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Human Rights

Afghan mothers are selling children to buy food under Taliban rule

As the Taliban celebrates the one-year anniversary of taking Afghanistan’s capital, the country’s citizens continue to struggle in poverty

Portrait of young, adult Afghani woman in black burqa with hidden face
Retrato de una mujer afgana con burka negro y el rostro oculto | Shutterstock

August 17, 2022 5:05pm

Updated: August 18, 2022 5:47pm

As the Taliban celebrates the one-year anniversary of taking Afghanistan’s capital, the country’s citizens continue to struggle in poverty.

One of many indications of everyday Afghans’ hardships are disturbing reports that mothers are selling babies to pay for food and healthcare.

International organizations say that families in Afghanistan selling their newborns to strangers has become “common practice” since the Taliban takeover last year, reports The Times of London.

A spokesman for the Afghan National Aid and Humanitarian Organization (ANAHO) told The Times that the trade, which is outlawed under the Taliban, was observed “very rarely” before last September. But in recent months, the charity has been dealing with “at least two families a week” who have sold a child.

The Times spoke with multiple mothers who made the tragic decision.

One mother of six said she sold her four-month-old daughter to an infertile couple for £2,000 ($2,400) after her eldest was hospitalized with severe malnutrition. The 28-year-old teacher has not been able to work since the Taliban barred women and girls from work and school. Her husband was stuck in Iran.

“There is not a day that I do not cry out for my baby,” she said, but admitted it is possible she will have to sell another for the others to survive the coming winter.

Another mother who spoke with The Times said some of her friends were refusing to breastfeed their newborns because they believe they will not be able to sell the child if it “has formed a bond with the mother.”

Some buyers have good intentions. A 27-year-old dentist, is married to a doctor and has a three-year-old biological daughter, told The Times that he paid £1,600 ($1,900) for a 3-year-old boy because the family wanted a son. He said he paid higher than asking price because he knew the boy’s mother was struggling.

But that man claimed to know one family whose daughter was bought by a couple and sold on to traffickers for organ harvesting.

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan after the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops last year, renewing fears of a return to their previous reign informed by Islamic fundamentalism, which includes heavy restrictions to womens’ rights. They claimed to have changed in an attempt to get international sanctions lifted, announcing that girls would be allowed to return to school. They reversed the decision at the last minute, causing the U.S. to pull out of planned talks with Taliban officials on economic issues.

Amnesty International has accused the Taliban of detaining and torturing women who protested their restrictions on their rights to education, work and free movement.

One woman interviewed by the human rights group called their situation “death in slow motion.”