Benazir, Afghanistan, "I Was Sold Four Times"
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 9:49 AM

Thirty one-year-old Benazir - not her real name - was 12 when she was wedded to a 24-year-old man in Shinwaar District of Nangarhar Province, eastern Afghanistan. Benazir has been sold four times by men whom she considers her husbands - in a formally proscribed tradition known as women selling. She told IRIN of her extraordinary experiences.

"I had lived for more than nine years with my first husband and had four children from him when he decided to sell me to Qabayels [tribal groups living on the Pakistani side of the border]. He was a landlord who made money from his farms. I don't know how much I was sold for. I was sick for a long time and my husband was always complaining that I was ugly and unattractive.

"I could not leave my two-year-old daughter so he [the husband] also sold her with me while I was two months pregnant. We were sold to a man named Ziaullah [not his real name] who was always angry and who always beat his two other wives and children. He earned money by trafficking people to Arab countries.

"Four months later my daughter disappeared. People stole her from me. I was always crying for my daughter. One day Ziaullah told me that he was fed up with my non-stop groaning and ugly face and wanted me sold to another man. I did not want to leave Ziaullah's house because I was thinking one day my little daughter would be found and brought back to that house.

" Ziaullah sold me to a man called Haji Aman [not his real name] who was a rich man from Mumand Dara. He was both a landlord and a merchant and an importer of construction materials from Pakistani cities. He bought me because he wanted to have male children since he did not have one from his wife. He was gentle with me. I gave birth to my son, Noorullah, at his house. I was very happy with my son and Haji Aman was also happy. He was happy because I was a woman who could give birth to his own male children.

"Nine months later I gave birth to a daughter who died 15 days after birth. Haji Aman was frustrated. I was also frightened. I was praying to God to give me a son, at least to appease him [Haji Aman]. But, the next time I also gave birth to another daughter and he named her Bas Bibi [`No more daughters'].

"I do not know what was wrong with him. After I delivered my third daughter, Haji Aman was very angry and thought something was wrong with me. After my third daughter he married a young girl for whom he paid 400,000 [Pakistani] rupees [about US$6,500] as dowry. Haji Aman used to say he'd marry 40 times if necessary until one of his wives gave birth to a son.

"God gave me three more daughters. Now I had had six daughters from Haji Aman. Haji Aman loved his first wife very much, but she was very bad to me and was always blaming me for everything.

" Haji Aman was a good man and did not want to sell me again. He said it was a shame that men sold their wives. But his first wife wanted me out of the house. Haji Aman divorced me and handed me and my two youngest daughters to a Mullah [Islamic religious leader] to take me to my first husband in Shinwaar.

"The Mullah was a hypocrite. He sold me and my daughters to another man whose business was buying and selling women. This man kept me for several weeks with four other women. One evening he took us all to another village where many men had gathered in a garden. We were wearing `burqas', and were told to remain silent.

"In the end ironically my first husband bought me, without knowing it was me and my daughters. When he took me to his house and saw my face he was surprised. He said he had paid 60,000 Afghanis [about $1,200] to buy back what he had sold very cheaply many years back.

"I have delivered 11 children, but I still miss my daughter who was stolen from me at Ziaullah's house."

Published in: Benazir, Afghanistan, "I Was Sold Four Times," IRINNews, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 27 August 2007. © IRIN.

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