Herat drug addicts seek help in cold winter

By Omar

Some 70,000 addicts, some homeless, live in Herat province, 20% of whom are women and children. Many unhoused addicts yearn for treatment and shelter. [Omar/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- Khair Mohammad, 56, lives on a street in Herat city, spending days and nights outside in the cold winter. He became addicted to drugs some 15 years ago in Iran where he had gone to work.

A native of Herat's Karukh district, Mohammad was abandoned by his family once he became an addict. He now lives in hunger, with only a thin blanket to cover him.

He said he wants to be saved from the cold weather and drugs.

"I am in a very painful situation. No one checks on me or helps me," he said. "I suffer day and night from the cold, hunger and drugs."

Three drug addicts warm themselves January 10 on the sidewalk of a street in Herat city. [Omar/Salaam Times]

Three drug addicts warm themselves January 10 on the sidewalk of a street in Herat city. [Omar/Salaam Times]

"The government admitted me to a hospital three years ago, where I was in treatment for two months," he said.

"I quit drugs and wanted to return to normal life, but my family still thought I was an addict and did not let me into the house. I relapsed because of unemployment and because I had nowhere to go."

In the last two decades, international assistance played an important role in fighting poppy cultivation and preventing the spread of drug addiction in Afghanistan.

Thousands of addicts in Herat received treatment and returned to normal life thanks to international aid.

But such aid was largely halted about a year and a half ago.

A 100-bed hospital to treat drug addicts, built in Herat with international aid, has not been operational since then.

Based on data confirmed by national and international organisations, about 70,000 drug addicts live in Herat, some 20% of whom are women and children.

Cold weather

Herat has been experiencing unprecedented cold this season, with temperatures dropping as low as -24° Celsius on certain days.

Thousands of homeless addicts live on the streets, in cemeteries and in dilapidated places in the deadly cold, and they say a few among them die every night.

Mehdi Qasemi, 31, lives on a boulevard in Herat city and has been sick from the cold.

He said he stays awake at night from the extreme cold, and burns plastic and garbage to warm himself.

"Nights are very cold. I sit on my feet until the morning, shivering," he said. "I have been ill for a month -- since the weather got cold -- and I have no money for treatment."

"Young addicts remain resilient in the cold, but middle-aged and old addicts cannot survive the cold, and they die," he added.

"Every night two or three addicts lose their life to the cold on the street where I live."

Desire to return to normal life

Many addicts in Herat city want to return to a normal life.

Abdul Shokoor, 40, walks throughout the night so his body does not freeze.

He said he yearned for treatment and good health. "We, all addicts, are tired of this humiliating life and want to be healthy."

"If there is a proper place to treat addicts, all of us are ready to quit drugs and return to normal life in society," he said.

Mohammad, 30, has been living in a cemetery in Herat for the past two years after being deported from Iran. He became addicted to drugs five years ago in Iran while working there.

He recently witnessed the death of an addict from the cold and buried his body five days later with the help of another addict.

Mohammad said he does not want to live in the cemetery anymore. "I want to become healthy again, but there is no one to help me."

He said he hopes to be reunited with his family in Iran after quitting drugs.

"I am very interested in getting treatment and getting clean," he added. "I hope a suitable place become available that would feed us and protect us from the cold."

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Since 2001, when the government led by Hamid Karzai was established, there have been many hopes for rebuilding Afghanistan, which was fulfilled to some extent. Still, the amount of dollars that came to Afghanistan was not used in the construction sector. Most of them were taken back to foreign countries by the people inside the system, and there they made a better life for themselves as the people of other countries will benefit from it. Since that same 2001, no standard hospital was built, no standard factory was built, no basic work such as the construction of an electric dam in the country was built, and many other basic works that were/are being seriously needed were not done. For example, now Afghanistan is dark, and there is no electricity. If it had been done, there would be electricity in the country today, and our homes and homeland would be light. Also, thousands of people are in bad conditions every day in Spin Boldak and Torkham to go to Pakistan to treat diseases. Not even a single factory was built where thousands of people would work and the raw materials would turn into usable products. With all this, after 20 years, a government under the Islamic Emirate came to power and launched some excellent works. With little possibility, they cleared the nest of addicts in the Pul-e-Sokhta neighborhood in Kabul. They transferred the addicts, including women, children, and adults, to the hospitals for treatment; however, the government, named republic, has made even a min


Most of these young men and women who are addicted to drugs, have got addicted to drugs in Iran. The absence of a healthy society causes the youth to compete with their peers in education, but on the contrary, today's youth start their competition first by taking Tablet-Ks, and slowly, slowly get addicted to other drugs. At the beginning, if the addicted youths are treated and engaged in a household task, the addict can give up whatever kind of drug they are addicted to. When the addict is treated and is unemployed after the treatment, it is difficult for the addict to recover. Most of our youth, instead of turning to scientific work, professional training, on the contrary, they engage in vandalism. Here in Afghanistan, drug traffickers are not punished, but they are shareholders of the government, and drugs are sold in the streets, in cities, in cemeteries, under bridges, and even on the roads, and no security agency was able to arrest these drug traffickers. If the situation in Afghanistan remains the same, maybe the population of drug addicts will increase, and not decrease. If Afghan televisions make and publish documentaries about the lives of drug addicts, our youth will learn something from these films and be advised not to use these drugs in the future. In my opinion, the United Nations, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, should try to increase the daily hours of study at schools so that our youth get busy on studying a lot. Currently, there are 3 periods o


These people are heartbroken; they should be helped because most of them have stopped due to problems, and now it takes a long time for them to return to normal. If they are not given food, clothing, and medicine, the cold weather will kill them. Most of the time, I see the officials saying that they have taken care of them and taken them to hospitals, but these people are not fully treated. If it happens, I am sure that it will not stop you. Another point is that they must be made busy when they are taken to the hospital and treated. If they are not kept busy, they will return and always live this life of humiliation. So, help should be provided to them whether it is in the form of medicine, food, clothing or any other kind of help, it is their right as a human beings...


Unfortunately, many young people in Iran have got addicted to drugs. Iran and Pakistan are among the dirtiest countries in the world for Afghans. These two countries, which call themselves Muslims, have no mercy at all. Damned Iran sent Afghan immigrants illegally to the Syrian war. Many of them were killed in Syria and Iraq and dead bodies of many of them were not handed over to their families. Lately, the dog-wise leaders of Iran sent many of the Afghan commandos who had taken refuge in Iran to Russia. At the same time, the damned Pakistan, which is the servant of the British and has been oppressing Afghans since its establishment, is training the youth under the name of Taliban and ISIS. Later, they send them to Afghanistan to kill their countrymen by this and that name, destroy schools and hospitals. Dirty Pakistan has been doing this for the last forty five years.