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Afghan drug addicts lay on their beds during their treatment at a hospital in the capital in 2012.
Afghan drug addicts lay on their beds during their treatment at a hospital in the capital in 2012.
Ghayor Waziri

KABUL — Here at Pol-e Sokhta, in a spot in western Kabul where hundreds of drug addicts gather each day, Afghan government workers have become a regular presence.

The government workers have been given the mission to round up the city's drug users and move them to a former NATO base, less than 10 kilometers away. The Afghan ministries of counter-narcotics, public health and economy have joined together in the initiative to provide treatment for drug addicts at the camp.

Salamat Azimi, Minister of Counter Narcotics, says the state has the means to treat thousands of drug addicts, and will soon be opening another similar camp in eastern Afghanistan. "We wanted to provide services to those who are addicted to drugs and are living in a very bad situation," Azimi said.

Gul Aqa, 35, has been using a cocktail of drugs, from morphine to opium, for about three years now. Burns are visible on his fingers from accidentally lighting his hands while smoking drugs. "I want to be treated so I can return to my old life," Aqa says, "Nobody has offered to provide treatment before, so I am happy to go to this rehab center."

In the past few days alone, hundreds of drug users have been collected from the streets and moved to Camp Phoenix. From outside, the camp looks like a military base, but inside the rooms are modern and clean, and it's here where Kabul's addicts will be treated for the addiction, and some will be given job training in such fields as carpentry and house painting.

Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz says they plan to help as many users as possible. "Our aim is to start by finding the drug addicts who are homeless, abandoned by their relatives, and are living on the street," he explains. "The campaign will continue over the coming days. Alongside treatment at the camp, they will be trained in different skills and professions to stimulate their minds and encourage to move away from drugs."

Thirty-year-old Habiballah is a former sergeant for the Afghan army, having served in the war-torn Helmand province. He started using drugs to cope with the pressure of fighting against the Taliban and facing their deadly ambushes.

"During the fighting and insurgency I had to deal with a lot of mental stress, that's why I started using drugs," he says, "When I got addicted my relationship with my wife and daughters and other family members fell apart."

Facing resistance

Habiballah was eventually forced to leave the army, and fell deeper into addiction. "I don't know where my family is now. So far the treatment has been good, I feel happy and healthy and hope to get back to normal."

But back at Pol-e Sokhta, not all the drug users encountered are happy to be taken to Camp Phoenix. A number of addicts that live under a bridge in the western part of Kabul refuse to move.

Relapsed drug user Mohammad Yasin became addicted to morphine while living as a refugee in Iran 12 years ago. "Once I was treated and stopped taking drugs, but when I became unemployed, I started (using) again," says Yasin, "When I can't find money to buy drugs, I take drugs from people who sell it and I then I sell it for them, so I get the drug for free. Sometime addicts also steal, from shops, houses and people, so they can find the money."

According to the government there are an estimated 3.5 million people addicted to drugs in Afghanistan, an opium-rich country and one of the biggest producers of narcotics in the world.

Activists say the government's campaign is a good way to help limit the production and smuggling of drugs across the country. It may also save some lives.

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Society

How Iran's Women-Led Protests Have Exposed The 'Islamist Racket' Everywhere

By defending their fundamental rights, Iranian women are effectively fighting for the rights of all in the Middle East. Their victory could spell an end to Islamic fundamentalism that spouts lies about "family values" and religion.

Protests like this in Barcelona have been sparked all over the world to protest the Tehran regime.

Davide Bonaldo/SOPA Images via ZUMA
Kayhan London

-Editorial-

Iran's narrow-minded, rigid and destructive rulers have ruined the lives of so many Iranians, to the point of forcing a portion of the population to sporadically rise up in the hope of forcing changes. Each time, the regime's bloody repression forces Iranians back into silent resignation as they await another chance, when a bigger and bolder wave of protests will return to batter the ramparts of dictatorship.

It may just be possible that this time, in spite of the bloodshed, a bankrupt regime could finally succumb to the latest wave of protests, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini at the hands of the so-called "morality police."

Women have always played a role in the social and political developments of modern Iran, thanks in part to 50 years of secular monarchy before the Iranian Revolution of 1979. And that role became the chief target of reaction when it gained, or regained, power in the early days of 1979, after a revolution replaced the monarchy with a self-styled Islamic republic.

Whether it was women's attire and appearance, or their rights and opportunities in education and work, access to political and public life or juridical and civil rights — all these became intolerable to the new clerical authorities.

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