When discussing Iran, little time is spent on the domestic population and its concerns. Outside of the unrest following the elections in Iran, the outside has never really shone the light on the Iranian public. Like all nations, Iran most surely must have its problems, its hopes, dreams and fears. It must also have its secrets and in the religious state of Iran, the problem of drug abuse is both shameful and hypocritical given the regime’s stance in the wide world. When the regime seeks to discredit someone, one is often labeled a drug addict, and drug addiction is described as a particularly evil, ‘Western’ vice. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, according to Foreign Policy, reports that Iran has 1.2 million “drug-dependent users” and that, “2.26 percent of the population aged 15-64 is addicted to opiates.” Iran has been praised by UNODC for its doggedness in eliminating trafficking in opiates and criticized by Human Rights Watch, which cites Iran’s execution of drug traffickers as one of the brutal tactics employed by the regime to combat drug trafficking. Indeed, like any city in the West Iran’s capital of Tehran is grappling with an anemic economy and problems of urbanization:
“Today’s Islamic Republic offers premonitions of a narcodystopia. Take a car ride through Tehran at night, and your driver may tell you that the underage girls in chadors who offer esfand — seeds that are burned to ward off the evil eye — along the highways are really selling sex to enable addicted fathers. Ride the metro, and you will see battered children pitching trinkets and fortunes to sustain their parents’ habits. Visit a poor southern suburb like Shahr-e Rey, and you might see a cigarette vendor in the bazaar with a sideline in used needles. Walk through Khaju Kermani Park on the capital’s southeastern outskirts, and you might witness young girls smoking crystal meth in full view of park authorities, while in the background a tall, badly sunburned man with track marks on his arms staggers around in an ill-fitting, woman’s blouse.”
Opium is one of the world’s oldest drugs, having been trafficked since the days of the old Silk Road trading route. Even though it is a known evil, it is nonetheless still perceived negatively in Iranian society and even more so by the Ayatollah’s Islamic regime. Opiate addiction can be found among all types of people, from all kinds of educational and class backgrounds. While harsh on drug dealers, Iran does have a competent system for processing drug addicts and treats them mercifully relative to other criminals under the regime’s laws. A personally crippling and economically debilitating phenomenon, drug addiction can only be tackled with an open hand rather than a closed fist; however, the execution of drug traffickers is seen as ineffective because it does not deter drug trafficking and inhumane because it is a severe punishment given the crime. Human rights advocates cite the need for increased economic opportunities in order to truly combat the problem of drug trafficking and addiction.