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Afghan Couple Sell Kidneys To Pay Debts

Jalil Ahmad and his wife want to sell their kidneys to settle their debts.
Jalil Ahmad and his wife want to sell their kidneys to settle their debts.

HERAT, Afghanistan -- For more than a week, Jalil Ahmad, an Afghan laborer, has been looking for someone willing to buy his kidney.

A lack of employment and constant demands from his numerous creditors have forced Ahmad to consider selling one of his kidneys to feed his wife and six children, who live in a rundown house in the western Afghan city of Herat.

“Unemployment and constant harassment by creditors have forced me to look into this option,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan of what prompted him to engage in what is still an illegal practice under Afghan law.

“I know losing a kidney can make me very ill, but we don’t see any other option,” he said.

Ahmad says the only way he can pay back more than $12,000 in debts is to sell one of his vital organs.

His wife, Massumeh, who goes by one name only, is also ready to sell a kidney to share her husband’s burden. She says that last year they paid back $6,000 in debts but are still required to pay $100 every month in interest.

“We are ready to embrace any dangers but would like to get rid of our debts,” she said.

Khalilullah Habibi, a surgeon in Herat’s private Luqman Hakim Hospital, says that in recent weeks some 20 people have registered to donate their kidneys in return for money.

private Luqman Hakim Hospital
private Luqman Hakim Hospital

Habibi told Radio Free Afghanistan that a team of seven Iran-trained doctors in the hospital have performed successful kidney transplant surgeries.

“We have introduced some of the potential donors to patients requiring transplants,” he said. “But everything depends on the mutual understanding and agreement between the donor and the recipient.”

While requesting anonymity, another doctor in the hospital said the kidney transplants are performed by a team of Afghan and Iranian doctors who are paid nearly $7,000 for each procedure.

Qamaruddin Siddiqi, an adviser the Afghan Public Health Ministry, however, says the sale and purchase of human organs is illegal in Afghanistan. He says the ministry is working on future legislation for donating organs.

He acknowledged that at least one kidney transplant has taken place in the Herat hospital but said the case they investigated was that of a mother donating her kidney to her daughter.

Ahmad is eagerly waiting for someone to offer him $10,000 -- the current price for donating a kidney. If everything goes well, his wife will sell her kidney, as well.

“This is our last stab to survive,” he said.

Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on reporting by Shahpur Saber and Zhakhfar Ahmadi.