Right after the Times interview, I sent my colleagues to find out what happened to Naghma and went to talk to the Kabul Police Chief myself. At
the station, we found out that the debt had been paid in early February 2013, based on a letter that was signed by a couple of witnesses, the man to whom
Naghma's father was indebted, and the anonymous donor who paid the debt.
I submitted a complaint to the police to follow up on the case. Based on my complaint, the police went to find Mohammad, and then they called the Times and told them that the debt had already been paid. If it had not been for the police intervention after our complaint, Mohammad would never
have informed the Times that he had received the payment.
I asked the police to summon the father to the station and to ask him why, if the debt was paid a month ago, he was telling the Times he was
threatening to sell his daughter, but the police found out he'd already fled to Uruzgan. However, he promised the police by phone that he won't try to sell
off Naghma again. The police summoned Naghma's brothers and warned them in front of me that they would all be put in jail if they harm Naghma anymore.
I also spoke to Mohammad, who said the amount of the debt was more than what he received, but that he has cancelled the engagement anyway.
Once again, I assigned a couple of other colleagues to find out from the neighbors and the camp what everyone is saying about the situation. It's clear
that Naghma is not necessarily safe yet. The neighbors confirmed that Mohammad now knows the way to make money is off of threatening to sell his daughter,
and almost everyone we talked to agreed that once elders come together to decide a marriage, it won't be called off unless there is strict oversight by the
government and police.
We could have paid the debt right after we read the story on the BBC in January, but the whole purpose was to ensure that the father and the tribal elders
were held to account.
Cases like this happen every day in Afghanistan, but when a story becomes public and then there is no intervention to stop it, it sets a precedent that
anyone can sell off their daughters without being held accountable.
But unfortunately, the person who paid this debt was either not aware of this sensitivity or didn't feel the need to consult with the women's groups in the
Tying the fate of Naghma to money is not only dangerous to her, but to her sisters and every other girl in this camp. The harm is already done, and I am
very concerned that if there is no oversight, the father might send Naghma to Helmand in a year or so to marry the man after all.
This whole situation also reflects the fact that the concept of "first, do no harm" is often violated by donors in Afghanistan who are after quick fixes
that have big consequences for the women and girls of this country. In this case, the donor has super-ceded the law and decided the fate of Naghma,
ignoring the fact that she has not saved Naghma, but has put a price on her head.