Cyrus lies dead
On the killing fields of Iran's
war on drugs
By Mahmoud Sadri &
October 8, 2003
The email from Iran was terse. Kourosh, 19, the eldest son of our
cousin Shahla passed away on Sunday, September 20, 2003. The
immediate cause of his death, heart failure, masks the monstrous
identity of his real killer: drug addiction. Like every tragedy,
this one has a Janus face: unbearable singularity and surprising
Shahla and her husband, a retired English teacher,
lead a quiet life in a leafy suburb of the pilgrimage city
of Mashad, near Iran's border with Afghanistan. The first
decade of their marriage was fraught with discontent because
of their inability to have a child. Only after much medication
and prayer were the couple blessed with the birth of a son
whom they named Cyrus, or Kourosh, after the legendary king. Two
later the couple had a second son and their happiness seemed
The devoted parents spared no effort or expense
in the education of Kourosh and Arash. Ever vigilant against
"bad influences in the environment," Shahla would walk them
to and from school, a habit that lasted through high school.
Shahla dreaded the free flow of cheap and potent drugs
Mashad heroine is cheaper than cigarettes.
Two years ago
Cyrus graduated and went to a university far from home in a
small and lawless town closer to the Afghan border. By all accounts
is there that he began using drugs. A year later he drew
his last breath in his bedroom, with his emaciated head resting
his mother's lap.
Arash came back from the "front" to attend his brother's
funeral. His army division has been assigned the difficult
task of stemming the tide of drugs flowing through
the porous Afghan
border. Iran is the only country in the world in which
the expression "War on Drugs" is not a euphemism, and
has offered two
sons to that war: Kourosh, as a victim and Arash as a
A quarter century of foreign occupation, civil war, and
extremist rule in Afghanistan has caused not only a
flood of destitute
and traumatized Afghan refugees to cross
into Iran but also a profusion of banditry and graft in Iranian peripheral
towns, animated by drug money. Some 100,000 Iranian
troops from the regular army, revolutionary
guards, and militia are stationed at the borders between Iran, Afghanistan
International experts have described the present state
of affairs as a "low level war". In the course of
the last decade
troops have suffered
3,500 deaths in various operations against drug traffickers. In
one southern province over 1,200 security officers have
been killed in the relentless
combat with the
Outgunned and outspent by ruthless adversaries who travel
in Toyota Land Cruisers and 4x4 pickups equipped
with anti aircraft
guns and "Stinger"
missiles, Iranian security forces claim only modest gains. According
to international agencies,
Iran interdicts approximately 17 percent of the drugs that enter
its territory, a quantity exceeding that seized
by all other
countries in the world combined.
Afghanistan, according to a July 14 article in Newsweek magazine,
produces 76% of the world's opium.
The Bush Administration once chastised the Taliban
for its lax drug enforcement policies and falsely
accused Iran of malicious neglect
of drug smuggling.
However, since the US entered Afghanistan it has "presided"
over bumper crops of opium, including 4,000 tons, the second-largest
anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan are limited to the stationing
of two Drug Enforcement Administration agents
the country. Who can
staying in Kabul
and away from the dangerous Afghan drug lords that are
considered more dangerous than their Colombian counterparts? In
narcotics inundate Iran before crossing into Turkey and
arriving in Western Europe and the United States.
Iran has around 1.2 million drug addicts, and 60 percent
of all arrests in the country are drug related. The dire
of the youths
from double digit unemployment, scarcity of adequate
educational and recreational facilities, and lack of basic freedoms
increase the lure of the exceedingly cheap, potent, and
Iran stands almost alone in its fight. America's ideologically
driven neglect of its common cause with Iran in fighting
drugs defies reason.
some international recognition that Iran occupies the
in the war against
drugs, although the awareness has not translated into
meaningful material and intelligence assistance.
are negotiating with the Russians to build a Soviet
style barrier to control
the flow of
drugs. It is clear though, that Iran, left to its
own devices, will not be able
to win the war.
So, Cyrus, a victim of the time and place of his birth
as well as his own poor judgment lies in a fresh
grave as his
in his observation post monitoring a rugged, desolate,
and dangerous border.
and her husband also stay up nights, grieving the
loss of their elder
son and praying for the safety of the younger one.
Meanwhile, locked in poses
recrimination, nations are unable to form an axis
against the scourge of narcotics, the incarnation of the evil
in each other.
Mahmoud Sadri and Ahmad Sadri are twins. Mahmoud is Associate
Professor of Sociology at Texas Women's University. He has a doctorate
in sociology from New York's New School for Social Research
Features . See Homepage). Ahmad is Professor and Chairman of
the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Lake Forest
College, IL, USA. See Features . See Homepage.