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By Mahmoud Hakamian

It’s no secret to anyone today that the social crises in Iran are totally the result of Iranian regime’s predatory, anti-people policies over the past four decades.

Yet, one of the darkest pages of the regime’s disgraceful rule is related to addiction and widespread use of drugs, particularly among children and students. This is even more widespread among children living in marginal urban areas as there’s a direct relation between poverty and homelessness on one hand and addiction on the other.

To prove the point, state-run ILNA news agency acknowledges on 26 May 2017 that “with increased marginalization, addiction among children and teenagers spreads as much, as this section of society is highly subject to social harms. It should not be ignored that poor family conditions is the reason behind 90 percent of addiction cases among youth.”

It’s quite clear that the dimensions of Iran’s extensive poverty and the harms it brings is beyond that acknowledged by regime’s media and officials, since due to regime’s anti-people, predatory policies, unfair distribution of wealth, and increased gap between rich and poor, the middle class has been practically destroyed and pushed towards poor, low-income segments, so that a large part of the population can’t afford a living place in cities due to extreme poverty, thus being forced to find refuge in marginal urban areas.

The dimensions of this ominous phenomenon have become so huge and unbelievable that Abbas Akhunid, Minister of Roads and Urban Development in Rouhani’s government, has explicitly announced that “nearly 18 million, or one third, of Iran’s 55-million urban population are living in marginal areas.”

This dire situation and unprecedented spread of addiction among women, youth, students, and children has taken on such huge dimensions that the head of regime’s Association of Social Workers is forced to acknowledge that “teen students are more vulnerable than others to the risk of addiction. Drug dealers tend to target young students since they could be their source of income for years.”

Also state-run ILNA news agency has quoted regime’s head of Welfare Organization’s Prevention Development Center as saying “today, no one can deny addiction among students as it’s too clear to be denied. Addiction among students is now an accepted reality.”

It should be pointed out here that the real dimensions of this tragedy will become more clear when we know that such organs like the Revolutionary Guards, Intelligence, or regime’s mafia bands are directly or indirectly involved in drug trafficking.

To prove the point, it would suffice to mention what regime’s commander of Independent Committee on Combating Drugs said about drug trafficking turnover ever since the regime came to power while speaking at regime’s Expediency Council, where he acknowledged that “I venture to say that from the beginning of the Islamic republic the drug cartels have not been hit even one percent, so that 1,100 billion tomans of people’s money is wasted on drugs every day.” (State-run Bartarinha website, May 6, 2017)

Whatever it is, the fact is that after years of whispers about addiction among a percentage of students, it has now been officially announced by the Education Department. Director of Education Department’s Social Harms Prevention Office said a few months ago that 136 thousand students are subject to the risk of drug use, with 3,600 of them having used drugs at least once.

What makes a 14-15 year student to turn to drugs? Is it exam stress or an overflow of social and family problems at schools?

Should families less vulnerable to addiction or the parents who themselves are not using drugs also shake, fearing their children might get addicted to drugs? How drug dealers who are constantly looking for new markets infiltrate into schools? And dozens more questions …

The same source goes on to say that director of Education Department’s Social Harms Prevention Office has recently outlined the policy for dealing with the students who are using drugs, saying “schools have no right to expel addicted students. Efforts are being made in this regard so that vulnerable students be identified and be provided with necessary treatment and social services.”

To further explain the Education Department’s new directive, the state-run website then quotes education officials as saying “due to limited financial resources, the Education Department can hardly move ahead with its traditional tasks, let alone educating and informing students to deal with social harms. The Ministry is stuck with budget deficit and claims of teachers and the retired, thus being out of resources to seriously educate students coming from families suffering from economic and cultural problems.”

“Have we made a good society for our children or have we put them in a vicious circle?”, he eventually concluded, adding “families are forced to play the role of school teachers for their children, practicing dictation and doing their crafts, and schools meanwhile are trying to do parents’ responsibilities, teaching the children right from wrong and compensate for their emotional shortcomings. Both are stepping into the other one’s shoes, trying to make up for the other side’s shortcomings, with one being out of money and the other out of patience.”

There’s no exact figure on addicted teenagers in Iran. The latest figure in this regard is related to the number of addicted students released in last year’s winter by Education Department’s Social Harms Prevention Office. Nader Mansourkiaee said at the time that 136,000 students are subject to the risk of using drugs, with 3600 of them having used drugs at least once.

The figure is somewhat close to the one related to addicted students previously released by regime’s taskforce on combating drugs, showing that one percent of Iran’s 13.5 million students are addicted to drugs. But this figure only accounts for teenagers who go to school, thus ignoring dropouts or those who don’t go to school. So, it could be estimated that the real number of addicted teenagers should be higher.”

Mahmoud Hakamian is member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)