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Torture and humiliation reported norm at Iran’s rehab facilities

A video that started circulating on Telegram on January 29 shows staff at a rehab facility in Iran forcing patients to swim in a pool of freezing water, while others are beaten with a baton. According to our Observer, this kind of cruelty is commonplace in Iran’s rehab facilities.

Captures d’écran d’une vidéo d’avril 2018 : tournée au centre de désintoxication de Ramsar (nord), on y voit un des employés frapper les toxicomane avec une barre en plastique. On entend un homme nommer les personnes qui doivent être frappées. © Observers

The video was filmed on January 13 in the Nourandishan rehab facility, where the majority of people in the facility were placed by judicial order. The centre is located in Qalat, a village about 45 kilometres from the city of Shiraz, in central Iran. On January 30, the Shiraz district attorney announced that five men had been arrested in connection with the incident shown in the video.

The footage shows the rehab centre’s employees forcing patients to swim in an icy pool, even though outside temperatures were fluctuating between -3 and 2 degrees Celsius (26.6 to 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The footage also shows staff hitting patients with batons and shouting insults like “son of a b…” .

“Yeah, it’s another universe here, it’s Qalat,” says the person filming.

The centre’s official Instagram page shows a much more sanitised version of what happens there.

The official photos posted on the Instagram account of the Nourandishan rehab facility in Qalat only show moments of calm and order. 

‘The people in this centre suffer from so much abuse that many of them fall straight back into addiction as soon as they leave’

Violence is an everyday occurrence in Iran’s rehab facilities, according to our Observer, Shamila P. (not her real name), a journalist who specialises in addiction. She knows a lot about what goes on within these facilities.

There are different rehab facilities in Iran but they broadly fall into two categories— legal and illegal. However, in reality, there is little difference between the two except that the illegal centres are cheaper and offer more services than the legal centres.

Staying in an illegal centre for three weeks costs about 700,000 tomans [around €26.40] while the cost for a three-week stay in a certified centre starts at about 900,000 tomans [around €33.5] [Editor’s note: in Iran, the average monthly salary is about €70 euros]. In any case, most centres ask the families to pay for at least four months because anything less than that isn’t seen as effective.

Violence is commonplace in all of these centres. There’s an old belief that putting a person suffering from addiction into icy water will help them detox— that’s what’s going on in the video. Striking people, insulting them— that’s commonplace in these kinds of places. What I find most shocking is that the people committing these abuses are often former addicts themselves.

By law, these facilities should be employing doctors and psychologists but, very often, that isn’t the case. There are lots of former addicts who can’t find work anywhere else.

I won’t surprise anyone by saying that the success rates of these institutions are extremely limited. The people in this centre suffer from so much abuse that many of them fall straight back into addiction as soon as they leave.

The screengrab is from a video filmed in April 2018 at a rehab centre in Langerud (in northern Iran). The footage shows employees of the facility hitting clients with a plastic rod. One man says the names of the men to be hit.  © Observers

In 2014, health authorities reported that at least 39 people had died while in rehab, though they claimed that the patients had died due to “complications during the first days of detox”.

A week before the publication of the video from Qalat, Iranian media outlets reported that a man died in another rehab center near Shiraz.

‘Families can literally arrange to have someone kidnapped and sent to one of these centres’

Our Observer continues :

There are also economic factors to take into account. On average, we estimate (would be good to have a source here) that someone dependent on drugs spends between 100,000 and 150,000 tomans per day [€3.7 to €5.6 ]. That’s a lot more than the cost of a rehab centre.

Sometimes these illegal centres are the only viable option for families of people struggling with addiction who don’t have much money. Moreover, while certified facilities only accept patients who have consented to entering the programme, illegal facilities don’t have the same conditions. If a person refuses to attend rehab, their families can literally arrange to have them kidnapped by staff at the facility. Staff arrive in a van, armed with pepper spray and literally kidnap the person in question. They are then transported to a facility and barred from leaving until they have been declared “cured.”

There are no investigations into the violence and occasional deaths that occur at these facilities. Most families don’t care about the abuses and neither do the courts. Patients are told not to go to the police— and even if they did, it isn’t likely the police would actually act upon it.

On February 1, Iranian media outlets reported that a man died while being taken against his will to an illegal facility.

Our Observer did say that there are some rehab facilities, most run by NGOs, that offer appropriate treatment at a decent price. There are also private clinics that offer treatment but it is often very expensive.

Heroin, opium and amphetamines

Iran shares a border with Afghanistan, which is one of the most important producers of opium, heroin and amphetamines in the world. This means Iran is both a prime market for these drugs and the first step on their route to lucrative markets in Europe.

Every year, Iranian police seize up to 800 tons of narcotics. According to official statistics, around four million Iranians (or 3.3% of the population), struggle with addiction. Alcohol is banned in the country and, thus, was not included in these figures. The violent economic crisis that has gripped the country leads many experts to believe that addiction rates will climb.

READ MORE: Violence, suicide and addiction: an unprecedented economic crisis plunges Iranian society into chaos

Since 1997, the consumption of drugs is no longer a capital offence in Iran. Dealers, however, can still get the death penalty if they are caught with two kilos or more of heroin or three kilos of synthetic drugs. Human rights organisations have reported that hundreds of people have been executed for dealing drugs over the past three decades

First published here on France24

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