Sabere, now 16, was only 7 years old when her father died in war. Her cousin inherited her, and following a long-practiced tradition in Afghanistan, he sold her when she was 10 years old to Golmohammad, a man in his 50s and a member of the Taliban. During the next six years she was both a slave and wife of Golmohammad. She became pregnant four times, miscarrying each time. The cause may have been her youth, or the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband. While they were on a trip to Mazar-e sharif, Sabere managed to escape and after much effort, she made her way to a women’s shelter.
Meanwhile, Sabere’s mother needed to remarry quickly to avoid bringing shame on the family with her widowhood. According to tradition, ownership and betrothal of a widow transfers to the deceased’s cousin. So Sabere’s mother marries the cousin, and gives birth to a daughter named Farzane (Sabere’s half-sister). The family struggles to make ends meet, so when Farzane is 10 years old, her father sells her to a man in western Afghanistan. Her price: 50 sheep and a piece of dry-farming land. As a kind of installment plan, the buyer pays Farzane’s father 10 sheep per year, and will take possession of her when she is 15 and the full amount has been paid.
I Was Worth 50 Sheep is the tale of these two sisters and their struggle for human dignity and freedom in a war-torn country caught between ancient traditions and a modern world.
I Was Worth 50 Sheep will premiere as part of the Global Voices series on the WORLD Channel, Sunday, September 2 at 10 p.m. (check local listings). Starting September 3, the documentary will be available to view in entirety online via PBS Video (for a limited time only).