After two vans missing license plates were stopped this month in Ghazni, Afghanistan, police discovered 27 boys -- ages ranging from 4 to 15 -- inside, on their to Pakistan. The drivers and two adult passengers were arrested.
The young boys were being smuggled to “madrassas,” or seminaries, to be trained in the philosophy of the Taliban.
Taken to Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan bordering Afghanistan, they would be radicalized in the place where many Taliban leaders meet and members were educated. The city is considered to be the Taliban leadership council's headquarters.
While some parents, such as Mohammed Naseer, agree to send their children away, police say the practice is dangerous and still a crime. Naseer, according to the AP, wanted his son to be educated in the Koran, as his ambition is to be a mulla--a cleric. There were few opportunities for education at home, so Naseer arranged the journey for his son and other children.
“Those involved in the transport of children are part of a dangerous network and it is a criminal act. It doesn’t matter if the parents approve,” senior police official Fazlur Rahman Bustani said.
After being trained, the boys would return home, bringing their radicalized views of the Koran with them.
The Ghazni Police Chief Mohammad Mustafa Mayer said that traffickers, “wanted to take our innocent children to the terrorist centers on the other side of the border under the pretense of Islamic studies.”
He said that the smuggling of children between provinces happens three or four times per year, for labor or sex slavery, or recruitment from the Taliban that they disguise as religious education.
“Parents often agree to send their children but they don’t know what is awaiting the child," said Mohammed Musa Mahmoodi, from the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. "Sometimes they are told they will be educated or will get a good job and be looked after. But when they get there they are beaten, forced to work as cheap labor, taken by the Taliban as new recruits.”
According to the AP, the Afghan intelligence suspects that boys are even learning to carry out suicide bombings at some madrassas.
Police also recently stopped another attempt to take boys from Ghazni to madrassas in Karachi, a port city.