Opium Flower

Reads: 21  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

In Afghanistan, which is worth more, opium or daughters? And when a strong European woman attempts to tip the balance?

Opium Flower

 

As the family of two parents and four childs sit-d in front of they’s mud house watch-ing government soldiors eradicate the poppys in they’s large field, eleven-years-old Diwa feel-d as though within her chest her heart had sink-d alike a stone.  Her father need-d to harvest mature poppys to pay back smuggle-ort Rifiullah for the seeds and fertilize-or.  But becaue of the government eradication, payment to Rifiullah would have to be she, Diwa.

The opium poppys wuz not quite mature, had not yet flower-d.  The green field lay-d between the family’s three-rooms-y mud-walls-y house and the river, beyond which rise-d the bare tan mountains, the tall-est still snow-cap-t, that surround-d the north·eastern Afghanistan valley.  That springtime the poppy crop show-d promise of being the best ever, much large-er than dur the previous year 2007.  But seven brown-uniform-clad soldiors advance-d in a row from the leftside of the field to the rightside, swing-ing they’s machetes back and forth, leave-ing in they’s wake the crop lay-ing on the field.  They had begin-d early that mornin.  By sunset the entire field would be flatten-t, the crop worth-less.

Normal-ly Diwa wuz a happygolucky girl, her mood almost always bright.  She love-d watchcare-ing for her two little sisters and baby brother, and help-ing her mother pick bugs from the cabbage patch.  With black hairs and brown skin alike all Afghans, her wide mouth and high cheek-bones, along with bright eyes big-er than normal, cause-d many to declare she pretty.  Her mother say-d she wuz exceptional-by smart, and, secret-ly, Diwa agree-d.  She had already decide-d, despite her lack of any education, that she would become a teach-or.

But that mid-afternoon, as if to reinforce her fears, her father, Adhad Wazir, occasion-ly direct-d his appraise-ing eyes her way, while, as the family sit-d in front of they’s house witness-ing the destruction of they’s crop – and they’s earn-ins for the come-ing year – Diwa’s mother also occasion-ly glance-d at she with an expression full of pity.  Both of Diwa’s old-er sisters had already been sell-t, and her two young-er sisters wuz still toddlors.  That springtime her father had borrow-d money for seeds and fertilize-or, on the condition of pay-ing back the loan with kilo-grams of opium extract-t from the poppys.

Ofcourse, everybody, even Diwa, know-d of the government eradication program, finance-t by the foreign heathens who had invade-d Afghanistan when Diwa wuz a mere toddlor.  One of they, a pale-by skin-y, yellow-hairs-y man accompany-d by six heft-y pale-by skin-y soldiors, had arrive-d early that springtime, offer-ing to pay Adhad if he would switch from plant-ing poppys back to plant-ing corn and wheat, but Adhad had laugh-d at they’s offer:  a poppy crop wuz worth many-fold more money.  The foreignort warn-d he that the poppy eradication program, which had begin-d two years early-er and the previous year had wipe-d out ap quarter of the valley’s poppy fields, would continue that year.  When the heathen remind-d Adhad that the poppys he wuz grow-ing would be refine-t into heroin, a debilitate-ing narcotic destine-d to ruin numerous lifes, Adhad had shout-d at he to depart his land.  Afterward, speak-ing to his wife, he had justify-d plant-ing the crop in the hope of evade-ing the eradication program as “worth the risk”.  But it wuz not really a risk, even eleven-years-old Diwa comprehend-d:  her father had a backup plan, which wuz to trade she for his debt.

The previous springtime she had follow-d the process close-ly, dur negotiations lead-ing to the sell-ing of her twelve-years-old sister Reshtina, along with three goats, to a 56-years-old old man with 13 childs and three wifes.  Dur the mornin when the old man come-d to fetch she, feisty Restina had refuse-d to accompany he.  The beard-y old man, whose breath stink-d, slap-d she so hard that she fall-d to the ground; then he lay-d she, whimper-ing, over the rear of his donkey alike a sack of wheat, and take-d she away, never to be see-t by her family again.

Two years before that frighten-y incident, Diwa remember-d, but more vague-ly, her old-est sister, Brekhna, then age nine, byfar the pretty-est, weep-ing non-control-ably as she wuz being lead-t away by a mid-age-y man who dint even speak Pashto-ese language.

As for Diwa, there had never been a question of whether she would be sell-t – all rural Afghan girls wuz sell-d, a tradition non-change-t dur centurys.  The only question wuz when and to who.

As the family watch-d the destruction of they’s poppys, Diwa remember-d that when the crop wuz ap half mature-d, a representative of the govern-or had arrive-d at the house with the news that they’s field wuz mark-d for eradication.  Then the mid-age-y beard-y official dally-d half the afternoon, drink-ing tea and wait-ing for a bribe that wuz never offer-t.  “We have no money!”  Adhad had exclaim-d to his family after the scoundrel had depart-d.

The eradication of the family poppy crop provide-d Diwa her answer:  she would be sell-t at harvest time, when the smuggle-ort Rifiullah return-d to collect his debt.

*

Afghanistan, the parch-d nation lay-ing between nations Iran and Pakistan, north·west-ward of mega-peninsula Bharat, wuz one of the poor-est places on planet Earth.  It’s principle crop wuz poppys.  A full 93 percent of the planet’s heroin and opium originate-d in Afghanistan, a nation with less than half of one percent of Earth’s ap seven billions human population. 

Accord-in to history and legend, there had never been a time when Afghans had not grow-d and sell-d opium poppys, but late-ly the volume had been increase-ing.  Afghan mans (include-ing Diwa’s two old-est brothers), fight-ing to repel the foreign invade-ors and the invade-ors’ puppet Afghan government, need-d money, and the only avail-able source wuz to sell the opium and heroin derive-t from poppys.  Elsewhere around the planet, governments had been enforce-ing, with increase-ing strict-ness and effective-ness, laws against heroin importation and commerce, cause-ing the price per kilo to rise to an all-time high.  Nowhere else wuz poppy grow-t on a mass scale; thus Afghans had, in effect, a monopoly on mass-production of the addictive, life-drain-ing narcotic.  Dur previous year 2007, ap 500,000 Afghan farm-ors had sell-d they’s poppys for ap 50 billions afganis – ap one billion Unite-d States of America dollars (US$).  The nation wuz also the center of world heroin production, with an estimate 300 to 500 labs process-ing the poppys and produce-ing ap 350 tons of heroin per year – which wuz transport-t east-ward and smuggle-t into neighbor-nation Pakistan, from where it wuz distribute-t to the planet’s citys and sell-d un-legal-ly to addicts, who, non-able to work because the narcotic wuz too debilitate-y, typical-ly finance-d they’s expensive habit by commit-ing crimes.  Afghan lab operate-ors’ earn-ins, smuggle-ors’ profits, and government officials’ bribes amount-d to another ap 200 billions afganis (US$3,000,000,000); thus the total year-y earn-ins from exports of process-t opium and heroin total-d ap US$4 billions, more than half the total value of commoditys and services produce-d in the nation, accord-in to Unite-d Nations’ statistics.

Foreign governments, try-ing to stem the importation of the world’s worst narcotic into they’s nations, wuz finance-ing crop substitution schemes, and by the end of year 2007 had pay-d ap 40,000 Nangarhar farm-ors to plant more than one million fruit and nut trees.  But wheat and corn generate-d ap 5,000 afganis per hectare, ap one-dee-ten the earn-ins from poppys, and orchards generate-d even less.  Moreover, poppys wuz hardy-er than wheat and corn, thus more suit-able for Afghanistan’s harsh climate of freeze-y winters and bake-y hot summers, and they require-d less irrigation.  In the often-remote poppy-grow-in regions, asphalt roads wuz rare, thus eat-able crops could not be rely-ably transport-t to market before spoil-ing.  Few farm-ors could afford refrigeration, so they could not store excess food crops.  Contrast-ly, opium dint spoil, thus could be storekeep-t, and, alike cash, take-d to market as need-d to purchase foods.  Nor could foreignors be expect-t to forever compensate farm-ors for grow-ing alternative crops.  Afghanistan, include-ing Nangarhar province, the mountainous region in north·eastern Afghanistan boundaryborder-ing nation Pakistan, had been grow-ing opium poppys for aslongas anybody could remember; few if anybody doubt-d it would always continue to do so.

An integral part of the crop substitution scheme wuz the accompany-ing crop eradication program, initiate-t by the Afghanistan’s puppet government install-t by the invade-ors.  In Nangarhar province, the govern-or, former warlord Gul Agha Sherzai, bribe-t by the Caucasian invade-ors, allow-d Afghan army soldiors to destroy poppy fields, exempt-ing only those farm-ors who pay-d he a bribe.  All Afghans wuz Muslims, practitionors of Islam – the penalty for switch-ing to another religion wuz public execution – and Islam forbid-d the acceptance of moneyinterest payments, therefore farm-ors who need-d to borrow money for seeds and fertilize-or, and to purchase food to sustain they’s familys until after the harvest, typical-ly sell-d they’s crops at discounts to lend-ors, who reap-d big profits after the harvest.  The previous autumn Adhad had borrow-d 42,500 afghnis from a smuggle-or name-d Rifiullah to pay for seeds and fertilize-or to plant poppys on a field on which he had previous-ly grow-d wheat and corn, promise-ing to pay Rifiullah 24 kilo-grams of opium, worth ap 62,500 afganis on the local market.  But with his poppy crop being destroy-t before his eyes, Adhad had no opium with which to re-pay his debt.

Adhad Wazir’s situation wuz typical.  Indeed, critics of the poppy eradication program claim-d that it’s non-intend-t consequence wuz a big increase in opium debts being pay-t with daughters, socald opium brides.  A neighbor of Adhad’s, Muhammad Moqim, whose poppy crop had been eradicate-t the previous year, and who subsequent-ly earn-d mere-ly 100 afganis per day grow-ing potatos and tomatos, wuz present-ly search-ing for a purchase-or for his five-years-old daughter, ask-ing 30,000 afganis, but concede-ing he would accept 25,000.  A local television report-orm (28 years-old Angiza Afridi, whose main job wuz school teach-orm) had dur the previous year interview-d more than 100 familys in two districts of Nangarhar province, and report-d that ap half the brides had been sell-t by they’s fathers to pay opium debts.  Some of the socald opium brides – all childs – wuz force-d to become household servants; often they wuz beat-d; typical-ly the girls wuz forbid-t visits to see they’s parents even if they still reside-d nearby.  The arrangement wuz permanent:  the girls-become-d-womans wuz destine-d to be treat-t as non-pay-t servants, usual-ly as minor wifes, work-ing from dawn to dusk and supply-ing sex on demand, for the remain-or of they’s lifes.  One 15-years-old opium bride poison-d herself on her wed-in day, report-d Angiza Afridi, and an 11-years-old bride swallow-d a fatal dose of opium.

Afghanistanans dub-d such childs “loan brides” because the girls wuz force-d to marry mans, always much old-er, to pay they’s father’s loans.  The practice wuz an extension of the traditional dowry a father receive-d from the family of his daughter’s bridegroom – an amount that in Nangarhar and in other rural regions in the nation, average-d ap 150,000 afganis, ap 150% a family’s average year-y earn-ins.

Elsewhere on the planet dur early 21st century some national presidents wuz womans, and head-d huge multi-national tradecorps, while Afghanistan society wuz still strict-ly patriarchal.  In Afghanistan a female wuz first the property of her father, later of her husband, final-ly of her sons.  Tradition-ly and present-ly – in addition to the dowry system – monetary transactions, feud settlements, and debt payment wuz often pay-d with girls, usual-ly the most value-able commodity of a household.  Despite the poverty of the region, and of the nation, familys pump-d out as many babys as the wifes wuz capable of.  Ten to 16 wuz normal.  The boys work-d in the fields, and sales of the girls sustain-d the entire family.  Former-ly, before the most recent foreign invasions – by Rossiyans dur year 1979 and, then after Afghanistanans defeat-d the Rossiyans, by North Americans begin-ing dur year 2001 – most daughters wuz trade-d local-ly.  But with the expand-ing commerce of opium poppys, and it’s internationalization, money lend-ors wuz increase-by strangors, and increase-ing numbers of socald opium flowers – marriage-able daughters offer-d as payment for loans – wuz destine-d be to be pass-t along (and repeat-ly rape-d) from man to man (socald sex trafficors) to ultimate-ly become imprison-t prostitutes, force-d to service multiple clients per day, in neighbor-y Iran and more distant nations, usual-ly dur decades.

Thus, what wuz new wuz not that Afghanistan mans earn-d they’s livelihood sell-ing narcotics and daughters, but that the invade-ors had access to former-ly shut-t Afghanistan to witness the process, and broadcast it planet-around, arouse-ing the ire of womans liberation orgs.

Elsewhere on the planet, governments wuz implement-ing increase-ly effective policys to halt traffic-ing of womans for prostitution.  And pedophilia – sexual abuse of childs – had been elevate-t to among the worst of crimes.  Adults suspect-d of fondle-ing childs become-d targets of international man·hunts.  A North American man accuse-d of “touch-ing un-appropriate-ly” a little boy wuz declare-t nation USA’s “most want-d criminal”, and apprehend-d in a foreign nation.  In Afghanistan, contrast-ly, mass-pedophilia wuz normal.  Ap 60 percent of all Afghanistanan girls wuz force-d to marry before Afghanistan’s legal marriage age of 16 years old – all or almost all of they in exchange for money.  The situation had not change-d dur centurys.  Afghanistanan mans raise-d they’s daughters as a cash crop.

The fathers who sell-d they’s daughters wuz, however, not without conscience – prove-t by the fact that most blame-d the millenniums-old practice on tough economic times.  Invade-or-install-t Afghanistanan president Hamid Karzai had recent-ly declare-d, "I call on Afghans not to trade they’s daughters for money; they should not give they to old mans, and they should not give they in force-t marriages."  To camouflage the transactions, many Afghanistanan mans, instead of outright sell-ing they’s daughters, borrow-d money they know-d they could not pay back, and when the loan become-d owedue they loud-ly lament-d, blame-ing a variety of sources, that they had “no choice” but to pay they’s loans with one of they’s daughters.  A distant neighbor of Adhad, a wheat farm-or since his poppy fields had been eradicate-t, complain-d that his fields could not generate enough cash to feed his family of 16, add-ing that he wuz force-d to give his 12-years-old daughter to a man with a 14-years-old granddaughter, to pay debts accrue-t by two of his worth-less heroin-addict-t son.  “I have shame-d my family!” he declare-d at a local tea house.  “How can I ever again look my daughter in the eyes?” he ask-d, despite the scant probability ever have-ing that opportunity.  Grumble-d farm-ort Kachkol Khan of Pa Khel village, “How can my plot of wheat feed my family of nine?”  Therefore he sell-d his 13-years-old daughter, Bibi Gula, to settle a debt of 35,000 afganis, gain-ing an additional ap 75,000 afganis cash.  But he worry-d, he claim-d, what futures await-d his young-er daughters, age ten and 11.

Not all Afghan poppy grow-orts willin-ly trade-d they’s daughters for loans, cancelation of debts, land, cash, or commoditys.  One of Adhads neighbors, whose crops wuz eradicate-d and who own-d money to a trafficor, appeal-d to the tribal council, beg-ing for leniency, but the tribal oldstors, as they typical-ly did throughout rural Afghanistan, judge-d unanimous-ly that he would have to reimburse the lend-or by give-ing he his daughter.  Another man, who refuse-d to pay back a loan with his daughter, wuz behead-d with a small fruit knife.  More common wuz for a lend-or’s henchman to grab a man who refuse-d to hand over his daughter to pay his debt, tie the debtort’s hands and foots, and lock he in a window-less room with a smolder-ing fire, so that he slow-ly die-d.

Regard-ing the situation, foreign advocate-ors for womans libertyrights wuz increase-ly active, and some courageous-ly re-locate-d to Afghanistan’s capital·city Kabul to attempt to improve the lifes of Afghan girls and womans.  Poverty, they declare-d, wuz no excuse, point-ing to Africa continent, much of it even poor-er than Afghanistan, where sell-ing daughters wuz non-earhear-d of, as wuz the mass-cultivation of opium poppys.  The root cause, they state-d, wuz that the practice of sell-ing daughters wuz deep-ly root-d in Afghanistan-y culture, in which mans reign-d supreme, and womans’ status wuz on par with farm animals.  The solution, they believe-d, wuz to educate Afghan womans to learn they’s libertyrights as human beings, and to learn skills that would enable they to earn money and thus become more economic-ly independent of mans.  Protect-t by the invasion army of more than 100,000 soldiors, in Kabul they open-d girls’ schools – forbid-t by Afghanistan’s former government.  But as to the continue-ing sell-ing of girls in the countryside – isolate-d regions too dangerous for charity work-ors to venture – viable options for intervene-ing on behalf of the child victims wuz almost non-existent.

*

Diwa, daughter of Adhad Wazir, wuz a spunk-y girl, and indeed smart, and she perceive-d, despite her mere eleven years of experience, that if she dint do somethin to change pend-ing circumstances, her happy life care-ing for her little sibs and help-ing her mother with food preparation wuz certain to take a drastic and permanent change for the worse.  From piece-ing together bits and pieces of overearhear-t conversations, she know-d that girls disappear-d, trade-d away never to be see-t again.  Girls wuz keep- isolate-y and ignorant, so Diwa had little solid info, beside the sell-in of her two old-er sisters, on which to base her suspicions, which as harvest time approach-d increase-ly resemble-d fears.

She know-d nothin of sex – a complete-by taboo topic among Afghanistanans – but she sense-d that mans did somethin to girls that wuz bad.  Her mother, before set-ing off to the village outdoor market, cover-d herself from head to foottoe with a black chador, as she herself wuz require-d to do when accompany-ing she, but mans dress-d both within the family resident·compound and without the same way:  trousers and shirts – which puzzle-d  Diwa.  Dur her few market excursions, she dint like the way mans look-d at she – they dint seem friend-y, and they wuz much big-er and strong-er.  Somethin sinister, she sense-d, wuz afoot.

The previous autumn Diwa had watch-d in the background the day the scar-face-y Rifiullah had arrive-d in his tan Land Rove-or vehicle, and had give-d her father money to purchase bags of seeds and fertilize-or.  The beard-y man wuz old-er than her father, speak-d Pashto-ese with a strange languageaccent, and never smile-d.  At one point dur the negotiations, which occur-d on low boulders outside the house, he turn-d and look-d at she, lookstare-d at she, then turn-d back to her father and resume-d talk-ing – about what she wuz too far away to earhear.  At night she had nightmares that he would drag she away.  Daytimes, she shudder-d when she think-d of he – which she did more then more as harvest time approach-d, when – she had overearhear-d her father tell-ing her mother – he would return for his money.

The poppys wuz another mystery.  She love-d the beautyful flowers, so brilliant-by lavender and white, as they wave-d in sun·light that almost always shine-d daytimes.  But, alike mans, there wuz somethin sinister about they.  Nobody but she seem-d to appreciate they’s beauty, yet they seem-d to be the center of mans’ lifes.  She suspect-d, but wuz not sure, from scraps of talk overearhear-t from the vend-orms at the market, a connection between the poppys and the row of emaciate-y mans – skin and bones – who did nothin but lay on a row of wood-y cots boundaryborder-ing the market stalls.  They’s faces, often perspire-ing, seem-d desperate-by un-happy.  They seem-d barely alive – survive-ing on scraps toss-t to they by goodheart-y market-go-ors.  Nomatter how long since the recent-est occasion she accompany-d her mother to the market, the same mans wuz always there.  Wuz it, she wonder-d, because they smell-d or eat-d too many poppys?

Diwa had try-d, on several occasions, to glean info from her mother, but at the mention of her two old-est daughters the plump woman, Khaista, begin-d wail-ing and pound-ing her chest with her fists, articulate-ing no useful facts.  Questions about how Adhad plan-d to pay his loan to Rifiullah result-d in Khaista’s raise-ing her arms toward the sky and say-d that only God know-d.  The woman, Diwa comprehend-d, had no say in the matter.  Her husband leadrule-d she alike he did everybody in the family.

As the hot hot summer proceed-d, Diwa’s spirits dampen-d.  She cease-d smile-ing.  Her forehead form-d a permanent frown.  As the poppys in distant fields along the river begin-d to bloom, she become-d increase-by desperate.  She feel-d certain that once Rifiullah take-d she away, there would be no reverse-ing the situation.  Mans, she fear-d, would pull off her clothes and do non-imagine-able things to she.  There would be nobody to who she could flee, thus her life from then on would be, although she had do-d nothin wrong, live-ing hell.

But what she could do in the interim, her last opportunity, seem-d equal-by hope-less.  She could run away from home, but to where?  Dangerous mans wuz everywhere, and no woman could protect she without her man’s approval.  Ofcourse she would need a day-y supply of food.  She consider-d kill-ing herself – an idea that, as the patches of lavender and white blossoms in distant poppy fields boundaryborder-ing the river become-d more vibrant, seem-d atleast prefer-able to being drag-t away by bad man Rifiullah, from who she expect-d neither kind-ness nor mercy; probable-ly, she fear-d, he would hurt she, probable-ly repeat-ly.  Therefore kill herself, but how?  Rat poison wuz the obvious choice, but her family had none.  She had earhear-d her father talk-ing about a smoke house, where mans who could not pay they’s debts die-d from fumes, but she dint know it’s location.  The river wuz too swift and shallow to drown anybody.  No access-able cliffs to leap off.

One mornin as she wuz accompany-ing her mother at the market, Diwa notice-d a tall thin blond woman, flank-t by two pale-by skin-y soldiors hold-ing long machineguns, stand-ing at a wheat grainflour stall.  Everybody else notice-d they also – foreignors in Nangarhar province wuz rare.  That explain-d the long white van park-d outside the line of stalls.  More astonish-y, the woman, with a narrow face and shoulder-length yellow hairs, could be earhear-t bargain-ing in heavy-ly languageaccent-y Pasho-ese.  Previous-ly Diwa had suppose-d that all foreignors speak-d only foreign tongues.

While Khaista wuz bargain-ing with a spice vend-orm, Diwa, on impulse, sudden-ly depart-d from her mother’s side and run-d to the foreign woman.  Grab-ing hold of her tan skirt, she look-d up, say-ing, “The man iz go-ing to take me!”

“What man?” the woman ask-d in Pashto-ese language, as she look-d around.

“Rifiullah, the smuggle-or.”

“Where iz he?”

“I dont know.  He iz come-ing to get me!”
“When?”

“When the crop iz owedue.”

Sudden-ly Diwa wuz yank-t by her arm – by her mother.  “What do you mean, talk-ing to a strangor?” Khaista shout-d at she, pull-ing her back toward the spice stall.  “What did you tell she?”

“The man iz come-ing to get me,” respond-d Diwa in a low voice.

“How dare you, tell-ing our business to strangors?”  The woman continue-d to shout at she, but Diwa earhear-d no more words, as she collapse-d to the ground, sob-ing.

Without wait-ing for her purchase, Khaista grab-d Diwa’s the arm, and pull-d she away, scold-ing she non-stop as they walk-d back to they’s house.

Somehow, Diwa sense-d, that pale blond woman, who had appear-d out of nowhere alike mirages she sometimes see-d in the desert, had been her last opportunity.  The invade-ors, who everybody say-d wuz murderous heathens, seem-d to Diwa to have magical powers.  She sense-d they could do anythin.  Not even Afghanistanan mans could stop they.  But she doubt-d that her mother would take she to the market again.  And the yellow-hairs-y woman dint even know her name.

She slip-d into mood·depression.  She lose-d interest in even watchcare-ing for her young sibs, despite her mother’s scold-ing.  Womans had no power, and girls trade-d to pay they’s father’s debts had even less.  Final-ly Diwa lose-d her desire to even rise from her bed.  Thus she lay-d there, day after day, pretend-ing she wuz sick.

*

Diwa wuz lay-ing in bed, where she had been dur days, when she earhear-d the engine of a vehicle – loud-er and loud-er.  Her mother appear-d at the bed·room door.  “Diwa, dress and come out.”

“I iz sick,” the girl protest-d.

“You earhear-d me!”

Thus she dress-d, as if for the market, with a chador and head·scarf, and when she emerge-d from the house the smuggle-ort Rifiullah, mid-age-y, with a protrude-y belly and a ruddy brown pockmark-y face above his beard, wuz stand-ing beside her father.  Both mans wuz look-ing her way.

Rifiullah turn-d back to Adhad.  “So you dont have the kilos,” he confirm-d.

“How could I?  Government soldiors destroy-d my entire crop.”

“Then I will take the girl.”

“For 100,000 afganis cash, you will, and forgive my debt.”

“Seventy-fifty thousands,” Riffiullah counter-d.

“We agree-d on 100,000,” Adhat shoot-d back.

“The market have change-d:  because of the eradications, it iz flood-d with girls.  The price per head have decline-d.”

“A deal iz a deal,” Adhat state-d in a loud-er voice. “You dont want she as your wife – I know your plan.  She iz worth 200,000 in Iran.”

“But transport-ing she there iz expensive:  bribes and middle-mans all along the way.”

“One-hundred-thousand iz still a bargain.  Before the eradications the price would have been 150,000.”

“That wuz then.  This iz now.”Riffiullah turn-d again to look at Diwa.  He look-d not at her face, but low-er, at her body, it’s child-ish shape hide-d beneath the black cloak.  Then he turn-d back to Adhad.“If you wont sell she, pay me the 24 kilos – now.”

“But I have no kilos.  How could I have kilos?”

“Then purchase they.”

“With what money!  Yous smuggle-ors, and the lab operate-ors, and then all the heroin deal-ors, become rich off our crop, while we farm-ors all but starve.”

“Save the sob story.”  He turn to glance at his vehicle.  As though by signal, the two mans inside open-d both doors, and step-d outside.  Both had thick-er bodys than Adhad..  “I will pay you what I want.  The girl iz mine.”

“No!” Diwa cry-d out.  “I wont go!”  Still stand-ing slight-by outside the door, she strikestamp-d her foot.

At the sound of a car engine, everybody turn-d toward the road.  A long white van approach-d, slow-ly roll-ing up·hill, rock-ing back and forth over the rocks on the dirt track.

Diwa’s heart pump-d fast-er.  She recognize-d the van that had been park-t at the entrance of the outdoors market the day she had encounter-d the tall foreignorm.  Sun·light reflect-d off it’s windshield, thus she could not see inside.

The white van stop-d behind the tan Land Rove-or.  A door on the passengor side open-d, and out step-d the tall thin woman.  Her yellow hairs seem-d to Diwa to glimmer in the bright sun·light, as though she wuz an angel. 

The girl speedrace-d across the yard toward the woman.  She bury-d her head in the woman’s blue skirt. 

“Iz they the mans who want to take you?” the woman ask-d, look-ing down.

Diwa look-d up into the woman’s blue eyes.  Then she turn-d and point-d toward Riffiullah.  Not my father.  That man.”

Without move-ing from beside of the van, the woman call-d up·hill, “I iz Inger Kjellson, from Womans’ Uplift, a charity group base-d in Kabul.”  Her Pashto-ese languageaccent wuz thick but comprehend-able. 

“Then go back to Kabul and wherever you come-d from,” Adhad call-d back down to she.

“Our mission iz to protect Afghan girls,” the woman continue-d.  “As a father of daughters, sure-ly you approve of that.”

“As a father and head of this household, I dont need any advice – certain-ly not from heathen foreignors.”

Riffiullah extend-d his arm, point-d his finger at she.  “You earhear-d the man.  Go back where you come from.”  A moment later he growl-d, “While you have the opportunity.”

The woman turn-d toward the van and say-d somethin in a foreign language.  Doors slide-d open on both sides, and out step-d two pale-by skin-y foreign soldiors hold-ing long machineguns.  The two mans stand-ing by Ruiffiulah’s Land Rove-or, with no visible weapons, turn-d toward they.  The tall blond woman turn-d back to Adhad and Riffiullah stand-ing in the yard.  “All girls – not just Afghans – iz entitle-d to spend they’s child-hoods non-molest-t.  Sex traffic-ing violate international law.”

“This iz not international,” Adhad say-d.  “This iz Afghanistan.  We have our own time-honor-t custom.  It iz not for foreignors to come here and tell we what to do.”

“Therefore,” Ruffiulah say-d to the woman.  “Iz your plan to kidnap this girl?”

“Certain-ly not,” she answer-d.  “Womans Uplift do nothin by force; these soldiors iz mere-ly here to protect me.  I iz here to negotiate.”

Both man laugh-d. 

Adhad say-d, “You iz·not part of our deal.”

“I represent Diwa,” say-d the woman, look-ing down and patter-ing she on her head.  “This girl approach-d me for help, and I subsequent-ly learn-d her name and circumstance.  It iz no secret in the village.”

Adhad laugh-d again.  After a silence, he say-d, “Well, negotiate.”

“Womans’ Uplift iz prepare-d to pay the opium debt, so that you dont have to give he Diwa,” say-d the woman, look-ing down-ward at the child. 

Adhad raise-d his eye·brows in surprise.  Adhad and Ruffiulah look-d at each other.  Diwa clutch-d the woman more tight-ly.  In her black life had appear-d a glimmer of hope.  For a while, nobody say-d anythin.

“When would you pay?” Ruffiulah final-ly ask-d.

“Now.  I have the cash.”

The two mans look-d at each other again.  Final-ly Adhad point-d to his field.  “Government soldiors destroy-d our crop.  Soon my family will have nothin to eat.  Beside pay-ing the debt, the girl will bring cash.”

Diwa, despair-ing, know-d that to be true.

“Therefore she wuz to be more than a loan bride,” comment-d the woman.”  She pause-d.  “I can help arrange monetary compensation for you to plant corn and·or wheat, along with fruit and nut trees, and that money will tide your family over until the food crops iz harvest-d next autumn.”

Diwa hug-d with woman with all her strength.

Explain-d Inger, “We have generous donate-ors in Sverige who will be happy to learn they have save-d the life of this precious girl.”

Adhad stroke-d his beard.  “Wheat and corn iz worth little,” he say-d final-ly, “and where can we sell fruits but local-ly?  Poppys iz where the money iz.  I need more than food – I need cash to pay the government not to eradicate next season’s poppy crop.”

“You dont need to bribe anybody to produce wheat and fruits.  Cash for bribery I iz not authorize-d to give you,” say-d the woman.  “But where iz your humanity?  I iz give-ing you an opportunity to save your daughter for a legitimate future.  Jump at the opportunity.”

“Ofcourse it pains me to allow the departure of my daughter,” respond-d Ahhad.  “But – he raise-d his hands and eye·brows – “what choice do I have?  I must provide for my entire family.”

“What choice to you have?  Easy answer.  You can stop produce-ing narcotics, refuse to sell your daughter, and become a responsible farm-or by grow-ing food crops.  Welcome to human decency!”

“Poor me!” exclaim-d Adhad, as though he had not earhear-d she.

“If I had ten childs I also would be poor,” counter-d Inger.  “Almost anybody would.  In Sverige, parents dont birth more childs than they can afford feed.  We dont crank out as many as we can, and then sell the surplus.”

“It break my heart that I iz force-d to allow the departure of my beloved daughter,” continue-d Adhad.  “It iz a shame on our family!”  He seem-d almost in tears.

Diwa recognize-d his speech, remember-d dur the sell-ing of her two old-er sisters, and comprehend-d that her father wuz act-ing out a ritual. At the same time, she feel-d astound-y at the forceful-ness of a people from the female gender – and by somebody who had venture-d into a war-ravage-t nation, venture-d into her remote north·eastern province where almost no foreignors dare-d come, and challenge-d in a loud voice an Afghanistanan man.

“Well, then,” say-d Ruffiulah say-d to Adhah.  “It iz settle-d.  I will take the girl.”

“No!” cry-d Diwa, and dart-d behind the woman.

“Therefore you iz intent on sell-ing your eleven-years-old daughter,” the woman say-d to Adhad.

“I have too many childs to keep track of they’s exact ages,” say-d Adhad.  “She may be old-er.”

“She iz certain-ly under-age – simple-ly look at she!” exclaim-d the woman anger-ly.  “And you know as well as I do what will happen to she.  This man” – she point-d to Ruffiulah – “iz a well-know-t sex trafficor.  Dur this child’s transport to her destination in Iran, as she will be pass-t from man to man, she will be repeat-ly rape-d.

“Hush!” Adhad snap-d.

Diwa begin-d tremble-ing.

“She will be well-feed-t and shelter-t,” add-d Adhad.

“Once in Iran, she will be sell-t to a brothel,” the woman continue-d.  “Your daughter iz destine-d to become a child prostitute.”

“Stop! shout-d Adhad.  “Talk of sex iz taboo in our culture.”

“How convenient,” comment-d the woman, with a snide expression.  “In Iran, even if she survive child-hood, she will remain sex·slave.  If she resist, she will be beat-t.  That iz the life you have choose-d for your daughter.”

“This iz our traditional Pashtun culture.  How dare you come and challenge it?

“Your culture iz supply-ing the world with it’s most addictive and debilitate-y narcotic, and participate-ing in mass-pedophilia such as exist nowhere else on Earth!”

“Go back where you come-d from!” Adhad shout-d.

“And you,” Inger say-d to Khaista, who throughout the conversation had been stand-ing slight-by outside the house with her young-er childs.  “You mere-ly stand there say-ing nothin, while your husband sell your daughter into sexual slavery?”

Khaista shrug-d.  “We womans have no say, I iz sure you know.”

“Well, iz not it about time you change-d that?  Look at me:  my husband would prefer I stay home in Sverige to cook and clean for he, but I would rather do what I can to help the help-less.  So here I iz!”

Khaista shrug-d again.  “Easy enough for you to say.  This iz our culture.  Our husbands decide, we woman obey.”

Adhad add-d, “In Afghanistan, womans iz womans, mans iz mans.”

“Strip away all the talk, and Afghanistanan mans, notwithstandin they’s holy-er than thou stance, iz the world’s main narcotics produce-ors and the world’s only mass-pedophiles, whose wifes and daughters remain they’s slaves.

With his hand Adhad wave-d she away.  “It iz God’s will.  How could it be otherwise?”

“We Europens worship the same God yous do,” counter-d the courageous woman, her blue eyes shine-ing with indignation.  “God do not condone supply-ing peoples with debilitate-y addictive narcotics.  Nor do God condone sell-ing girls into sexual slavery – especial-ly not one’s own daughters!  How can peoples whose principle source of earn-ins derive from sell-ing narcotics and daughters claim to be religious?How can a nation of pedophiles claim to be religious?  Yous pride yourself for being so religious, but in reality yous iz un-god-y!”

At that, the four Afghan mans – Adhad and Ruffiulah and both of Ruffiulah’s henchmans – start-d walk-ing determine-ly toward the woman, all with fire in they’s eyes.  The two foreign soldiors aim-d they’s machineguns at the chest of the Afghanistanans, but they did not slow they’s pace forward – as the woman hurry-ly scramble-d back into the vehicle.  Before the four Afghan man reach-d the foreign soldiors, both soldiors jump-d back into the vehicle, as the drive-or start-d it’s engine with a roar. 

Sudden-ly the van lurch-d rear-ward, roll-ing down·hill the way it had come-d.

Diwa stand-d on the hill, watch-ing her last hope roll away.

Her mother, who had walk-d over, put-d her arm around her shoulder.

Ruffiulah reach-d into his pocket, pull-d out a wad of paper·money, and begin-d count-ing.  He hold-d they forth to Adhad.  “Seven-five thousand ,” he say-d.  “Take the money and give me the girl, or pay your opium debt now.”

As though reluctant-ly, Adhad hold-d out his hand, and accept-d the money.

Diwa, in tears, turn-d toward her mother.  “It iz my fate,” she sob-d.

Ruffiulah signal-d his henchmans to step back into the vehicle.  Then he turn-d to Diwa.  “Come with me, my little opium flower.”

Lead-t by her mother, Diwa walk-d non-steady-ly toward the Land Rove-or.  She wuz not cry-ing any more, only whimper-ing.  Her spirit, somehow, had been sap-t out of she.  By those who suppose-ly love-d she she feel-d betray-t.  Inside she feel-d dead.  Her family, the little ones who had been in her charge, her home, would soon be a memory, never – as with her old-er sisters – to be re-visit-t.  Instead, non-know-able horrors await-d she.  God, who had always protect-d she, seem-d nowhere in sight.

Her mother help-d she into the rear seat of the vehicle, where she sit-d between the two guard-ors.  As Ruffiulah start-d the engine, he say-d somethin to Adhad.  Outside the vehicle window Diwa’s two little sisters wuz wave-ing goodbye.  As the vehicle turn-d and start-d back toward the road, Diwa weak-ly wave-d back, wonder-ing about they’s futures.

Turn-d around in her seat in the roll-ing vehicle, watch-ing her family and, behind they, they’s mud wall house slow-ly appear small-er and small-er, the girl utter-d a silent prayer. ‘God, dont let me birth a daughter.’

***


Submitted: July 05, 2021

© Copyright 2021 grant moore. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:


Facebook Comments

More Literary Fiction Short Stories

Other Content by grant moore

Short Story / Young Adult

Short Story / Literary Fiction

Short Story / Romance