The Risk in Selling a Daughter

sahar gul

Let me tell about a woman I met in Parwan province in Afghanistan. This happened five years ago. She a young beautiful woman named Zeeba.

When I met Zeeba the first time, she was very sad and I had asked her why. “Why are you so sad? What is your problem?” I asked.

She said, “I am not sad, but I am thinking about my child.” But when I asked what happened to her child she didn’t answer, but instead went back to her gardening. As I looked at her she looked strong, but she was upset with herself.

A year later I went again to Parwan. I saw this woman again and she recognized me and asked me if I would like something to eat. I said no thank you, but then she said, “You have a disability, yet you’re not as sad as I am.”

I said, “Life is not without problems. We can see some people’s problems and some people’s problems are not visible. Those people who have problems inside, these are more painful.”

I said, “Tell me please, what is your problem and why do you look this sad and hopeless?”

Then she told me her story. She said her father was a poor person and when the Taliban came the family went to Pakistan. “My father couldn’t make that much money to buy food for us. My two sisters were older than me. My father gave them to very old men and he got lots of money.”

“I wanted so much to go to school, but my father wouldn’t let me. One day a man who was forty-five came to our house and asked my father about me. I was sixteen and at first my father said no, but when the man offered as much money as he wanted, he agreed to give me to the man to marry.”

She said the marriage went okay for three months, but then her husband was using drugs and started accusing her of having illegitimate relationships with men and made her stay inside the house.

“I was three months pregnant. Finally I gave birth to the child at home. My daughter was very cute and I loved her a lot. He didn’t love her and would say, “This is not my child.”

“One night he came home. He was very hungry. I was in the kitchen.” She said he hit her and then locked her in a room and when she tried to get out he threw a big rock at her, knocking her to the ground so she could not move.

“I stayed there on the ground in the yard until midnight. There was no one to help me. After a while I managed to get out of the yard and to my father’s house, which was not very far. It was four o’clock in the morning and I knocked on the door. My father opened the door.”

“When I saw him, my face was full of blood and I said to my father: ‘Call to your money to help me,’ and I fainted. When I opened my eyes, I was in hospital.”

She cried while telling me this story. I asked her, “Where is your daughter now?” She said “Now she is four years old and I don’t know where she is.”

Now Zeeba is twenty and lives with her father.

Why does it seem that women always experience the most problems? And then a woman thinks that all problems are because of her, but a man can’t see his own responsibility in so many of the problems he makes for his family. A mother can give a happy and healthy life to her children and make a nice family if allowed.

By Mahbooba

Mahbooba is currently studying abroad on scholarship.
Photo by Kuni Takahashi.


  1. Dear Mahbooba: Well done. You’ve done a very good job telling us this heartbreaking story. That this young woman–still so young–has gone through so much life trauma, and must live not knowing where her daughter is and how she is doing… this is a terrible crime. And you are asking crucial questions in that last paragraph. Please keep asking these questions. And please keep writing! Stacy

  2. Dear Mahbooba,
    You have written a heart wrenching story. You have a gift for connecting with people and listening. You tell Zeeba’s story like fiction, so that the reader feels she is there, yet sadly, it’s not fiction. You are right to challenge men to take responsibility for how they treat and view women. Thank you for sharing Zeeba’s story.

  3. Dear Mahbooba,
    You story is so very moving. It is written so well. You are obviously very empathetic. That is a gift. Thank you for sharing. Denise

  4. Linda Gugger says:

    Dear Mahbooba,
    This story is so very sad and is probably not an uncommon story. You have written so powerfully about Zeeba’s life. It moves my heart with compassion. This morning I was reading something an ancient songwriter wrote and it seemed to offer hope for people who are in such difficult heartbreaking circumstances. I don’t have the music that goes with it, but the words are very good. One day God will make everything right again. Thank you for sharing your experiences! Linda

    Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.
    Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself, “He won’t call me to account”?
    But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; You consider their grief and take it in hand.
    The victims commit themselves to you; You are the helper of the fatherless…
    Call the evildoer to account for his wickedness that would not otherwise be found out.
    The LORD is King for ever and ever…
    You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted; You encourage them, and You listen to their cry,
    defending the fatherless and the oppressed, so that mere earthly mortals
    will never again strike terror.

  5. Michelle says:

    Hi Mahbooba.. It is nice to see how you have such compassion for others. By sharing with us these horrible stories of pain and sadness, you are educating us as well. Although hard to read sometimes I very much like your stories and hope to read more in the future. Keep pressing on with your future and never give up. Continue to help others also because I believe that anything is possible for these poor women with the help and guidance from someone like you….. Bless you and take care :)

  6. Michelle says:

    Mahbooba, your stories are sad but I think it is good what you are doing by having these young women talk about their sadness and pain. Sometimes it is good to be able to share it with someone to help ease the pain. I couldn’t imagine being in the situation this poor woman was in. The thought of my father “selling” me to an old man at such a young age, or any age for that matter, is truly horrible. The betrayal she must have felt and the anger and fear she must have had is truly unimaginable. Keep sharing these stories because even though they are hard to read it is good to get them out to people so we can be educated and maybe be able to help somehow. You are doing a great thing and continue on with your dreams of the future and never let anyone get in your way. Bless you and good luck :)

  7. I cannot believe that a family could reach such a low that they would sell their own family members. You would think that they would rather die together than send one of their own off to possibly die and have the others be safe and financially stable for…a week…a month…maybe longer. You do not hear many stories of mothers selling their daughters, it is always the men. That tells me that men are more willing to give up things of importance for temporary comfort than women are.

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