Mothers fight to save heroin-addicted youth in southeastern Turkey

Mothers fight to save heroin-addicted youth in southeastern Turkey

Gülden AYDIN VAN – Hürriyet
Mothers fight to save heroin-addicted youth in southeastern Turkey

Hürriyet photo / Murat ŞAKA

The mothers of young heroin addicts in the southeastern province of Van are waging war on the drug, which they claim is widely used due to easy access and cheap prices in the area. 

One young addict said he would have to leave the city if he succeeded in overcoming his addiction because “the streets smell of heroin.”

“I have to leave Van if get cured [of heroin addiction]. Because the streets smell like heroin. I recognize it when [someone] smokes heroin in a cigarette,” says Emre, one of those who got addicted at a young age in the city. 

Meryem, 45, is one of the mothers whose 24-year-old son became addicted to heroin when he was at high school. She is determined to fight this addiction and plans to found the Association to Fight against Drugs in the city. Meryem says the main problem in the fight is the lack of a treatment center in the city and the widespread use and sale of drugs at cheap prices. 

A member of the Van Women’s Association (VAKAD), Meryem complained that there was no place to treat her son in the city. “I went to the closest center, the Psychiatric Hospital in Elazığ, but I was told that their patient capacity was eight and it was already full,” she said. She added that her son was selling whatever he found in the house, and stealing anything he could find to buy the heroin.

Kids forced to work

Münevver Ölmez, a volunteer of VAKAD, said she was told by a psychiatrist who worked in Van that children as young as eight were addicted to drugs in the city. 

“Families force their children to sell cigarettes on the streets. After a while these children become drug addicts and sellers. I have moved house twice because my neighbors’ children were using heroin in their garden,” said Ölmez, adding that heroin is sold on the streets, in parks, in front of the schools and in graveyards. 

She said the police should carry out more operations and there should be more social facilities where children can spend time. 

Another mother, Destegül, said her husband and son were in jail and her 21-year-old son was addicted. “My youngest son is taking care of us as he works at a tailor. İsmail [addicted to heroin] beats us if we don’t give him money, or he jumps out of the window,” said Destegül. Asiye, mother of a 24-year-old addict said she was relieved after her son was sent to jail three weeks ago for selling heroin. She said they had spent their savings on his treatment but he relapsed every time. 

She claimed that the heroin was cheaper in Van because it was produced in the local villages of Gürpınar and Başkale. The same amount of heroin is sold for 25 Turkish Liras in Van while it is 80 liras in Istanbul. “Dirty heroin” is also available at a lower price.