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Afghanistan - Brothers of Kabul -

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Afghanistan - Brothers of Kabul

Broadcast: 25/07/2006

Reporter: Stephen Dupont


DUPONT: The Kabul River, not so long ago we saw women washing laundry and children flying kites
here - symbols of liberation. Now this riverbank is a new kind of symbol, of Afghanistan's
exploding heroin epidemic.

Beneath the Shah-do-Shamshira mosque in the city centre, the ground is littered with thousands of
syringes, a minefield of needles.

[On street] I've got a needle stuck in my boots.

According to the United Nations today, Afghanistan supplies nearly 90% of the world's heroin. This
is the local blowback. The producer has now become the consumer.

DR NAJIBULLAH: There was not any street user - we didn't have them before. But right now we have it
- and it's increasing, you know.

DUPONT: Dr Sayed Nijaibullah, a psychiatrist, was a member of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime. His
team compiled the latest figures on drug use in Afghanistan. Their conclusions were sobering -
nearly a million users, including an estimated forty thousand heroin and opium addicts in Kabul
alone. Twice as many as two years ago.

DR NAJIBULLAH: It belongs to something like... although it's not a good manner to say, but it's like...
from liberty, from freedom... that people have freedom.

DUPONT: Kabul, home to uncounted millions, used to be famed for its entrancing gardens but after a
quarter of a century of war, every trace of beauty has been shot out of it. In the Old City, a
feral population of addicts lives in the rubble. Here for fifty cents, you can score enough heroin
to stay high all day.

REZA: Divide it equally... and then put it

I can't see any soldiers around.

DUPONT: Reza and Hussein are brothers. Like many of the city's heroin addicts, they picked up the
habit in Iran.

REZA: My brother and I weren't always like this. We had beauty, we had health. I didn't want to be
an addict. The powder is something that would melt a mountain. Now powder has made us like this.

DUPONT: As it happens, at the very moment we are here, US President George W. Bush is also in town
at the palace. We can hear his security helicopters overhead. Beyond the capital Kabul, President
Karzai's Government and the Coalition don't have much control.

It's the Wild West out here. Warlords turned drug lords and the resurgent Taliban. It's the
American President's first visit. It will last five hours. This is the Afghanistan he doesn't see.

Hussein, the younger brother is twenty one. We ask him why he started using heroin.

HUSSEIN: I had an Afghan girlfriend in Iran. I really loved this girl, and she loved me as well.
Her mother and father would have agreed but her brother ruined it for us. One day she came to me
and said, 'if you've seen something wrong with me, or right with me, forgive me, but forget me'.
She said, 'I want to say goodbye forever and permanently'. I thought maybe she was crazy or maybe
she was going somewhere. Two days later it was announced that she had committed suicide.

DUPONT: Like his brother, Reza's addiction wasn't just with heroin.

REZA: I had a relationship with an Iranian girl. She belonged to a rich family. When I went to her
home she used heroin. I asked her to stop taking it. She said 'okay I'll try to give it up. But she
continued. One day she told me, 'Reza come on. Have a puff of heroin'. I told her I didn't want
heroin. She said 'Come on, one puff is nothing. You won't be addicted'. When I came to the point
where I was injecting every day I realised that I was hooked. It's a disaster, and it's because of
my love. My relationship with her pushed me to get heroin and later to inject drugs into my body. I
destroyed my life.

DUPONT: So this is where you slept last night?

REZA: Just over here. One of us here... and one here. I want to distance myself from this dump. I
swear to God, I haven't been able to close my eyes for three days and nights. It is just too cold.
Why am I living in his ruin where even a dog wouldn't come? It is embarrassing. Human beings should
live a dignified life. Why should I lie here?

DUPONT: The brothers grew up in exile and are just two of the estimated three and a half million
refugees who have returned to Afghanistan in the last few years. They've come home to one of the
poorest places on the planet. Two thirds are illiterate and with an average life expectancy of

HABIBULLAH QADERI: [Minister for Counter Narcotics] If you look at the drug addicts, many, many are
coming from Pakistan and Iran. These are the people who really had a lot of problems 'cause they
were living in asylum.

DUPONT: Afghanistan's first-ever Minister of Counter-Narcotics, Habibullah Qaderi oversees the
country's fledgling efforts to battle the drug production and consumption. In some respects,
freedom worked all too well here luring millions of refugees back to a country unable to support

HABIBULLAH QADERI: You go into more poverty, into more problems. Certainly you will have more drug
addicts in this country but if you have a better economy and when the condition of life is better
off, certainly people will not go into drugs. Drugs in this country are not used like in the
European and American countries as recreation. Here, many, many times it's because of no education
because of the bad company or sometimes because of depression and problems.

DUPONT: Because drug use is prohibited by Islam, addicts like Reza and Hussein are often outcasts,
abandoned by their families, stigmatised but with so many competing priorities for aid money, drug
rehabilitation comes a poor last.

The city's Mental Health Hospital is also where heroin users come for help. It's the only
government run rehabilitation facility in the country. It has twenty beds. There's no electricity
or running water here. Paranoid schizophrenics, junkies, psychiatrists and social workers mill
about the yard. It's sometimes hard to tell the doctors from the patients.

This is where Dr Najibullah works, one of maybe fifty psychiatrists in all Afghanistan. He makes
forty dollars a month, the same salary as the nurses, the cleaners and Dr Abdul Qreshi, the
hospital's Deputy Director.

DR ABDUL QRESHI: This is not a good hospital. There is no facility for them. I want to become an
academic hospital. Neuropsychiatry hospital... psychiatry hospital. This is my dream, yes - to become
a good hospital.

DUPONT: Dr Qreshi gives us a tour. A young female psychiatric patient is being given electro shock
therapy. They can hear her screams next door in the detoxification ward. Here, amid the dirty
linen, the addicts lie in various states of withdrawal. These are the lucky few. They've each got a
bed and at least a hope of recovery.

The day after we see them in the alley, Reza and Hussein arrive at the hospital ready to try to
kick their habit. Their first stop, the so-called "motivation room".

WOMAN SOCIAL WORKER: The place of these people is in the grave. I'm not talking about you, because
you have come for treatment and we respect you for that. I am addressing those people outside, who
continue to take drugs. We've had patients who don't leave that place. They live and die in the

DR NAJIBULLAH: The patients should be motivated. They should learn about the harm of the drugs. And
we will change the method of their usage. Whenever they use a syringe, IV users, we will advise
them - our social worker will advise them to change their method - to smoke it, to eat it - not to
inject it. And this is the motivation program.

DUPONT: The motivation session is run by Mr Abdul Saboor Popal, the head social worker here.

MR ABDUL SABOOR POPAL: We Afghans have a saying, anytime we take the fish from the water, it will
be fresh. You're young, but very weak and sick. The reason for your weakness and sorrow is your
addiction and the reason for our sadness is you.

DUPONT: Two days later, Reza and Hussein seem to have made some real progress. They've cleaned up
and shaved and instead of shooting up their heroin, they've switched to smoking it. It's called
"chasing the dragon".

HUSSEIN: I'll be leaving this world.

REZA: Yeah, yeah.

HUSSEIN: Give me another hit.

DUPONT: Reza has thrown out his dirty jacket so we offer to buy him and his brother some new ones.

Hey Jacques, what's going on now?

MENASCHE: We're going to get them a jacket and then we're going to take a taxi to the hospital. [To
Reza] It seems a little thin. But it's not warm enough... it's cold.

DUPONT: It might be cosmetic but at the hospital later that morning, the make over is welcomed.

MR ABDUL SABOOR POPAL: Very nice, very good. Don't you remember the state you were in? Look at you
now. You look so stylish! Now you have to pray. You have to be happy.

REZA: Our bones will be praying. I swear to God, our bones will pray.

DUPONT: Two days later the brothers are finally admitted to the detox program.

GUY #1: Are they really brothers?

GUY #2: Yes they are.

GUY #1: They aren't those brothers who were with us some time ago?

GUY #2. No.

GUY #1. You didn't say your age.

REZA: I am 23, and he is 21.

GUY #1: You are older than him?

REZA: Yes, I am.

DUPONT: After registration, they're given a change of clothes and shown to their beds. Then comes
the hard part.

The next day the addicts get a special treat. A mullah from the mosque next door arrives to give
religious instruction.

MULLAH: Those who take narcotics destroy their youth, health and life. They will face difficulties
in this world. And on the day of the resurrection they will suffer from all kinds of difficulties
and punishments.

DUPONT: On their third night in detox, Reza and Hussein accidentally overdose on sleeping pills and
are rushed to a local emergency room to have their stomachs pumped. In the chaotic ward next
morning, no one seems to know who wrote the prescription.

DOCTOR: They took this tablet from another person. I don't know which person they took this tablet
from. Five tablets of Restoril. It's very dangerous. I referred them to the hospital and they
washed their stomach. Both of them - not only one. Both of them!

DUPONT: No one any longer gives Reza or Hussein much of a chance.

Who wrote the prescription?

DR NAJIBULLAH: I think he is not a physician. He is addicted. They want to stop. Yeah, they want to
stop but they'll start again.

DR ABDUL QRESHI: I am also unhappy. I sit here, but... useless. Just treatment of the patient, detox,
and become again relapse. When he's discharged from here, one or two months later, again he'll come
here for admission.

DUPONT: In reality, this hospital is a MASH unit, under equipped and under siege. Yet despite all
obstacles, Reza and Hussein actually seem happy whether from the night's medications or a newfound
determination to stay clean, who knows? They seem committed. Reza assures us that he is one hundred
per cent finished with heroin. Hussein even more adamant, one ups him. If you ever see me in one of
those places again, he recalls the rubble cave where we met, shoot me.