Facing a flood of drugs
Several months after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, poppy cultivation was totally banned in Iran, but the narco-caravans began slipping into the country through the borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The smuggled drugs -- mostly opium, heroin, hashish, and morphine -- are destined for Europe and the littoral states of the Persian Gulf via Iranian territory.
In its efforts to stamp out the drug scourge, Iran has strived hard over the years to curb drug smuggling through its eastern borders.
Indeed, if Tehran had not adopted drastic measures, all of Europe would have been awash in drugs by now.
There have been many skirmishes between Iran’s security forces and the armed gangs of the drug lords in which hundreds of members of the Iranian police and armed forces have been killed or injured.
In the three decades of war with the drug mafia, Iranian officials have made Herculean efforts to curb the illicit drug trade and rehabilitate drug addicts without receiving major funding from European countries, international organizations, or even the United Nations.
However, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, paid a visit to Iran last May and thanked the country for “holding back a flood of heroin.”
Mr. Costa expressed optimism that Iran was “making a massive sacrifice” to stop the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan to the West, and “deserved both the gratitude and support of the international community.”
“The anti-narcotics police in Iran are among the best in the world”, he noted.
Over the past thirty years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has erected over 1000 embankments, canals, trenches, and cement walls along its eastern borders.
However, according to numerous reports issued by the UN, most of the opium going from Afghanistan to the West is smuggled through Iranian territory. This amounts to approximately 2500 tons of opium crossing Iran’s border every year.
Meanwhile, in another report, UNODC laments the fact that Iran has had one of the world’s largest increases in opium addiction over the past few years, and the Iranian government estimates there are 1.2 million drug abusers in the country, which is 2.8 percent of citizens between the ages of 15 and 64.
Of course, these figures are only an estimate and cannot be independently confirmed or verified.
Drug experts attribute the large number of drug abusers to the high level of unemployment in the country and the fact that Iran has a very young population.
And unfortunately, about 90 percent of Iran’s addicts relapse after they leave rehabilitation centers.
In addition, as drug abuse is on the rise in society, herbal drug stores are popping up all across the country, with the owners rarely bothering to obtain official legal permits to run their businesses.
For 30 years, Iran has fulfilled all its commitments in the campaign against drugs.
However, at the same time, all the neocolonial powers have been making serious efforts to promote drug addiction among the youth of our country. Thus, it is the duty of the mass media to enlighten the young generation to the catastrophic consequences of addiction before they get trapped in the world of drugs.
In light of all this, drug experts, psychologists, sociologists, social workers, and everyone else who feels a responsibility to help their countrymen must rise up and demonstrate their determination to rescue people from this octopus of death.
By Ali Asghar Pahlavan