'I Smoke Only to Feel Normal'
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.
By Maija Liuhto
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
I was the first woman to end up living here under this bridge. Before me, there were only male drug addicts here. I used to wear men’s clothes because of that, and everyone thought I was a man. Now there are some other women here, and that’s why I have started wearing women’s clothes again.
I try to do little jobs to be able to buy drugs. For example, I buy pipes for five Afghanis and sell them for 10. I spend all my days thinking about what to sell and who to sell to. Whatever money I manage to make, half of it I spend on drugs and the other half on food.
If I find something to eat in the morning, then there is nothing for the evening. If I find something for the evening, there is nothing for the morning. Every day I must smoke heroin at least twice, once after I have woken up and once when it starts getting dark. I haven’t smoked today yet. If I don’t smoke, my body hurts from head to toe. I smoke only to feel normal, to feel happy for a while. Do you mind if I smoke now?
I have been addicted to heroin for 10 years. I used to live in Daikundi with my husband and his family. I was a candidate for parliamentary elections. It was election time, and I got into an accident. It had snowed, so the roads were slippery and our car fell into a ravine. I broke my back and my teeth. My in-laws took me to a faraway village where I stayed for six months just looking at the ceiling. To ease my pain, they started mixing drugs in my food. I wasn’t aware of this at the time. After I got better, I went back to work. I am an educated woman. I used to teach illiterate people with UNESCO. I also worked in a hospital.
I grew up in Iran, in Tehran, where my family still lives as refugees. I came to Afghanistan after getting married to my husband. But unfortunately, my husband was selling drugs, and when we moved to Kabul two years ago, he was arrested by the police. I was left alone with our daughter. It was very difficult. No one wanted to rent a place for a single woman, so I ended up in the street. That’s when my drug addiction got worse. I also had a miscarriage. A criminal called Ghulam forced me to move under the bridge because he said it was bad for women to be sleeping there in front of everyone.
Life under the bridge is hard. The men here don’t bother me, but some of the women have started selling themselves to make money. Nobody cares about your life here. A few days ago, a man was stabbed. No one tried to stop the bleeding, and his body was just left lying there for days. Finally some criminals came and took his body away. Another time I lent my pipe to a man. I kept asking him to give it back to me, but he refused. Finally he hit me very hard in the head and I started bleeding. I tried to get some help from a pharmacy, but they refused to treat me because I had no money. The wound has still not healed. In the beginning I always tried to help others if they got injured, because I am a little bit like a doctor. Now I don’t care anymore, because no one helped me when I was hurt.
Because my life is like this, I had to give my daughter away. I took her to an orphanage. I haven’t seen her in such a long time. I cannot go to her looking like this. In order to see her, I would need money and good clothes. When my husband got out of jail and found out I was living here, he left me. I told him someone had kidnapped our daughter so he wouldn’t go looking for her. I know he still takes drugs, and I don’t want to sacrifice my child’s life like I have sacrificed mine.
Drugs can cause anyone to end up in a state like this. Doctors, people who know the Quran … anyone can become a drug addict. I want to leave this bridge. I have a friend who is in jail right now. Once he gets out, he has promised to take me to Iran, to my family.
- Maija Liuhto, OZY Author Contact Maija Liuhto