Sending Children to the Front Lines

MAZAR-e-SHARIF, Afghanistan, June 2, 2006 (ENS) – It’s a day out in
the country for Noor Mohammad, as he stands in the middle of a field
with a stick, beating energetically at the opium poppy plants around him.
“I like destroying poppies,” he said. “It’s fun to be away from the
city for a day.”
Noor, 16, is in the tenth grade at a school in Mazar-e-Sharif, the
capital of Balkh province. His one day trip to the country is part of
an experiment being conducted by the government’s counter-narcotics
department in Balkh.
“Even with transportation and lunch, students come a lot cheaper than
any other work force,” explained Zabiullah Akhtari, a senior
government official in charge of poppy eradication in Balkh. “We’re
going to use students several more times before the end of the poppy season.”
Not all the participants share Noor’s enthusiasm for the task. By
contrast, Parwaiz, 14, is scared to death. Sitting exhausted under a
tree after his day’s labors, he looked around nervously as he spoke
to a reporter.
“It’s a difficult task, but we have been ordered to do it by our
school,” he said. “Now we’re just hoping that armed [militia]
commanders don’t attack us.”


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