Video claiming to show child selling actually from Badghis earthquake relief effort
A popular post on social media claimed to show child selling, but was found to be inaccurate by AW investigators.
On March 9, a video surfaced online claiming to show people selling children at an undisclosed location. Multiple users shared the video, with the most popular post generating over 2.1k shares and 138 comments on social media at the time of writing.
Figure 1: Screenshot of one of the posts with video claiming to show a child selling market
The text accompanying the post said:
“Hot market for buying and selling children in the 21st century, in one of the provinces of Afghanistan! This is the government of the dissatisfied Kharkarzai brothers and terrorists called Taliban, who have taken the lives of thirty million people of the country hostage. Who is responsible? When did you and I become unmanly and kept silent in front of them.”
Other posts of the video made similar claims, with no further detail provided on the context or possible location and time.
In the video, we see a large group of people, many holding babies or with young children, with apparently ruined buildings in the background.
The cameraperson moves around the crowd, who appear to be waiting to see a group of men overseeing the situation, and more specifically, an individual wearing a light red jacket and dark blue hat.
There is nothing in the footage or fleeting moments of dialogue that can confirm or deny this is a scene from a child selling market.
Afghan Witness (AW) investigated the video and found that while the footage does originate from Afghanistan, it is not a child selling market but rather a relief effort by the Jalaluddin Wardak Charity Foundation following the earthquake in Badghis province in January 2022, which officials say killed at least 26 people.
According to news reports around the time, Jalaluddin Wardak, an engineer, travelled from the United States to Afghanistan to provide assistance to the residents of three villages of Qadis district around January 29th–30th.
Bakhtar News reported that Wardak’s foundation distributed cash to 180 families, with each bereaved family receiving 15,000 Afghanis and vulnerable families affected by the earthquake given 10,000 Afghanis each. The charity also distributed 12,500 Afghanis to the surviving child of each family, which explains why so many children are present and apparently ‘presented’ to the man/men who appear to be in charge in the video.
On 7 February 2022, Salaam Times published a video where Wardak is seen with a team in the same location as the video claiming to depict a child selling market. Several in his team can be seen wearing the same clothes as in the other video, suggesting both were filmed on the same day.
Comparing the two videos side by side, it is possible to confirm they are of the same place and incident.
In the “child selling” video, near the end of the recording, we can see the scene below. The red box has been added by AW:
Figure 2: Screenshot from claimed child market video
On the left-hand side of the frame above we can see a damaged wall with what looks like a “HI” shape on it (highlighted blue below) and a beam (highlighted green) running from a semi-circular niche (yellow) to above the “HI”, with a small rectangular niche below it (purple).
Figure 3: Detail of red box area with added annotation
On the Salaam Times video we see, in much better quality, the same wall with the same features:
Figure 4: Zoomed screenshot of Salaam Times video with added annotations showing features visible in “child market” video
The man who appears to be the centre of attention in the "child selling" video, wearing a red jacket and blue hat, is in fact Jalaluddin Wardak, reportedly handing out the cash support mentioned above.
Figure 5: Screenshot from “child selling” video showing man in red jacket (purple box)
Figure 6: Screenshots from Salaam Times video identifying the man as Jalaluddin Wardak
With the common location and team featuring in the videos, we can be confident the claimed child selling video – presented without context or additional information – shows the distribution of money by the Jalaluddin Wardak Charity Foundation following the Bagdhis earthquake in January.
This is not the first incident of mis/disinformation related to child selling – we have seen videos from pre-Taliban takeover presented as current, as well as vaccination drives attempted to be passed off as incidents of child selling.
Nonetheless, child selling is an issue which is currently taking place in Afghanistan according to credible media, which is perhaps why the above claim attracted so much engagement.
In October, the BBC reported that a starving Afghan family sold their baby girl for $500, and in January of this year, there were reports of people selling their children and kidneys to buy food for the rest of their families.
This, combined with the emotive and powerful nature of such stories, means content on child selling travels rapidly on social media and through personal networks, making it an ideal topic for mis/disinformation.
17 Mar 2022