|A plea from Zeinab|
|The shaping of policy at UNODC (2002-2010)|
On my way back from Afghanistan recently, I visited the Iran-Afghan border where there is a trench, 1000km long, four metres wide and four metres high. It is like one of the wonders of the world - you can probably see it from space; the inverse of the Great Wall of China.
Iran has built these earthworks to slow the trafficking of drugs out of Afghanistan. This is the front line in preventing the spread of opiates into the West. This effort has come at a great cost - both financial and human. More than 3,500 Iranian border guards have been killed in the past generation, fighting well-armed drug gangs along the border.
This tragedy was given a human face when, at a border post, an 11-year old girl named Zeinab, dressed in black and carrying a picture of a handsome man in uniform, read out a letter to me. Here is what she said:
In the name of god the merciful and compassionate
Mr. Antonio Maria Costa Esq.
When my childhood dreams were taking shape I did not understand the meaning of my mother's endless stream of tears, my grandmother's bent back and my grandfather's support in old age. When I was playing with my excited friends engulfed by the childhood world, I did not know the meaning of my father's framed photo on the wall.
How would I know that when I entered school, from the first day I would have to practice a word that I had been waiting for, a long time? When the teacher wrote "Dad gave water" *on the blackboard, I said to myself "in reality Dad gave blood".
In the classroom when the teacher asked everyone to introduce themselves and tell the class of their father's profession, bitter and miserable, I introduced myself and said my father was martyred.
Yes dear friends, it was at this point that it became important for me to know why my father was martyred, until I realized that my father was martyred fighting international drug traffickers and traders of death. Father had sacrificed his wife, child and ultimately his life, he used himself to shield humanity from the bullet of narcotic drugs. My father gave his own life so as to give the gift of life to others, in Iran or any other part of the world.
Dear Mr. Costa, I believe that the fathers of all the children in the world, the governments of all the countries - in particular countries that have users of narcotic drugs - should realize the problem, and feel a joint responsibility for finding practical measures to liberate global society from the devastation of narcotic drugs. My martyred father's colleagues are fighting well-equipped traffickers with empty hands to ensure the health of the world. I wouldn't like to see another child without a father.
Please pray for the souls of all martyrs
Unofficial translation | Original Letter (pdf)
Let us help Iran to withstand the onslaught of the opium tsunami. We have a shared responsibility to reduce demand for drugs and to provide support to law enforcement officers, so many of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Antonio Maria Costa
*This is the first thing that is taught in primary school as the letters used in the sentence are very simple.
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|Aceh: Paradise Rediscovered|
Posted: 1 February 2013
Can you think of a region so poor that income is less than one dollar a day per person: that has gone through a war against the central government for 30 years (1975-2005); that in 2004 was submerged by a tidal wave (the tsunami) that killed 170,000 people out of a total population of 3 million (in other words 1 person out of every 20); that was later submerged by an avalanche of assistance personnel that pushed local prices beyond what locals could afford?
Well, let me help you.
The Aceh peninsula of Northern Indonesia, along the strategic Malacca Straits, is where I went on mission yesterday, with a delicate task: to determine the extent of drug production (cannabis cultivation); trafficking (hashish and methamphetamine); the associated crime and violence; the health impact (including the spread of HIV because of drug-injection); and, above what can be done to put an end to all this through development.
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would love to say that it is my pleasure to take part in this panel. Actually, this’ not true: it saddens me, well into the 21st century, to take part in a panel discussion on modern-form of slavery: a crime that shames us all now as much as it did centuries ago..