The Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates than there are 749,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Afghanistan. Within the country men, women and children are exploited in bonded labour, where an initial debt assumed by a worker as part of the terms of employment is exploited, ultimately entrapping other family members and sometimes for multiple generations. Some entire Afghan families are trapped in debt bondage in the brick-making industry in the Easter part of the country.
Zabit Khan and his family were living as refugees in Pakistan when he became ill and borrowed several thousand dollars from a kiln owner to cover his medical costs. He began working at the kiln but was not earning enough to pay off the debt. As his family grew, Zabit had to borrow more for food, medicine and other basic needs for his children. Seven years later an Afghan kiln owner bought the Khans’ debt and they began working for him back in Afghanistan. Khan, his wife and his 9 young children would spend 12 hours a day squatting in the dirt making line after line of clay bricks.
I’m in debt. I owe almost $3000 to the owner of the brick factory. I have small children but I have been forced to accept work here as a brick maker. My family needs to stay at this kiln in order to survive.
I’m working here because we’re in debt and my father is sick. My sisters, brothers and I are forced to work here out of necessity. We wake up every day at 3am and work until 5pm.
My father is ill and we have no money or our own home.
I don’t go to school. I have to work because there’s no other option.
Over there [in Pakistan] we lived at a brick factory, and again we are going through the same thing. We don’t have our own home. No roof over our heads. We do a lot of work, but we get nothing back from it. During holidays, other people celebrate, but all my poor kids can do is watch. We hope that the government will come to our aid.
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.