|Written by Alfonso Moral|
|20 May 2009|
There are no hard statistics on the number of heroin addicts in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, what is known is that since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 that number has grown to dizzying heights. Heroin comes from opium, a substance which for years Afghanistan has been the world’s principal provider. It is estimated that 90 per cent of the world’s heroin consumption originates from Afghanistan’s growing fields.
During the reign of the mullahs, opium use by Afghanis was prohibited, even while its exportation reached unprecedented levels. Now opium is made into heroin inside of Afghanistan and sold to the outside world via the west through Iran or the north through Russia. More significantly, the youth of Afghanistan have begun to consume heroin. In addition, many of the Afghan refugees who fled the war return from Iran or Pakistan as addicts.
While NATO forces expand their campaign against the southern opium plantations that economically maintain the Taliban, no resources are dedicated to prevent heroin consumption inside the country. In Kabul alone, only one rehabilitation centre exists, with barely 10 beds to treat addicts that could be counted in the thousands. After two weeks of tortuous treatment, a high percentage relapse. Heroin-refining laboratories are now found all over the country, especially in Kabul. The local market price is 100 Afghanis – about $2 – a high price considering the average income is $100 per month.
In Kabul, the majority of addicts take refuge in the Russian cultural centre, now decrepit in the eastern side of the capital. Besides getting their heroin fix here, they live among these broken-down buildings in conditions of extreme filth and misery while the government and authorities remain passive. The only visitors are the few doctors that arrive every Saturday to hand out hypodermic needles and test the addicts for HIV. Not wishing to be quoted, they do recognise that Aids cases are rising – they try to convince the addicts not to share needles but there is a total lack of knowledge among the users.
The photographs were taken between the months of July and October 2008 in the Old Russian cultural centre of Kabul.