Welcome to Afghanistan, where they have some of the world’s most gorgeous mosques, breathtaking national parks, and booming markets for selling little girls.

Every American is probably well-aware of the war that we have been fighting in Afghanistan for the past 17 years, but there is a more sinister aspect of Afghanistan we are not informed of. Families have now found themselves in situations where they need to sell their daughters in order to provide for their other children.

You might ask, how could a mother or father do such a thing? Well, it’s more common than you would think.

Right now, Afghanistan is experiencing one of their most severe droughts ever recorded, which has destroyed most crops in the country. This has inevitably caused mass starvation throughout the country, specifically targeting single mothers, which places a price tag on children.

Mamareen is one such woman who has sold her 6 year-old daughter to a man, Najmuddin, as an agreement to marry his 10 year-old son. How much was her life worth? To her mother, $3,000. To the man, only $70.

In fact, the man who bought Akila, the young girl, thought himself as doing a charitable act for the family. He said that although he is poor, he wanted to help this family and ease their hunger.

Alika must now suffer rape, torture and who knows what else, and Najmuddin will sleep soundly every night vehemently believing he did a good thing.

Unfortunately, Alika’s story is the norm rather than the exception. Many young girls are sold off to marriage every day to men over 50 years their senior, now younger than ever. The girls are the most valuable possessions these families have, worth upwards of $3,000.

The transaction starts with a deposit, which offers the other children in the family a chance to eat apples instead of gravel and wear shirts instead of dirty rags. The rest is paid off in monthly increments until the girl is completely paid for and is sent away to her new owner.

Can you blame the parents, though? If they sell their daughter, she has a chance to escape death. Instead of living off sugar water, she can go to a home that was able to afford her, therefore giving her the possibility of real food. What’s worse, watching your own child wither away until hunger eventually overtakes them, or selling them off to give them an option to eat , while at the same time psychologically and physically damaging them?

Surprisingly, it is not just girls who are being sold. Boys are dealing with the same horrifying reality.

The little boys are expected to go through the same process while at the same time dealing with the standard of being a male, which in Afghani culture (and in most places around the world) means showing no emotions. While the girls are given an explanation as to what their future will hold as a married woman, the boys are sold like a business transaction.

Even worse, boys are the primary targets for abductions. Kidnapping has become another central characteristic of Afghanistan’s economy. Children, males from wealthy families in particular, are taken and held for ransom. 

Take, for instance, Mateen Khan, who was interviewed by The Telegraph after kidnapping a young boy. What will happen to the child? He is blindfolded, bound up and given two options: mutilate his eyes and call his relatives demanding money in exchange for his life or be sold to the Taliban.

The Taliban, as many people are aware of, is a major extremist, Islamic, political movement that has taken over the Middle East. What happens to the young boys that are sold to the organization? They are trained to be suicide bombers.

Just a little over a year ago, the Afghanistan police force infiltrated a sex-trafficking ring. 25 kids, 25 victims were kidnapped and drugged in preparation of being transferred to Pakistan, where they would be instructed on their duties to the Taliban. The ages of the children? They ranged from 4 to 14 years old.

Children in Afghanistan may very well be living the worst form of Hell on Earth. Of course, not every Afghani child is sold off to the Taliban, kidnapped or married off. There are the few lucky ones.

For instance, take Lina, a 12 year-old living in a refugee camp in Kabul. She is one of the lucky ones. She gets to cram herself, her 12 sisters and brothers and her parents into 2 tents. She does not have to worry about school because she needs to focus on making money to feed herself. She also does not have time for the luxury of school, seeing that she has to make the hour-long journey at least 2-3 times a day just to get water. She is considered fortunate compared to what other horrors she could be dealing with.

Many people say that we have enough lives to be worried about in America; we cannot divert our attention to some third world country that needs our help. But a life is a life. A child is a child, no matter where he or she is. We are fortunate in this country to be in a position where most parents are not having to sell their children to feed the others, where our government is not taking our children and brainwashing them to kill themselves and thousands of other civilians. Afghanistan is another story, a completely appalling story that seems surreal, yet the people living through this could tell you in horrifying detail the reality of what is happening. I think these Afghani kids deserve to have their stories known.