What are we to make of a report, published by Afghan Islamic Press, that eight drug addicts in the city of Naranj in Nimroz Province in Afghanistan's south west, committed suicide by hanging earlier this week?
Governor Ghulam Dastagir Azad told AIP that the addicts killed themselves in the Qabaristani area of the city. He added that some time previously police had picked up 250 addicts in the city and had taken them to hospitals for detoxification, but they had returned to the city and, presumably, to drug taking.
"I asked the Public Health department time and again to set up a clinic for addicts in the province, but to no avail," he said.
There are said to be nearly 20,000 addicts in Nimroz province alone and it remains a major opium producing area. Last year anti-narcotics minister General Khodaidad said the number of addicts in Afghanistan had risen to 1.5 million, up from 900,000 two years previously. There are just 40 clinics offering minimal treatment for addicts.
Two points can be made about this story. First, I find it impossible to believe that eight addicts decided simultaneously to commit suicide by hanging in the same area of a small regional town. That obviously raises questions about whether or not police were involved in the deaths.
Second, it reinforces a point I have made here before: the main victims of Afghanistan's poppy harvest are not in the West, but are primarily local people. No opportunity should be lost to remind Afghans that the Taliban and the warlords who deal in opium and heroin are responsible for the deaths of thousands of fellow Moslems.