The World

Afghan Child Bride Traded to Pay Opium Debt

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Afghanistan's opium trade impacts the daily lives of Afghans like nothing else, says Fariba Nawa in her book "Opium Nation." In this excerpt she shares the story of Darya, a girl who was sold into marriage to settle an opium debt.

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'Stories Few Have Heard'

Ghoryan district, Darya's childhood home, is full of individuals and families with stories few have heard. The Afghan women who live there are not the weak, voiceless victims they are so often made out to be in the Western media. Since they see themselves as part of their family units, Afghan women rarely demand individual rights, as women, something uncommon in the West. During my time in Ghoryan, these women, including Darya, showed me just how powerful they were and how capable of overcoming their problems.

The effect of the opium trade in Ghoryan is very real. Yet Ghoryan is not the only place where the drug trade resides. In some places, the trade is destroying lives; in others, saving them. During my time in Afghanistan, I was drawn to cities and villages where some chose this illegal business while local warlords forced others to dive into it.

Opium is everywhere--in the addict beggars on the streets, in the poppies planted in home gardens, in the opium widows hidden from drug lords in neighbors' homes, in the hushed conversations of drug dealers in shops, in the unmarked graves in cemeteries and in the drug lords' garish opium mansions looming above brick shacks and mounds of dust.

The dust is a reminder of the destroyed land that opium money seems unable to transform into cement, asphalt or water.


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Fariba Nawa, an award-winning Afghan-American journalist, covers a range of issues and specializes in immigrant and Muslim communities in the United States and abroad. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area but has traveled extensively to the Middle East and South Asia. Reach her on Twitter and Facebook.

For more information:

Fariba Nawa's site:

Buy the Book, "Opium Nation: Child Brides, Drug Lords, and One Woman's Journey Through Afghanistan":

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