It was stated in 1998; “UNESCO said that Iraq was one of the only countries in the world where, even if you were born in absolute poverty with illiterate parents, you could come out of the education system either a brain surgeon, archaeologist or whatever you wished to become.”
What has tragically replaced education, stability and employment is an increasing subservience to alcohol and drugs, with “violence, unemployment and poverty” leading to a dramatic “increase in alcohol abuse,” according to Younis Obeidi, a psychiatrist at the Ibn Rushd Hospital.
Kamel Ali, head of the Iraqi Health Ministry’s drug and alcohol-prevention programme, stated in 2007 “the consumption of alcohol in Iraq has surprisingly increased”, with “every day more patients looking for help as their addiction begins to seriously affect their personal lives.”
“Iraq has one of the worst treatment and follow-up regimes for alcohol abusers in the Middle-East,” Ali states, with staff shortages further complicating the situation and denying patients access to consistent after-care.
That same year, the Iraqi Psychologists Association illustrated how an internal study conducted had shown “the number of alcoholics in care had increased by 34 percent compared to the figure for June 2006”. A lack of funding had prevented the study from being published.
Drugs have also become an alternative to the squalor of poverty, as the first three years of the US / UK occupation saw over 2 million people “living below the poverty line”. In May 2005, the UN announced that Iraq was about to become a transit station for heroin, “which is manufactured in Afghanistan and is heading towards Europe through neighbouring Iran”.
Having been made homeless due to sectarian violence and left unemployed, Abu Teif turned to the selling of drugs to “support his family – three children and a handicapped wife”, whose disability was caused by militants shooting her “for not wearing a veil”.
“At the beginning it was like a miracle. It was easy work and I had a lot of clients and I didn’t even know the effect of the drugs. I learned what the effects could be only after an addict tried to kill me to get heroin.”
“I started to see food in my home again. My grandchildren also started eating well and my wife was able to get proper treatment for her leg, but those days soon ended”, when drug dealers started to extort more money from him and then threatened to kill his wife and family if he tried to escape the drugs trade.
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This post was written by Hussein Al-alak