Being now in Syria – and relying on the most authoritative source of news here, Joshua Landis’ Syria Comment – one is immediately struck by the love of President Bashar al-Assad. His photo is literally everywhere, from inside shops to vans and hotel lobbies to souqs. Syria Today is the leading English-language publication. Its latest edition features a number of interesting articles including this one:
At first glance, Abun Nour does not look like a typical drug addict. The33-year-old Damascene carpenter, who is married with two young children, lives in a tidy house in Al-Ghota, in the Damascus countryside, and owns a successful furniture workshop. But he is weighed down with a severe affliction.
When he was 16, as a harmless prank he tried drugs for the first time with a friend – a narcotic prescription pill from a local pharmacist – never imagining the destructive effects it would reap on his life. Seventeen years later, after long periods of self-harm and abuse, he is one of 750 drugs addicts currently receiving professional help at the National Centre for Youth Welfare.
“I started taking about five pills a day. Then, I began mixing drugs with alcohol, until four years ago when I tried heroin, burning and inhaling its smoke through an empty reed,” he recalls. “I felt so lively and energetic on heroin and I could work, but when the effects wore off I felt weak and helpless. I couldn’t move without taking it.”
Abun Nour was being pulled in two opposite directions; he knew he had to work and provide for his family but he could not quell his thirst for this lethal drug and he started buying half a gram for SYP 500 every day. “In the end I had to sell my two shops, both of which were worth a million Syrian pounds (USD 10,000), to buy heroin,” he adds. “I used to buy it from a man called Abu Ali. He had no address, nor a phone number. He just stood at a specific point in the street at a specific time and his customers came to buy drugs from him at that exact time.”
Only when his first child was struck by a long-term illness, coupled with his near financial ruin, did Abun Nour realise he had to clean up his act. “I never wanted them [my children] to be provided for by someone else and I realised I might ruin something priceless, like my honour, so I had to stop,” he says. “I also started to look different. People noticed large black rings around my eyes.”
Today, Abun Nour has checked himself into the rehab centre for the second time, after initially discharging himself from the clinic and failing to get clean with the help of his local doctor. He says he is making good progress and can keep the drug pushers at bay. “I think the reason I became addicted was because of my ignorance at that time. I was easy prey for bad company, and I felt ashamed to tell my family about my problem until it was almost too late,” he says.
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