In Afghanistan, some poor female carpet weavers feed their babies hashish

Image: Kevin Sites for

Author, proto-warblogger and former CNN and NBC correspondent Kevin Sites, with whom I worked to create what may have been the first war blog, is back in Afghanistan reporting for VICE.

It's really strong work. One of the pieces he's sent back so far is a fascinating look at a traditional practice among many poor, rural carpet loomers: feeding hashish to their young children. Think of the drug as a kind of babysitter, for impoverished women who are forced to labor at hard work for impossibly long hours in harsh conditions. Snip:

Like most women in Afghanistan’s Qalizal District, Bebehaja’s life is told on the strings of a carpet loom. It’s a vocational inheritance of women of Turkmen heritage, who begin as early as seven and may not stop until they’re 70. It’s as linear and taut as the cords on which they weave, unspooling balls of yarn over minutes, hours, days, decades creating masterful motifs, while simultaneously emptying themselves of the same beauty and comfort they put into the things that they create.

Bebehaja is 60 now. She’s covered in a stained, blue burqua so I can’t see her face, but I hear the weariness in her voice. She tells me the dirty secret that everyone knows: the most important material in carpet making in Qalizal is not wool, but hashish.

“When we don’t eat the hashish we’re like a dead body,” she says. “When we eat it we can work hard and work more.”

Read the full report here. You can read more of Kevin's dispatches from Afghanistan here. You can also follow Kevin on Twitter.

Previously: Kevin Sites returns to Afghanistan. Here's the reporting gear he's packing.