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Metro, March 28, 2014

‘I sold my sister to fund drug addiction’: The awful cost of heroin dependence in Afghanistan

The awful cost of heroin dependence in Afghanistan

Abdurahim Mutar sold his sister to pay for his drugs habit
Recovering addict: Abdurahim Mutar sold his sister to pay for his drugs habit. (Photo: Shaista Chishty)

Addicts in the world’s most drug-affected Afghan region are feeding their own children opium to keep them quiet, and selling relatives to fund their own heroin habits, Metro has learned.

And such is the desperation to pay for drugs, any ruse will do.

Abdurahim Mutar, 36, admits trading in his own sister, Tazagul.

His wife Seema, 22, was forcing some of her stash upon four-year-old daughter, Madina, and son, Zabihula, two. And Abdurahim’s mother Zarghona, 58, and brother were also addicted.

Worst-hit is the town of Shortepa in the Afghan province of Balkh, along a trafficking route taking freshly farmed opiates to the rest of the world.

Afghanistan is responsible for farming 90 per cent of the world’s opium and has 1million addicts of its own.

Yet only an estimated 10,000 each year are treated, with 21 of 34 provinces offering rehabilitation.

Abdurahim said he was addicted for 13 years and blamed his mujahideen days in the mountains.

Army colleagues urged him to try the opiates they felt necessary to get through their arduous days.

Abdurahim said: ‘When my daughter was one, we’d give her opium because she was crying a lot.

‘She’d reject eating it but we’d give her the drugs by force.

‘We just weren’t aware it was dangerous or it would create health problems. If anything, we thought it would be beneficial. It’s very common here.’

He had spent many hours trying to persuade his wife his drug habit was purely to treat a long-standing stomach ache, only to find her unconvinced, yet also tempted to try what he was taking.

An eight- year-old girl who was traded in Kabul
Sold by her family: An eight- year-old girl who was traded in Kabul. (Photo: Shaista Chishty)

The toll the drugs have taken on him is evident. He hesitates when asked to recall his baby son’s name. It was only when he was pushed into treatment – in-house in Shortepa, while his wife was treated at home – that he acknowledged the costs involved.

His sister Tazagul, then 18, was traded for nearly £4,000, sold to someone living in a distant region to help prop up the family finances and pay for food as well as drugs.

Abdurahim said: ‘She accepted this. I was happy to get a lot of money for her, spending it without really thinking about where it came from.

‘Now I wish I’d used it better, for a vehicle or some property, perhaps.’

Elsewhere, Kabul-based refugee camp resident Shah Bibi, 24, told of the dark secrets she only belatedly discovered about her heroin-addicted husband, Ghafoor.

It was after his death last year that Shah realised his debts of £3,770, accrued while working in the United Arab Emirates, had prompted a deal for his daughters Farida, eight, and six-year-old Parwina.

Shah’s brother managed to intervene and cancel the deal for poor Farida, but she must be married off to someone from his sister’s own clan.

Action to stop the rot has been effective. At the 14-bed Shortepa centre, supported by Islamic Relief UK, more than 1,500 people have been treated and the addiction rate across the province is said to have fallen.

Clinic director Dr Mohammad Ehsan Hamrah insisted: ‘Back in 2006, most families had addicts in them – now, most families are without any addicts. This is our biggest achievement.’

And yet an estimated 99 per cent of addicts nationwide remain without formal help – often at a high price.

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