[Ibogaine] Inside an Afghan opium market

Matthew Shriver matt at itsupport.net
Fri Feb 29 18:37:47 EST 2008


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6957238.stm

 


 


Last Updated: Monday, 27 August 2007, 00:17 GMT 01:17 UK 




 
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Inside an Afghan opium market 



By Bilal Sarwary 
BBC News, Shaddle Bazaar, eastern Afghanistan 




Opium being sold at Shaddle Bazaar

Opium sellers are wary of outsiders

Travelling on Afghanistan's main Jalalabad to Torkham road, you eventually
arrive at Shaddle Bazaar, a market of around 30 shops in the eastern
province of Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan. 

At first glance, it looks like any other normal market offering everyday
goods. 

But in reality, this is one of Afghanistan's biggest opium markets. 

Farmers from Nangarhar and other adjacent provinces bring opium to Shaddle
to sell. Much of it comes from Nangarhar and Helmand - two of Afghanistan's
biggest opium-producing provinces. 

 

 

Mud hut shop 

Thousands of kilos of opium are bought and sold every day. 


map

Sitting inside the shop tension between the drug dealers is visible - for a
few minutes there is hot dispute and shouting over prices and the quality of
the opium before the transaction is completed. 

There are big scales in the shop, and the assistant weighs the opium on it -
Gul Mohammad is busy counting out Pakistani rupees to pay for the opium he
has bought from one of his suppliers. 

In his mud hut shop he buys hundreds of kilos of opium every day and the
smell of it is everywhere. 

Outside his shop vehicles come and go - green tea is served constantly for
the visitors. 




 
<http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/07/south_asia_enl_1187710854/
html/1.stm> 

It's argued that opium can be used for medicinal purposes



 
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<http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/07/south_asia_enl_1187710854/
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<http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/07/south_asia_enl_1187710854/
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But you do not have to study what is going on too closely to notice the
unusual - a man carries a big bag full of hundreds of thousands of Afghanis.


The dealers all carry pistols which they say is for their own protection. 

Customers enter the shop bringing opium packed secretly, which they refer to
by its nickname as maal. They are constantly on the look-out for government
informers. 

I am repeatedly asked not to take pictures of anyone's face, nor should I
name anyone. The names of those involved in the drugs trade in this piece
have been made up to protect their identity. 

"We could get killed or arrested," says one of the few people in the shop
willing to talk to me. 

Europe bound 

Some villagers, like 18-year-old Abdullah Jan, have to walk for hours before
reaching Shaddle. The tiredness on his face explains it all - if he is
stopped by government agents or bandits he would lose money that feeds his
family for the entire year. 

"I left at four in the morning and got here after four hours. I have brought
10kg of opium from my fields to sell." 

After a hard bargain with Gul Mohammad Khan, the opium dealer, he is getting
the equivalent of $1,400 - more than he can get for any other crop. He is
one of hundreds of people who travel to Shaddle bazaar to sell and buy
opium. 


Graph showing soaring opium production in Afghanistan

>From here the opium is taken to the nearby mountains and villages in the
border areas to heroin labs set up by local drug dealers, where it is
processed into heroin. 

Eventually, it will hit the streets of Europe. 

The market first began to sell opium openly under the Taleban regime after
they permitted the cultivation of poppies. 

After the fall of the Taleban in 2001, the market has been raided several
times but it has re-opened again and again. 

In recent months, Afghanistan's elite anti-drug force has raided the bazaar
with the help of foreign forces in the country - they made arrests and
seized opium and heroin in large quantities. But they did not succeed in
closing down the bazaar indefinitely. 

Last year, Afghanistan's poppy production reached record levels. 

The US state department's annual report on narcotics said the flourishing
drugs trade was undermining the fight against the Taleban. 

Powerful mafia 

It warned of a possible increase in heroin overdoses in Europe and the
Middle East as a result. 

Poppy production rose 25% in 2006, a figure US Assistant Secretary of State
Ann Patterson described as alarming. Four years after the US and its British
allies began combating poppy production, Afghanistan still accounts for 90%
of the world's opium trade. 


Opium being burnt in Afghanistan

The authorities are trying to eradicate opium crops

The US has recently given the Afghan government more than $10bn in
assistance, but most of the money will be spent on security rather than
encouraging alternative sources of income. 

For 45-year-old Gul Mohammad Khan being a opium trader is his way of
surviving. 

"If we had roads, clinics, factories and if there were job opportunities I
would not do what I am doing now," he said. 

For the past 10 years Mr Mohammad has seen many regimes and local officials
come and go. His shop has been raided many times but he has never been
arrested. 

Inside, I am shown various qualities of opium and other raw material that
are used to make heroin. Current prices are anywhere from 10,000 Afghanis
($201) for a kilo of dry opium - that is the best quality - to around 5,500
Afghanis ($110) for wet opium. 

Target traffickers 

According to officials, the mafia is powerful and strong. 

"They are so strong that we sometimes find ourselves outnumbered fighting
them," says Gen Daud Daud, the deputy minister of interior in charge of
counter narcotics. 

"In these mountains of Achin district and other border villages they have
everything from heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and of course
better vehicles and more money than we do." 

Haji Deen Gul - who is selling 20kg of opium - is critical of the Afghan
government and the international community for targeting the farmers.
Instead he wants the traffickers to be targeted. 

"They should target the ones who are selling the heroin to Western
countries. I sell my opium to feed my family and from my heroin they can
even make medicine. When I have water and roads provided to me, I will stop
growing poppies." 

Before I leave Gul Mohammad Khan's shop, he tells me selling opium is not
ideally the trade he wants to be in. 

"I don't want my children to be in this trade and I hope that some day the
world will help us. Only then can we stop the opium trade." 

Names of those mentioned in the article have been changed to protect their
identities.

 

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