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2014 (Narrative date)

There are an estimated 749,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Afghanistan (GSI 2018). Afghanistan remains a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected for forced labour and sex trafficking, with internal trafficking being more prevalent than transnational. Victims of trafficking in the country are subjected to bonded labour, in which whole families are often trapped, along with children being exploited in carpet making and brick factories, domestic servitude, commercial sex, begging and drug smuggling. 

Shahida was 13 years old when she was forced to marry a 45 year old man. Though she ran away, her father forced her to return to her husband, when she refused, he attempted to bury her alive. Shahida was eventually able to escape to a shelter and then was able to get the help she needed from Hagar International. 


When I was 13, my father arranged my marriage with a 45-year-old man, who promised my family money in exchange for me. I was very unhappy with him, but endured life with him for one year before running back to my home. My father was very angry when I returned. He beat me and yelled at me to return to my husband, but not even his heavy beatings were worse than life with my husband. When I refused to return, my father dug a deep hole in the ground. He forced me into it and began to bury me. I still wonder if he really would have buried me alive if the neighbours hadn’t heard my screaming and stopped him.

After my father tried to bury me, I was terrified. I knew I couldn’t return to my husband, but I was afraid my father would kill me. I escaped to a shelter in my province, but even though I felt safe at the shelter, my mind wouldn’t rest. I had terrible dreams and depression. I woke up every night with the taste of dirt, from being buried, in my mouth. 

The shelter was a physically safe place, but it couldn’t help me with the problems in my mind, and they were driving me mad. I tried to join the police, but I wasn’t accepted. After that, I decided to come to Kabul. I didn’t have anywhere else to go. 

In Kabul, I was introduced to Hagar. I still struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anger, and other mental health issues, but Hagar has helped me to diagnose and control these problems, with counselling and medication. I am enrolled in a beautician vocational training course at Hagar, which I love. I am always the first student ready for my courses in the morning. I hope to enrol in literacy classes in the future, to learn to read and write. I am still working to come to terms with my past and control my mental health issues, but at Hagar I feel something that I’ve never felt before: hope for my future. 


Narrative provided by Hagar International