This is probably the most disturbing documentary I’ve seen on television, yet it elevates 4 Corners to the best current-affairs programme in Australia and, possibly, the world. I remember reading in USA Today, when American and coalition forces first went into Afghanistan after 9/11 (yes, I was in America at the time) a naïve journalist actually worrying that the change to democracy in Afghanistan might occur too quickly. I found it extraordinary that a journalist covering international affairs had such a limited view of the world outside their own country.
My understanding of Afghanistan is limited and obviously filtered through the eyes, ears and words of journalists, but there appears to be two worlds: one trying to break into the 21st Century through youthful television programmes (amongst other means) and one dominated by tribal affiliations and centuries-old customs and laws. In the latter, it is the custom to settle disputes by the perpetrator’s family giving land or daughters to the victim’s family. In other words, daughters are treated as currency and as bargaining chips in negotiations. In recent times, this has had tragic consequences resulting from a NATO-backed policy to destroy opium crops, which is the only real way that Afghan farmers can make money. Opium is the source of income for the Taliban but the trade is run by drug smugglers, based in Pakistan. They are the Afghani equivalent of the mafia in that they are merciless. With the destruction of crops, that the drug smugglers finance, they are abducting the farmer’s daughters, from as young as 7 years (as evident in the 4 Corners programme) for payment of their debts. The government and NATO are simply ignoring the problem, and as far as the Taliban is concerned, it’s an issue between the drug smugglers and the farmers.
This is a world that most of us cannot construe. If you put yourself in their shoes and ask: What would I do? Unless you are delusional, the answer has to be that you would do the same as them: you’d have no choice. It’s hard for us to imagine that there exists a world where life is so cheap, yet poverty, perpetual conflict and no control over one’s destiny inevitably leads to such a world. I hope this programme opens people’s eyes and breaks through the cocoon skin that most of us inhabit.
More than anything else, it demonstrates the moral bankruptcy of the Taliban, the cultural ignorance of the coalition and the inadequacy of Pakistani law enforcement.