Under Taliban, Kabul’s drug addicts forced into withdrawal



With shaved heads, outsized tunics and the terrified gaze of the hunted, the drug addicts rounded up by the Taliban brace for 45 days of painful withdrawal.

For some, the hardliners’ raids could doubtlessly assist them solid off the yoke of habit.

However for a lot of the keep at Kabul’s Ibn Sina centre will simply mark a brief change of scene, marked by a brutal method to forcing customers off their highly effective dependence.

Earlier than the Taliban marched into Kabul on August 15, police within the capital would typically arrest addicts and switch them to the centre.

However because the hardline group took management, the frequency of raids on areas the place addicts collect seems to have elevated.

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Lots of of customers shelter in squalid circumstances at Pul-e-Sukhta, underneath a bridge in western Kabul synonymous with exhausting medication and violent crime.

They recognise the rehab clinic’s ambulance, and those that can carry themselves off the fetid floor stagger down the rubbish-strewn Paghman River to keep away from seize, whereas many are too intoxicated to get up.

Two Taliban fighters, armed with M16 and AK-47 rifles, prod the comatose heroin and methamphetamine customers with their gun barrels as outreach staff wrestle with males earlier than forcing them to the automobile.

Uncooked sewage runs straight into the boggy river mattress, and the stench of urine, faeces and vomit within the crowded drug den is overwhelming.

Cushions, blankets, sandbags and tarpaulins make up the ramshackle camp, which is plagued by the addicts’ paraphernalia: syringes, wraps, foil and pipes.

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The gunmen hearth a number of photographs into the air to claim their authority and shock the addicts, earlier than about 20 are rounded up and whisked away.

Searches and checks

Throughout their 45-day rehabilitation keep on the 1,000-bed centre, the boys spend their time mendacity on cots in giant dormitories or crouched within the yard, absorbing the autumn solar.

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There may be little methadone accessible to assist wean the opium and heroin addicts, and nothing to take away the withdrawal pains for these being weaned off of meth, docs say.

This morning, Emal, 36, shuffles into the registration room.

A volunteer, who like many others working here’s a former addict, opens his logbook.

– Identify? Emal.

– Your father’s title? Abdul Matin.

– Married? Sure. I’ve three youngsters, two ladies and one boy.

– Working? Not at the moment.

– What medication do you’re taking? Crystal (meth).

– Have you ever been right here earlier than? Sure, 3 times. That is my fourth. I used to be discharged 10 days in the past.

As Emal leaves, 22-year-old Bilal Ahmad, skinny and jittery, takes a seat. He’s additionally hooked on meth, and has been by the programme earlier than, “one or one and a half yr years in the past”.

“I’m completely happy to be right here,” he tells AFP, casting fearful, furtive glances across the room that point out he’s not. “In 45 days, God prepared, we will go dwelling.”

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The boys are searched rigorously once they arrive.

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“Open your mouth. Wider. Carry your tongue,” one other member of workers on the clinic tells the brand new arrivals, earlier than checking their sneakers and garments for traces of medicine.

In teams of six, they then shuffle to the tiled constructing that homes the showers.

There their dishevelled khaki tunics and trousers are eliminated and they’re handed a packet of shampoo, however no towel.

Once they emerge, dripping, they’re handed over to a crew of barbers who shave their heads to stop the unfold of lice, however go away their scraggy beards.

Some are taken to rooms lined with 5 beds, whereas others are ushered right into a dormitory the place round 30 males of all ages are already mendacity on prime of their covers.

One childishly performs a bamboo flute. One other gestures to his mouth indicating that he’s hungry.

‘Horrible downside’

Poppy cultivation was banned underneath the Taliban’s final rule within the 1990s, however the export of heroin from Taliban-controlled areas supplied the hardliners with billions of {dollars} throughout their insurgency in opposition to america and the Western-backed authorities.

With poppies low-cost and simple to develop, Afghanistan gives round 90 per cent of the world’s manufacturing of heroin.

Crystal methamphetamine manufacturing has additionally surged, created from the ephedra plant which grows wild within the nation.

Based on anti-narcotics consultants, 11 per cent of Afghanistan’s 34 million inhabitants are drug customers, with 4 to 6 per cent addicted.

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Since sweeping again into energy, the Taliban have promised to not enable narcotics manufacturing.

“It’s the coverage of the Islamic Emirate,” mentioned Physician Ahmad Zoher Sultani, who heads the centre situated in an previous US military base.

For now, the workers within the centre are all working with out pay. Salaries haven’t been paid out for 4 months as Afghanistan’s financial system teeters on the breaking point.

Sultani says he was fearful that the Taliban would shut his clinic once they first seized energy.

“Their intentions in direction of us weren’t clear,” he informed AFP, including although that the nation’s new rulers had “rapidly informed us they wished us to proceed.”

In indicators he’s adapting to the brand new regime, the physician has since mid-August swapped out his Western go well with and tie for the standard shalwar kameez, and has eliminated the entire pictures that after crammed the partitions of his workplace.

“Medication are a horrible downside,” he mentioned.