''The entire region is addicted, whole villages,'' Islam Qala elder says.
Iran has a serious drug problem. Afghanistan is a serious drug problem. What happens when they overlap? Hell on earth.
The number of drug users in Afghanistan is estimated to be as high as 1.6 million, or about 5.3 percent of the population, among the highest rates in the world. Nationwide, one in 10 urban households has at least one drug user, according to a recent report from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. In the city of Herat, it is one in five.
From 2005 to 2009, the use of opiates doubled, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, putting Afghanistan on par with Russia and Iran, and the number of heroin users jumped more than 140 percent. Most drug experts think the rate of drug use has only increased since then.
“This is a tsunami for our country,” said Dr. Ahmad Fawad Osmani, the director of drug demand reduction for the Ministry of Public Health. “The only thing our drug production has brought us is one million drug users.”
In rural areas, the problem is expected to be worse. In some villages, the rate of drug use is as high as 30 percent of the population, based on hair, urine and saliva samples taken by the authors of the urban study. And drugs not traditionally in wide use here, including crystal methamphetamine, are now figuring in the problem as well.
The head of the counternarcotics ministry in Herat says there are 60,000 to 70,000 addicts in the province, though some health officials figure the number is closer to 100,000. In the capital, roughly 8 percent of the population uses drugs, the new international report found.
Long a staging area for men who work as day laborers in Iran, Islam Qala is now also a frequent waypoint for addicts returning to Herat. Most of the men say they picked up their habits while in Iran. The authorities there, struggling to deal with a widespread drug crisis of their own, are quick to banish Afghan addicts back across the border by the thousands, and the deported people stream back into Islam Qala six days a week.
In Herat’s capital, addicts fill the streets and parks, begging from pedestrians and motorists with relentless persistence. Pockets of the city have been transformed into junkie ghettos, like Kamar Kulagh, a roadside slum of sandbags, rocks and rags.
On a recent day, the faint outline of figures crawled through the bleached landscape, situated to the side of a highway on the northern edge of the city. Broken glass covered the hillside leading down to the encampment.
Azim Niazi, 30, shuffled through the village clutching two bags bulging with empty bottles, recycling them to pay for a drug habit that he said he had picked up as a laborer in Iran.
Wahid Ahmad, 27, who said he had been living there since he was deported from Iran two years ago, joined him.
Though many of the addicts in Herat came by way of Iran and Islam Qala, others decided to stay nearer the border — or are simply unable to make their own way anymore.
“His friend will die tomorrow,” said Mr. Niazi, pointing to a man, a skeleton cloaked in skin, lying in a sliver of shade nearby.
Left unmentioned in the New York Times story is that Afghanistan was an Islamic country and Iran is an Islamic country and their rulers found the drug trade convenient.
The drug trade helps fund Islamic terrorism and spreads its dealers/agents around the world. But it also backfires, spreading around at home and making a mockery of Islamic values.
Islamic terrorist groups need easy drug money, but dealers are often the first to get addicted to their own product and even when the fighters don't come down with addictions, the production leads to local sales.
The Soviet Union dreamed of using drugs to subvert Western societies. It had some success, but Russian drug use rates are horrifying. Drug use has been traditionally widespread in Muslim societies anyway as a consequence of banning alcohol, but their role in the international drug trade has made things that much worse.
Factor in Islamic terrorist groups whom it's sometimes hard to tell if they're drug dealers occasionally playing terrorists or terrorists playing drug dealers, and things get truly nasty.
''The entire region is addicted, whole villages,'' Islam Qala elder Arbah Shahabuddin says.
At one home, a woman answers the door and runs to get her husband, Dad Mohammad, who was getting high. Mr Mohammad, 35, says he has been using heroin for seven years.
His wife, Bibi Gul, complains that her husband beats her every day and takes money from their children to feed his addiction.
Mr Mohammad just stares into the distance, smiling.
This is your country. This is your country on Islam.