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Desperate Afghans are promising their daughters as young as 7 for marriage in exchange for cash: report

Afghanistan is on the brink of economic collapse after the Taliban's takeover, forcing its poorest residents to make tough choices to stay alive. ...
A child walks through Fort Bliss' Doña Ana Village where Afghan refugees are being housed, in New Mexico, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021.
A child walks through Fort Bliss' Doña Ana Village where Afghan refugees are being housed, in New Mexico, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021.

  • Desperate Afghan parents are selling their kids in exchange for cash to feed the rest of their family or get out of debt. 
  • Benazir, for example, is an 8-year-old girl sold for $2,000, an amount that will go toward feeding a 10-person family.
  • Benazir is just the latest example of children given away by their families in Afghanistan following the Taliban's takeover.

Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, some desperate families have resorted to selling their kids into marriage to make ends meet. 

Benazir, for example, is an 8-year-old girl from Afghanistan whose family sold her for $2,000. The money will go toward keeping the rest of the family, including eight kids, alive, Benzari's father told NBC News.  

"We are 10 people in the family. I'm trying to keep 10 alive by sacrificing one," Muraad Khan, 55, told NBC News. Khan hasn't worked in months, which has made it hard to feed his large family. 

Benazir will be married to a boy from a family in Iran, Khan told NBC News. The man who bought her will "just take her hand and take her away from me," he said. "He will take her away and say, 'She's ours now.'"

Her best friend Saliha, 7, has also been sold into marriage for $2,000, according to NBC News. Saliha's father said he needed to sell her to pay off debt. 

Benazir and Saliha are just the latest examples of children given away by their families in Afghanistan in exchange for desperately needed cash.

Earlier this month, a report came out of an Afghan father saying he sold his 9-year-old daughter, Parwana Malik, to a man for $2,200 to be able to afford food for his wife and other kids. The family has lived in a northwest province of Afghanistan for years, struggling to pay for basic needs like food. Together, they earn just a few dollars a day.

Last month, a woman named Saleha said she sold her 3-year-old daughter for $550 because, like the Maliks, she didn't have enough money to sustain herself. When Insider readers heard of Saleha's story, dozens offered to pay off her debt.

Afghanistan is on the brink of economic collapse

Afghanistan is heading toward "universal poverty" following the Taliban's swift takeover of the country, according to a projection from a United Nations' development agency. Within a year, the poverty rate in Afghanistan will hover at a whopping 97% or 98%, said Kanni Wignaraja, UNDP's Asia-Pacific Director.

"Afghanistan pretty much faces universal poverty by the middle of next year," Wignaraja said. "That's where we're heading — it's 97-98% no matter how you work these projections."

The Taliban took over Afghanistan following President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw US troops from the region after two decades spent trying to rid the country of extremists. In its takeover, the Taliban renamed the country the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, reverting back to the same name used during the last time the regime held power, in 1996. The regime remained in power until 2001, after the US invaded Afghanistan. 

After the US ousted the Taliban from power in 2001, Afghanistan made several developmental gains including the doubling of per capita income and an increase in the average number of years of education, Wignaraja said.

Over the past two decades, Afghanistan made significant economic gains that are now in danger of collapsing because of political instability. Afghanistan faces "a crush on local banking" because of the Taliban takeover, Wignaraja said. That instability is only worsened by the pandemic. 

The Biden administration, in an effort to limit the Taliban's resources, froze nearly $10 billion in reserves in the country's central bank — most of which is reportedly held by the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. The move has been criticized as misdirected and will ultimately hurt Afghans more than the Taliban, Shah Mehrabi, a senior board member of Da Afghanistan Bank, told Bloomberg

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