By Hussein Al-alak
Special to PalestineChronicle.com
As a result of nationalised oil, during the 1980’s the Iraqi regime led by Saddam Hussain had run literacy campaigns, which saw the decline of illiteracy, an anti-social disease drop to less than 10% of Iraq’s population. UNESCO applauded the fact that all Iraqi’s were able to access free education and come out with qualifications and employment on the other side.
It was stated at the 1998 anti-sanctions conference organised by the Fire Brigade Union in Britain, that “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.”
Those dreams which the Iraqi people held for their children are gradually being destroyed, as conflict has closed down schools and predominantly non-Iraqi militias direct their envious hatred towards the teachers, children and students and anyone who qualified under the system of free education.
Instead, they are seeking to replace education, social consideration and cultural progress with a subservience to alcohol and drugs, with "violence, unemployment and poverty” leading to a dramatic “increase in alcohol abuse," according Younis Obeidi, a psychiatrist at the Ibn Rushd Hospital.
These claims have been backed up by Kamel Ali, head of the Iraqi Health Ministry’s drug and alcohol-prevention programme, who said that "The consumption of alcohol in Iraq has surprisingly increased in the past few months", 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 complicating the situation and denying patients access to consistent after care.
“The Iraqi Psychologists Association have said that a recent internal study conducted by doctors”, “in the past two months“ have claimed “the number of alcoholics in care has increased by 34 percent compared to the figure for June 2006” but due to a lack of funding, has prevented the study from being published and made widely available.
Drugs have also become an alternative to the squalor of poverty, which last year was stated at being around 2 million people “living below the poverty line“ but has grown in recent months. It has been repeatedly warned that widows in Iraq, have also been forced to separate families as a consequence of war induced poverty, with others turning to the sex trade in the effort of trying to make ends meet.
On May 12th 2005, the United Nations organization which monitors drug trafficking announced that Iraq “is about to become a transit station for transporting the heroine, 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 to be frank, I didn’t even know the effect of the drugs.” Claimed Abu Teif in the interview "I sell drugs to feed my family" and published by IRIN News.“I learned what the effect 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 glorious days soon ended”, when the 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.
"I don’t know how to escape this life“ Abu Teif states, “If I try to run away with my family they will find me”, his words echoing the same fears as those fleeing death squads but this time it’s drug dealers, “I started to do wrong [selling drugs] and now I’m paying the price."
-Hussein Al-alak is an Iraqi writer whose specialist subjects include Human Rights, race and integration and Palestinian refugees. Hussein was the co-producer of Here’s Tomorrow, a 2006 documentary on the Baqa’a Refugee Camp in Jordan.