FRONTLINE: Opium Brides in Afghanistan

The World

Young Afghan woman (Photo: PBS Frontline)

Marco Werman talks with Reporter Najibullah Quraishi of our partner program FRONTLINE about his report on the growing problem in Afghanistan of young girls who are kidnapped or traded to drug smugglers when opium farmers cannot meet their debts. About FRONTLINE's Opium Brides: Afghanistan produces most of the world's opium, fueling the global heroin trade, funding terrorist groups like the Taliban and bringing billions of dollars a year into the country's economy. But the illegal harvest and government eradication efforts are also creating hidden victims: young Afghan girls who are kidnapped or traded to smugglers to meet the debts of impoverished opium farmers. In Opium Brides, airing Tuesday, January 3, 2012, award-winning Afghan journalist Najibullah Quraishi takes viewers deep into the remote Afghan countryside to reveal the deadly bargain local farm families have been forced to make with drug smugglers in order to survive. Through interviews with local villagers, Quraishi learns that drug smugglers have been paying local farmers to grow opium, which the smugglers then use to produce heroin. Now that the government has been destroying the farmers' opium crops through the eradication program, the drug smugglers are returning and giving farmers a choice: Pay back the money, or give them one of the family's young daughters as a "bride." For most of the impoverished farmers, that leaves only one choice. "The government came and destroyed the opium fields," a local farmer named Sharif tells FRONTLINE. "The smugglers came after us to get their money back. We didn't have any money. I had a girl. She was 8 years old. They took her with them — we don't know where."