The Drug Abuse Threatening Kurdistan

Mohammed Ismail

By Mohammed Ismail:

In recent history, the Kurdish revolution and involvement with the KCK (Koma Civaken Kurdistan – Group of Communities in Kurdistan) was the main reason that the Kurdish youth were sent to prison; now they face a new enemy that sends them to prison: drug abuse.

Drug abuse is becoming the biggest enemy of many Kurdish youth, and it’s proving to be a bigger threat than involvement with the KCK.  Drug abuse is spreading rapidly especially in southeast Turkey (Northern Kurdistan) and Iran (North-western Kurdistan).  The problem is escalating rapidly because of the availability of drugs, which seem to be in never-ending supply.  Kurdish youth are the targets of drug peddlers and this problem is spreading at an alarming rate and if it continues it will soon be a huge problem for Syria (Western Kurdistan) and Iraq (Southern Kurdistan) and other countries in the region.

This is the biggest threat that many Kurds have faced in their history and it has the potential to do more damage than any of their previous enemies.  Under the influence of drugs, the user loses all awareness of nationality, family loyalty, education and identity.  Instead, all that matters to them is where they can obtain drugs from to satisfy their habit – this becomes their number one priority in life.

Drugs in Amed (Diyarbakir South eastern Turkey) are as available as tea and coffee and as easy to obtain.  The users range in age from as young as 7 years up to 77 years old, and both men and women are affected. This is a reality of life today.

Recent statistics revealed that in prisons in Southeast Turkey, especially Amed (Diyarbakir), the majority of prisoners received custodial prison sentences because of offences committed whilst under the influence of drugs.  In just one prison in Amed, out of 750 prisoners, 300 were convicted because of drugs.  In May 2014, drugs to the value of 20 million dollars were seized by the authorities; this is a very distressing reality, which proves that there is a high demand for drugs from users.

Kurds have faced many attempts from the Turkish state to eradicate them from history. All these attempts have failed and they have only made Kurds more determined to survive, ensure the survival of their culture and preserve their heritage. This leads me to seriously ask: is this is yet another attempt by the state to destroy the young minds of Kurds and their Kurdism?

There may be no documented proof to verify this speculation, however, according law number 5275/108 of Turkish Law, under the title of “conditional release” it states that drug users can be released under supervision conditions.  After the user has been released they should be supervised and assessed for one year, after which a decision should be made as to whether they are discharged from supervision or further supervision is necessary. In reality, however, there is little evidence that this supervision is regularly applied.

I have discussed this huge problem with young people in Amed (Diyarbakir). I asked them how hard it is to get hold of drugs and they told me that it is easy.  That there are two families that are well known in Amed, not just to the people they sell drugs to but also to the police. Members of these families told me that they very rarely get arrested and, if they do, they are released very quickly.  I asked how this was possible: if they are constant offenders for the same crime, surely they should be imprisoned for supplying drugs? I was told that they have a good lawyer who always manages to get them off the charges.

As I previously said this is merely speculation, and I have no proof that Turkey is behind this drug epidemic, but I have talked with many young Kurdish people in Gazantiep, Urfa, Mardin and Amed to try and establish: who is trafficking drugs in Kurdistan?

I was told by one of the young people I spoke to in Amed that dealers can buy one kilo of heroin for 50 dollars and they can sell it in Southeast Turkey for 150 dollars or earn 400 dollars if they send it to western Turkey.

I have also discussed this matter with people living in villages close to the border, via the phone and on social media. They informed me that the PKK/PYD fights against drug traffickers; they told me about a recent battle between the PKK and a family that were known to be drug traffickers.

In Dilok (Gazantiep) people told me that the Jandarma and Police in their city are constantly trying to identify and find drug traffickers, so why are the Police in Amed so reluctant to do the same and instead act powerless?

After many conversations regarding this issue in Northern Kurdistan, I have observed that, even if there was a plan by Turkey to secretly encourage the spread of drugs throughout Kurdish cities to Kurdish youth, the Military and Police have to take action because this is now not just a problem affecting Kurdish areas but it has also become a problem throughout the whole of Turkey.

Whilst traffickers are enjoying a rich lifestyle, driving around in their expensive cars ,Kurdish parents are panicking about their sons and daughters in case they become drug addicts, it is something else they have to fight, they cry and ask for “Allah” to help them.

Who are these drug traffickers? Why do they get away with what they are doing? They seem to have no fear of reprisal for their actions.

There is huge unemployment in Kurdish cities, many of the young have little hope and many are unhappy and dissatisfied with life. Drug traffickers take advantage of this situation for their own gain and profit.  A colleague asked a drug user how he first became involved with drugs and this is what he was told: the drug traffickers approach the vulnerable young and tell them they know a way that they can feel better about their life circumstances. They tell them that if they use the drugs they will be more relaxed and feel better.  The first couple of times this young person used drugs he was given them free of charge; after two days he had to pay and he was told that, if he didn’t encourage his friends to feel better this way and use drugs also, his own supply would end. This young man lost everything he owned because of his drug habit.


Southern Kurdistan is surrounded by drugs

Southern Kurdistan (Iraqi Kurdistan) is a common bazaar for Iran and Turkey. A corridor has opened up: many Turkish businessmen and workers go to Kurdistan and many tourists from Kurdistan visit Turkey for holidays.  Top Turkish tourist places, such as Istanbul and Antalya, are a draw for visitors but they are also rife with drugs. It is time for the Kurdish Government to make its citizens aware of this hidden danger and take steps to protect young Kurdish people from this type of venom.  We should be mindful that our enemies may have discovered a much more dangerous way to attack our young, by introducing them to drugs – this is a very real possibility.

Amed facts

Population of Amed (Diyarbakir): 1,434,000; of this total, 946,440 are young people.

Within the City of Amed, the most-used drugs, in descending order, are: cannabis, heroin, opiates, barbiturates and solvent abuse.

Mohammed Ismail is Editor-in-chief of TRT6 Sorani Bulletin. He is based in Ankara, Turkey.

One Response to The Drug Abuse Threatening Kurdistan
  1. an
    August 21, 2014 | 09:41

    A comprehensive drug-education must be implemented instead of punishing them.

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