Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Crystal Meth and Kovid-19: Iraq Fights Two Killer Epidemics at Once


“The situation in the country was rough. You go and try to find work, but there was no work,” he says. “Once, twice and I was hooked (on crystal meth). I was stuck. I couldn’t get out.”

The woman who says that the love of her life left her.

During this report, Iraq’s drug users have been identified with pseudonyms to protect their privacy.

“We don’t have the capacity,” says Colonel Mohammed Alwan, commander of the drug unit in this part of the capital. “Sometimes we have to slow down work because we don’t have the ability to keep detainees and prisoners, especially not with epidemics.”

He estimates that 10% of the population in his area of ​​operation is drug addicted, largely to crystal meth.

Several officials told CNN that the Kovid-19 epidemic has increased the drug trade in Iraq.

Years of war severely dissolved the Iraqi state, with various powerful armed forces out of government control. Corruption is huge, and the economy is, for most Iraqis, a seemingly endless downward trajectory.

Iraqi youth struggled to find jobs regardless of their level of education. In 2020, the epidemic dealt a blow to an already weak economy. According to the 2020 World Bank decline, millions of Iraqis are expected to drown in poverty due to the double shock of Kovid-19 and the global fall in the price of oil, affecting the economy of Iraq.

Desperate youngsters, desirous of avoiding difficult realities, swelled their feet and the drug trade began to flourish.

Drug dealers have their own ways, they usually give drugs to poor, unemployed people for free, until they get intoxicated, ”said General Amad Hussain, who he calls passengers with a hotline number in Baghdad. Turns out neighborhood – neighborhood.

“That person starts stealing money to pay for it or they turn this person into a distributor.”

General Amad Hussain spreads grassroots awareness about drug abuse in poor areas of Baghdad.

Under the rule of former president and dictator Saddam Hussein, the maximum punishment for drug use was death. That Drakean law drove the business deep underground and kept the roads largely clean.

In addition to chaos in Iraq, the US invasion of 2003 that depleted the country’s ruthless former ruler also weakened its borders, limiting the trade in drugs.

Officials say smuggling was at its peak in 2014 with the arrival of ISIS and the captain, an amphetamine popular among the group’s fighters who immigrated from Syria to Iraq.

But the US-led coalition campaign against ISIS increased security presence along the Iraqi-Syrian border. Trade then shifted to the predominantly Shia south of Iraq and its porous border with Iran.

The majority of crystal meth, which makes up about 60% of Iraq’s drug trade, flows from that border region, senior anti-drug officials tell CNN.

“Neighboring countries are using it to destroy the Iraqi economy, the Iraqi economy,” Colonel Alwan alleged. “We set up several channels with the Iranian side to deal with this issue but we did not reach agreement to deal with it.”

The Iranian Foreign Ministry has not responded to CNN’s request for comment on cross-border smuggling operations.

Despite a nationwide raid, any large businessmen across the country, the anti-drug unit, are underappreciated and underfunded. Officials say the beneficiaries of the trade range from Sunni extremist groups and Iran-backed Shia militias to criminal gangs.

Thuraya was arrested along with her husband inside a house where she was working. They were in possession of 300 grams of crystal meth with a street value of approximately $ 18,000. There was someone detained in the raid whom Thuraya refers to as his “friend”, an intermediary who regularly walked the Iranian border to get drugs from a supplier.

A woman sitting in prison in Baghdad says she has only a vague notion of a shady supply chain on the border. He obtained crystal meth “from big dealers”, she says, with no knowledge of his name and background.

Thuraya helps smuggling through checkpoints in the cities where the trio operates, transporting it to other dealers or selling it themselves.

The prison where we meet her is specifically for women who are involved in drugs or prostitution. She says her husband introduced her to crystal meth before marriage, when she saw that she had fallen into a depression. At the time, her previous marriage had failed and she was forcibly married to her children.

“As a woman, it’s easy to get through checkpoints. We’re not searching. I’ll hide it all over my body,” Thuraya says, under her long black abaya with her chest, hips and legs. While moving.

To remove the radar of security forces, various rebel groups and militias have used women for smuggling explosives and weapons. Recently, according to security officials, the drug network has stopped their recruitment to ease the trafficking of women.

“For women, working in the drug trade is easier than men, they can work undercover, they don’t pay a lot of attention to themselves,” says Col. Alwan, showing us photos of two women on their phones Is pulled out by his unit captured a few days ago. They stand behind a small table lined with crystal meth, pipes, and the rest of the stack, which they found.

“We do not have a women’s force that can search for women,” he said. “It told us that she goes to a rented place with a man and tells him that if you want to have sex with me, you have to buy drugs or take drugs.”

Rooted in a web of addicts, users struggle to navigate out of the way. A recent law reform has removed legal penalties for users seeking help, but according to many security officials, are unaware of it.

Without coming forward, the caught dealers face up to 15 years in prison. Users – never mind medicine – serve a one-year sentence.

Ares Karim, a dark-haired woman, scrolls through her phone reading a message from an Iraqi Drug Awareness Facebook page.

“I trap you; I want to be treated. I am fifteen years old from Basra, please treat me like your brother.”

Anta Karim, an activist for anti-drug awareness, Ana Karim, enters a neighborhood with passengers in central Baghdad.

About a year ago, middle school biology teacher Annas noticed that some of his students were using.

“They were skipping classes and when they attended, they didn’t focus,” she explains. “I felt other symptoms in his aggressive reactions, like his teeth.”

He was reluctant to inform the school administration about suspected users, fearing they would be expelled. Instead, she quietly reached out to her parents and took them to rehab.

“I started a Facebook page to raise awareness about options for drugs and drugs.” she explains.

People started sending their messages, seeking help for themselves, for their loved ones, for their friends.

“Through my contacts with users, I realized that one of the biggest reasons is wasted time. Most users don’t have work. Even people with university degrees can’t get work,” She says.

She compares drugs to a form of terrorism that can easily survive scrutiny as it quietly enters homes, schools and universities.

“It’s the destruction of a society through drugs. It destroys people psychologically, crime increases, families break up,” she says. “In the future, its impact is going to be severe.”

She works closely with the anti-drug department, which would also like addicts to recover from behind bars.

The beds are filled in a rehab center in Baghdad.

The rehab block of the Ibn Rushd Mental Health Center in Baghdad is full; Doctors and nurses have to keep cycling patients as fast as they want.

Abdulkarim’s eyes are shiny, his teeth and his jaws are aching, they say; His brain feels like it could burst. He is sitting on a bed, rising slightly backwards and forwards.

“I’m going to get through this,” he promises to nurse check on her. He has been here for only three days; Crystal meth cravings feel heavy through his body.

Abdulkarim was a daily wage laborer. He hung out on the streets with other unemployed, angry and passed out.

“They got me into this. To forget, to escape,” he recalls. “Unemployment implicated us in this. And the situation in Iraq, the pitiable situation.”

The country is at war, anti-drug officials say, a war they fear they are losing.

“The era of traditional warfare with two armies is over,” says General Hussein. “The enemies of this country are going to do everything they can to stop us from developing and it is a form of war. They want to destroy the core of our society, our youth.”

Akil Najam contributed to this report from Baghdad.

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