsion role.

Whether she is far from puberty or not, her mother says she has no other choice.

I have to give it to them, it’s an obligation. There is no other solution. »

Quote from Zar Bibi, the mother of little Rukia, 8 years old

Rukia sits next to him and smiles and laughs. She does not doubt for a second what awaits her and does not bother to talk to the adults around her.

Rukia, daughter of Zar Bibi, will be forced into marriage to pay off her father’s contract debts.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

If you tell her, she won’t accept it. But when they come for my daughter, said her mother, I will give it to them whether I like it or not. At the age of eight, it is impossible to be happy about that.

When the time comes, Zar Baby will lie to Rukia. She will tell him that she will live with an uncle she has never met before. She says what happens to him after that is no longer his responsibility.

I have no idea how she would react there. Of course she is too young to understand her situation. I am sure she will cry and not accept her fate.

He visited Bibi with her daughter Rukia and her children.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

There is no minimum age for marriage in Afghanistan, so as not to interfere in family affairs. This did not prevent the Taliban from issuing a decree setting the maximum amount that could be paid to a young girl.

A little more than the equivalent of 5,000 Canadian dollars: That’s what a young bride could be worth, according to the decree.

Before the Taliban came to power, the minimum legal age for marriage was 16.

According to a report published by UNICEF in 2018, 28% of women between the ages of 18 and 49 were married before the age of 18. The organization is concerned about a marked increase in this scourge in recent months.

When you ask Abd al-Rahman how many children he has, he automatically answers seven, seven, he said. Then he changes his mind: he also has three daughters.

Three of them are girls and seven are boys. She is my daughterHe said, pointing to Saliya with a nod.

The little girl’s face has subtle freckles that give her a mischievous look and her eyes are black.

Sally’s father sold it in the village from which he fled, burdened with debt.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

In the tent that is used as their house, verses from the Qur’an are read. A few times a week, Salia can go to the seminary for girls near the camp. These are the only schools open, his mother says. There she learns to recite the Qur’an but does not know how to read it. Core subjects are not in the syllabus.

When Salia was asked what she wanted, she shyly replied that she would like to learn to write.

A dream as simple as it is unattainable. Her father sold her in the village from which he fled, and she is also heavily indebted.

Abdul Rahman with three young girls: Ruqayya, Saliya and Fawzia. Sally his daughter.Photo: Radio Canada / Marie-Yves Bedard

We have no excuse for our daughter. The blame lies with the father and the mother, not her. Why should her parents give her like this? It is impossible to negotiate. You have to pay your debtsAbdul Rahman says:

To these young girls who would become women without becoming children, we obviously owe nothing at all.

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