Afghan family works to pay off crushing debt


JALALABAD, Afghanistan (AP) — For Razi Khan, a debt of almost $900 has condemned him and his family to years of work in a brick factory in an eastern Afghan city, with little or no hope of ever paying it off.

Khan has eight children. Six of them, including a 4-year-old, toil at the brick factory to pay off a crushing debt that has followed him for the past six years. With a salary of just $6 a day to feed his children and sick wife, it is unlikely he can pay off the debt.

"My heart wants to accomplish more things, such as to educate my children and to make them equal with other people, but unfortunately, I can't do this," Khan said.

When he turned 18, Khan went to work in Iran before returning to Peshawar, a Pakistani city across the border, where he wed in a marriage arranged by his family. He was working in a brick factory in Peshawar when his wife became ill. So he borrowed money from the factory to pay for treatments and feed his growing family.

But the debt was too high, so after six years he moved to Jalalabad, where a brick factory agreed to cover his debt in Pakistan. Still, after three years he still has not managed to cover the new debt to the Afghan brick factory.

"Whenever we see our father's obligation, we think that we should work days and nights with him," said his 14-year-old daughter, Raihana, who works with her father in the factory from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m. nearly every day. "Our hearts want more things, but we can't have them."

The family lives on hand-me-downs from neighbors and struggles just to put food on the table.

"Afghanistan is getting aid from international community, but we are still in this mud (for bricks) and we are mortgaged to this brick factory," she said.

According to the family, there are others in similar situations at other brick factories.

"I work with my father every day and we only have a weekend," said six-year-old Rashid, who complained that other families have time off to entertain themselves. "But we go to brick factory and make lines of standing the bricks and make the mud for the bricks."