Afghan farmers selling their daughters to ward off opium debts

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Kabul, Mar 31 : Poppy farmers in Afghanistan are being compelled to give away their daughters to local drug traffickers after failing to clear their loans. According to a report appearing in the Newsweek magazine, these farmers have been involved in this business for decades on the stony hillsides of eastern Afghanistan and in the dusty southern plains.

Taking the example of Sayed Shah, the magazine says he borrowed 2,000 dollars from a local trafficker, promising to repay the loan with 24 kilos of opium at harvest time. But just before the harvest, the government destroyed Shah's entire two and a half acres of poppy.

Unable to pay off his debt, Shah fled with his family, but was found by the trafficker. Village elders then unanimously ruled that Shah would have to reimburse the trafficker by giving Khalida, his ten-year old daughter in marriage.

This system of "loan brides", is cruel, but the magazine says that for the farmers, it os a way out of their back-breaking debt.

This will be our darkest year since 2000. Baz Mohammad, a 65-year-old former opium farmer in Nangarhar in Afghanistan, as saying on the poor opium harvest.

An estimated 500,000 Afghan families support themselves by raising poppy, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The real profits go to the traffickers, their Taliban allies and the crooked officials who help them to operate. The country's well-oiled narcotics machine generates in excess of four billion dollars a year from exports of processed opium and heroin-more than half of Afghanistan's 7.5 billion dollars GDP.

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