With Afghanistan suffering from ever-increasing drug addiction, numbers show that more women are drawn into the spiral of addiction that is often introduced into narcotics by their male partners or relatives.
Qandi Gol is only 30 years old, but almost half of her life has been consumed by drugs.
She grew up in one of the cultural and economic centers of Afghanistan, where multicolored roundabouts lead to an iconic blue Tiled Mosque, which many Afghans consider to be the burial place of Imam Ali.
However, Qandi Gol has been living in a cemetery three kilometers outside the city for six months. There, between the graves, away from the eyes of strangers, she feels comfortable indulging in heroin addiction.
Qandi Gol stands in the cemetery, surrounded by hundreds of other addicted men and women, and remembers the story of her own habit. As she speaks, it becomes clear that 13-year-old drug use has put a heavy strain on her. Her hair is disheveled and dusty from the hours she spends every day on the street begging for money to satisfy her addiction. Your skin has dried out from the sun. Her dark eyes are sunken and dark circles have formed around her.
A Dark Secret
Qandi Gol was 17 when she married. After an elaborate, traditional ceremony, the two families danced her into the artistically decorated room that she would share with her husband in his family's home.
As was tradition, the room was repainted and filled with flowers, new bedding was placed on her double bed. She set off for her new life as the family's new bride, but quickly discovered that her in-laws had hidden a dark secret.
“His brothers were addicted to heroin, so did he. But I didn't know about it beforehand, ”she says. Soon her brother-in-law started asking her for drug money and said that if she didn't stick to it, she would beat her.
Because she lacked job prospects and adequate training, she turned to begging on the street from Afghanistan's fourth largest city so that her parents-in-law could grow up.
"Finally, they realized that the only way to make sure that I would continue to bring them money was to be addicted too."
Within a few months of her marriage, she was one of the more than one million women in the country who suffer from drug addiction. She went on like this for years, spending her days on the streets of Mazar and her nights in a haze of heroin smoke.
Last summer, however, her parents-in-law struggled with the economic setbacks of trading with a family of addicts, cut them off. At that point, she fled her home and ended up in Dasht-e Shor Cemetery.
“They made me addicted, but then they realized that the only way to save money was to refuse me drugs. She says.
She was afraid to return to her parents as an addict who had left her husband and had no choice but to find a community of drug users to live with. In Mazar, Dasht-e Shor has long had a reputation for hosting hundreds of addicts.
Palwasha, a helper living in Kabul, remembers a visit of her family to the cemetery in 2014 to pay respect to a deceased aunt.
"We were just about to leave when we saw my father's cousin in the distance," said the 24-year-old. She had never met him, but her family recognized the man immediately.
"He just stood there, his hair was long and unkempt, his clothes looked dirty and dilapidated and I remember that he just kept staring and smiling. He had that strange smile all the time and just started laughing and laughing, ”she says.
This relative in his thirties had also supported his drug addiction from his family.
"At some point he ended up in prison and everyone said his mother would sneak his heroin into prison using the Manto [dumplings] she would bring him," says Palwasha.
Recently several cemeteries Thousands of the country's 3.6 million addicts also live in the other urban centers of Afghanistan. In Kabul, up to 2,000 addicts gather daily at the Sarai Shamali cemetery on the road that leads to Mazar. In the western city of Herat, addicts gather in a cemetery near a shrine near another tomb that houses the graves of the city's former Jewish population.
Qandi Gol is not the only woman in Dasht -e Shor Cemetery.
In December, local TV stations released footage of two other women spending their days in the cemetery. A woman, Mariam, had been sent for treatment several times, but reportedly continues to live in the cemetery with her toddler. Another video report related to a woman named Marwa who had lived in the cemetery with her mother and father.
Negina is another woman who also lived in the Dasht-e Shor cemetery. She is a few years younger than Qandi Gol, but her story is strikingly similar.
“Before I was married, I was happy. I went to school, but when I got married, my husband made me addicted, ”says Negina. Like the other addicts in the graveyard, her face is tired and her lips have dried up from months of heroin addiction.
“My mother-in-law warned my husband about it unless I became addicted too. I would leave him. “
Experts say that the stories of Negina and Qandi Gol are not uncommon. When male relatives – whether brothers, husbands or in-laws – influence women in their lives to try drugs, it is often a desperate attempt to save the face and avoid divorce.
With over 2.5 million suffering men, officials say the number of female addicts is increasing due to the addiction itself.
Abdol Rahim Rahman, director of the Drug Control Directorate in Balkh Province, said the number of women suffering from drug addiction in the province is increasing, but he has no specific numbers.
Rahman's statement relates to a general problem in Afghanistan, a lack of clear statistics. Estimates of the number of addicts in Balkh range from 80,000 (in 2012) to more than 200,000 (in 2016). A 2018 report by the Afghan Central Bureau of Statistics estimated the total population of the Balkh province at least 892,684.
Despite the high number of female addicts, according to Daoud Rateb, director of the Balkh Province Drug Treatment Center, there are currently only 120 women being treated in four rehabilitation centers across the province.
The high search rate in Balkh is also due to the province's status as a regional center for the manufacture, sale and trade of narcotics in the country and among Afghanistan's regional neighbors. Due to its location on the border with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Balkh serves as an important transit point for opium, hashish, morphine and heroin. Last year, a single seizure near the Balkh-Uzbekistan border resulted in the seizure of at least 72 kilograms of various narcotics, including heroin.
According to the United Nations, opium poppy cultivation in Balkh rose from 2,085 hectares in 2016 to 12,116 hectares only a year later.
As one of the economic centers of Afghanistan, the consumption of much more expensive synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine in Balkh has increased steadily in recent years. In 2016, the average cost of one gram of methamphetamine-based narcotics in Balkh was between 700 and 800 Afghans (between $ 8 and $ 10).
Sources who spoke to TRT World on condition of anonymity in Balkh accused local police officers of participating in the drug trade. According to a source, a senior police officer in the Balkh district, one of the most productive in terms of poppy production in the province, personally approved growing opium poppies in the district in 2018.
The security allegations Armed forces' involvement in drug trafficking is not limited to the police. In 2015, an army general who commanded a recruitment center in Balkh was arrested for trafficking heroin in nearby Baghlan province.
All of this has resulted in a situation where narcotics are readily available across Afghanistan, which has resulted in kicking. A drug habit that is extremely difficult.
Dr. Wajma, director of the Women's Treatment Center at the Balkh Province Drug Treatment Center, says that patients undergo a mandatory 45-day rehabilitation program, with the option of extending their stay by an additional 45 days
Dr. Wajma said that once a patient was discharged, there were follow-up services for nine months to a year.
However, since many of these women live in families where drug use is common and access to narcotics is easy in the country, it will be extremely difficult to remain sober.
Comment on this number Qazi Sayed Mohammad Sameh, head of the Northern Zone of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, says of women who suffer as much as Qandi Gol and Negina: “When a woman becomes addicted in Afghanistan, it is not just one Disgrace for one household, but for the entire household nation. ”
Source: TRT World