“Today, they brought a little boy to the shelter again. He was beaten violently by his mother and step-father. Both of them are drug-addicted people, the child is not well, and we took him to hospital. The incident has already been reported to the relevant authorities.”
This text was written by Kamala Aghazade, a director in Shelter and Rehabilitation Centre for Children. Kamala shares reports about the activities they do in the centre and the children coming there. Generally, these children come from families in which parents suffer from different types of addiction, are prone to perpetrating violence or cannot take care of their children for some reason. However, most of the texts she shares are about children with drug-addicted parents.
Kamala says such parents and families are on the increase in recent years: “Nowadays, about 80% of the children we meet are those whose parents suffer from drug addiction” – she mentions woefully.
Indeed, many facts verify her words and indicate the severity scale in this term in the country. For example, people were shocked by two videos shared on social media: both showed how mothers were taking drugs and losing consciousness in front of their children. Not comprehending what was going on, children were clearly seen to be confused and horrified.
Thanks to strong reactions by the public and reporting the case to the relevant authorities, both of the children were taken from their families, whereas mothers were sent to rehabilitation.
However, unfortunately, such cases are not restricted to only those two incidents captured on camera. While once drugs were considered “the capital city luxury”, accessible for only rich people living in big cities, today they are spread to regions across the country.
Borders closed due to pandemic and more accessibility for drugs
In recent months, the Azerbaijani segment of social media platforms is full of videos in which people, particularly young boys and girls, propagandise drug usage.
This new and horrifying tendency makes me wonder whether the consumption of drugs has increased to such a large scale, or it seems like this just because mass media have started to cover the issue more than ever.
Jalil is 38. He has consumed heroin for more than 11 years and has recently spent few years in the rehabilitation centre. Although he has recovered fully, Jalil is taking his time before leaving the centre. With his own success story, he wants to stay there to motivate young people who sincerely want to free themselves from this despair.
Because of his past experiences, Jalil knows almost all of the drug dealers in Baku and how the system works there, how they sell and make people addicted.
“Before the pandemic, drugs would come from neighbouring countries. With the start of coronavirus, when the borders closed, it turned impossible to bring heroin and cocaine through land borders. Therefore, the narcotics trafficking mafia decided to bring “professionals” to Azerbaijan to prepare drugs within the country. Then several people were brought to the country to prepare drugs. Because narcotics mafia became freed from some expenses such as transport and high amount of bribe in the customs, price of drugs cheapened in the country. As a result, these dangerous substances became accessible “luxury” for both rich and poor people” – Jalil says.
Narcotics of the poor — methamphetamine
Most of the posts related to substances on social media involve “glass” — methamphetamine. An open trade of methamphetamine is being observed on the platforms managed by people out of the country. While a customer speaks to a dealer virtually, they never interact in real life. First, the customer sends money to the bank account abroad. Then, without contacting the customer physically, a local drug mule leaves the drug somewhere in the vicinity: on the fire prevention cupboards or under the nearby bins. Once the drug mule leaves, the customer receives a message where they can pick up their drug.
As for the prices of methamphetamine, it varies around 10-15 dollars. It is usually consumed mainly by those who engage in physical labour: casual workers paid daily or taxi drivers working for long distances or at night. Because methamphetamine kills a sense of sleepiness and hunger, it helps people working in the service sector. However, unfortunately, this “help” costs them physical and moral degradation in most cases; a substance that causes tooth decay and wounds in the skin also turns them into junkies in the short term, making a recovery more challenging later in their life.
Beauty requires sacrifice…
In the recent few months, police authorities in Azerbaijan have increased their efforts in fighting against drug in capital city Baku and almost all other regions. We see news and videos about the arrestment of tens of drug dealers and the disclosure of many drug lords and drug dens in the mass media every week nowadays. The public is delighted with these arrests and the tearing down of such “damned places”.
Yet one of such raids left a shocking effect on society because this drug den was based on one of the beauty salons in the city centre.
This news drew my attention so much that I decided to research the topic a bit. One of the articles wrote because methamphetamine kills the feeling of hunger, young women use them mainly to lose weight.
Drug dealers usually deliver information about its “slimming function” to teenage girls. By giving free methamphetamine to them in the beginning, they firstly succeed to make those girls addicted and dependant on the dealers. Once the latter is done, they forward those “young victims” to the human trafficking mafia. As a result, those victims get ready to do everything for just a dose of the drug and ultimately end up being sex slaves.
Of course, getting aware of its slimming function, some women consume methamphetamine voluntarily. Women in sex work, tourism and show-business, attaching significance to “beauty standards”, apply methamphetamine for the abovementioned purpose. Consequently, where women get together, beauty salons turn to a highly suitable place to become a drug den. Directors of such salons offer those products under the name of “procedure for beauty” to women.
Why is it difficult for Azerbaijan to solve a drug problem?
No matter how many police raids are organised, drug dens and laboratories are abolished, the underlying reason for the problem is still there because the issues that lead people to use drugs have not been addressed yet: unemployment, lower social welfare, schools not working with the parents of the adolescents properly, non-professional school psychologists, conservativeness in families coming from the society traditions, parents not being able to organise a quality spare time for their children…
The situation seems hopeless more than ever.
Almost every day, numerous writers, singers, intellectuals, and politicians share posts about the detrimental effects of drugs nowadays to deter young people from such a dangerous thing. However, it is undeniable that unless the government takes systematic actions to address the issue, all are partial and short-term solutions. They cannot solve the problem entirely in the long run.