Parwana Malik was sold for the equivalent of £1,600 to a stranger by her fatherAfter an outcry, a US-based charity helped secure her freedom two weeks laterHer buyer Qorban has been forced into hiding after a backlash in his community
A nine-year-old girl who was sold by her father to a 55-year-old man as a child bride in Afghanistan has been rescued by a charity.
Parwana Malik was sold for the equivalent of £1,600 in land, sheep and cash to a stranger named Qorban so her father Abdul Malik could pay for food in the Taliban-ruled nation.
Parwana had cried day and night before her sale, begging her father instead to go to school to become a doctor.
The horrific deal drew international outrage with all 24 female senators in the US pushing President Joe Biden to take action to prevent child marriages in Afghanistan.
A US-based charity, Too Young to Wed, helped free the girl from the barbaric arrangement and her siblings and mother were moved from their camp to a safe house in Herat – the first time they had even been in a real home after living in tents.
A nine-year-old girl (pictured) who was sold by her father to a 55-year-old man as a child bride in Afghanistan has been rescued by a charity
Qorban was also forced into hiding after a backlash among his own community.
Parwana’s father has admitted he has faced heavy criticism and was forced to change his story to locals in a bid to save his reputation.
The nine-year-old was returned to her family two weeks after the sale but the £1,600 debt is still owed to Qorban.
The non-profit’s founder Stephanie Sinclair told CNN: ‘This is a temporary solution. Really what we’re trying to do is prevent girls being sold into marriage.’
After her rescue, Parwana said: ‘I am really happy. They rid me from my husband and my husband is old.’
Parwana’s mother Reza Gul said she tried to stop the sale but her husband insisted.
She said: ‘Of course, I was angry, I fought him, and I cried. He said that he didn’t have any option.’
Parwana’s buyer Qorban (right), who only has one name, arrived at the family’s home with the payment to give her father Abdul (left) the payment
The family will stay in the safe house throughout winter and be supported by the charity.
Marriage under the age of 15 is illegal worldwide but is commonly practised in many parts of the world, particularly in rural Afghanistan.
The situation has become much worse since August when the Taliban seized power, with families driven to desperation.
Parwana’s buyer Qorban said at the time of his deal it was his ‘second marriage’ and insisted he would treat her well.
Parwana and her family had been living in an Afghan displacement camp in northwestern Badghis province for the past four years. They have survived on humanitarian aid and work which earns them around £2 a day.
But since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August, the country’s economy is on the brink of collapse and international humanitarian aid has been put on hold – and the effects are deeply felt by families such as Parwana’s who cannot buy basic goods such as food.
Abdul was forced to sell Parwana’s 12-year-old sister months ago to help his family survive.
Parwana, her small face peeping out from her pale pink hijab, told CNN previously: ‘My father has sold me because we don’t have bread, rice or flour. He has sold me to an old man.’
Parwana’s father (pictured) has admitted he has faced heavy criticism and was forced to change his story to locals in a bid to save his reputation
Her father Abdul said he was ‘broken’ with guilt at the sale of his daughter and was unable to sleep at night.
He said he had searched for unsuccessfully for work and borrowed money from relatives – with his wife even begging other camp residents for food – but nothing worked.
Abdul, who felt he had no choice but to sell Parwana to help his family survive, said: ‘We are eight family members. I have to sell to keep other family members alive.’
A weeping Abdul told Qorban at the handover: ‘This is your bride. Please take care of her. You are responsible for her now, please don’t beat her.’
Qorban agreed before grabbing Parwana’s arm and led the small child towards the door, with her father watching on.
As they reached the door, Parwana struggled and dug her feet into the ground – but her efforts were futile as she was led away to a car and to her new home.
Qorban insisted he would look after Parwana as his child and said he had a wife already.
‘[Parwana] was cheap, and her father was very poor and he needs money,’ he told CNN. ‘She will be working in my home. I won’t beat her. I will treat her like a family member. I will be kind.’
But Abdul said he has no power over what happens to his daughter now and recalled: ‘The old man told me, ‘I’m paying for the girl. It’s none of your business what I’m doing with her, that’s my business’.’
He added: ‘As I can see, we don’t have a future – our future is destroyed. I will have to sell another daughter if my financial situation doesn’t improve – probably the two-year-old.’
Another child being forced into marriage is Magul, a 10-year-old girl, who is being sold to a 70-year-old man to help pay off her family’s debts of 200,000 Afghanis (£1,600).
‘I really don’t want him,’ Magul said as she wiped tears away. ‘If they make me go, I will kill myself. I don’t want to leave my parents.’
The buyer, who has not been named by CNN, has taken Magul’s father, Ibrahim, to Taliban-run prison and threatened to send him to jail for not repaying the money.
Ibrahim, who said he would pay the money within a month, has run out of time.
He said: ‘I don’t know what to do. Even if I don’t give him my daughters, he will take them.’
Gul Afroz, Magul’s mother, said: ‘I’m praying to God these bad days pass.’
Magul, aged 10, spends her days crying as she waits for the day she is sold to a 70-year-old man to help her family pay off their debts.
Another nine-member family in Ghor province are selling their four-year-old and nine-year-old daughters as their disabled father is unable to work.
He told CNN he will sell the girls for 10,000 Afghanis (£800) each.
Zaiton, the four-year-old daughter, said she understands why she must be sold.
‘Because we are a poor family and we don’t have food to eat.’
The girls’ grandmother Rokshana is distraught and said: ‘If we have food and there is someone to help us, we would never do this. We don’t have any choice.’
Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August, the country’s economy is on the brink of collapse.
Families in Afghanistan are being forced to sell their children to pay off debts, as the country’s economy teeters on the brink of near-total collapse. Pictured: Women and their children wait for healthcare in Helmand province
That has seen the value of its currency collapse even though hard notes are in short supply, while prices for basic goods have soared due to shortages, with the UN warning that food could run dangerously low soon.
It has led to the chief of the UN to warn that Afghanistan is facing a ‘make-or-break moment’ as he urgently appealed to countries to inject cash back into the Afghan economy, which before the Taliban takeover in August was dependent on international aid that accounted for 75% of state spending.
Afghanistan is grappling with a liquidity crisis as assets remain frozen in the U.S. and other countries, and disbursements from international organizations have been put on hold.
The effects of the economic collapse could prove lethal for the country where a third of the population survives on less than £1.50 per day.
It has meant an increasing number of families are turning to the illegal practice of selling their children under the age of 15.
A girl collects food and recyclable materials through garbage near the airport in Kabul on September 21, 2021
‘Day by day, the numbers are increasing of families selling their children,’ said Mohammad Naiem Nazem, a human rights activist in Badghis told CNN. ‘Lack of food, lack of work, the families feel they have to do this.’
‘It’s absolutely cataclysmic,’ said Heather Barr, associate director of the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch. ‘We don’t have months or weeks to stem this emergency. We are in the emergency already.’
Many girls in Afghanistan are out of school – and the Taliban have not said when they might be allowed back.
‘As long as a girl is in school, her family is invested in her future,’ said Barr. ‘As soon as a girl falls out of education, then suddenly it becomes much more likely that she’s going to be married off.’
Once a girl is sold as a child bride, she is extremely unlikely to continue her education and many are forced to have unconsensual sex with their buyers.
A letter, led by Sens. Shelley Capito and Dianne Feinstein, says that ‘American disengagement from Afghanistan puts at risk hard-won gains for Afghan women and girls’
Local Taliban leaders in Badghis said they are planning to distribute food to families. ‘Once we implement this plan, if they continue to sell their kids we will put them in jail,’ said Mawlawai Jalaludin, a spokesperson from the Taliban’s Justice Department.
But the humanitarian crisis stretches across Afghanistan and affects at least 18 million people, or half the country’s population. Many are now left to collect plastic bottles to recycle or sell to earn enough money for food.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to countries to inject cash back into the Afghan economy after humanitarian aid has dried up.
There is mounting frustration among experts who argue that holding back international aid is not affecting the Taliban – but the poor.
Isabelle Moussard Carlsen, head of office at UNOCHA, told CNN: ‘By not releasing the (development) funds that they are holding from the Taliban government, it’s the vulnerable, it’s the poor, it’s these young girls who are suffering.
Last month, a letter, led by Sens. Shelley Capito and Dianne Feinstein, said ‘American disengagement from Afghanistan puts at risk hard-won gains for Afghan women and girls.’
‘Women and girls are now suffering the predations of a Taliban regime with a track record of brutalizing, isolating, and denying them life and liberty. Taliban leaders who promised that women would be treated well under the new government are not upholding those commitments,’ the letter reads.
The senators note that women are now the victims of targeted beatings and are banned from leaving home without a male chaperone.
Where some 3.5 million girls were in school in Afghanistan last year thanks to the American-backed government led by Ashraf Ghani, the Taliban has indefinitely suspended secondary school for girls.