The drug situation in southwest Asia including the Islamic Republic of Iran underwent a critical trend in the year 2002. The level of illicit drug cultivation, production, trafficking and consumption continued to grow. Regional countries are extensively affected by this trend which, in turn, gave rise to drug related criminal offences.
Afghanistan as a major drug producing country has turned out to be a serious threat for the world particularly its neighboring countries including Iran. The dimensions of the threat posed by that country is crystal clear. The amount of drugs that has flooded the Iranian border is a strong proof in this respect. In the past two decades Afghanistan has experienced war with foreign occupiers and was later entangled in civil war. Due to various reasons such as poverty, unemployment, civil war, lack of needed foods, etc., drug cultivation and production in that country continued to rise in the year 2002.
Being a neighbor to Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran shoulders great deal of losses due to great influx of afghan refugees into Iran (more than 2 million), increasing trend of drug trafficking through Iranian territory, and existing poverty and unemployment among afghans that are the main factors contributing to the outbreak of crimes and acts of banditry and hostage-takings in Iran, which subsequently leads to the failure of national drug control programs.
Most of opium produced in Afghanistan is processed into heroin or morphine base at the joint border areas with Pakistan. Heroin and morphine hauls mainly find their way out of Afghanistan to Iran via Pakistan for onward transportation to Europe. Some quantities of afghan opium and cannabis are also smuggled into Iran, the bulk of which is transited to the Arabian littoral states of Persian Gulf,
Reviewing the illicit drug smuggling situation in Iran during the year 2002 shows that the influx of afghan opium, which is smuggled from Afghanistan or via Pakistan, poses a serious threat to Iran. Despite the sever enforcement measures and establishment of various fortifications along 1975 km of our joint border with these to countries which has cost Iran over 1 billion US dollars, there is still no sign of diminishing in flow of illicit drug trafficking.
In addition to deployment of operational regiments and over 30,000 anti-drug personnel along the eastern border areas, the physical barriers, as a complementary element, play a pivotal role in creating bottlenecks for drug traffickers. These include:
- Construction of 212 border outposts,
- Construction of 205 observation posts,
- Establishment of 22 concrete barriers,
- Construction of 290 km of canals (depth=4m, width=5m),
- Construction of 659km of soil embankment,
- Installment of 78km of barbed wire fences,
- Construction of 2465km of asphalt and graveled roads,
- Relocation of border villages previously used for drug trafficking and building new villages far from border areas.
Further to more than 1 billion US dollars investment made for their construction. These fortifications also require maintenance costs each year. These measures have, to some extent, forced drug cartels to select new routes and tactics and moving towards northern Iran and eventually CIS countries as bet alternative routes. But according to UNODC and since more than 80% of total global seizures of opiates in the world take place in Islamic Republic of Iran, the country is still the main and the shortest land route from Afghanistan to Europe.
In addition to financial investments, the Islamic Republic of Iran has lost more than 3200 anti-drug personnel in fight against armed drug convoys moving out of Afghanistan and Pakistan during the last two decades. Accordingly, the main portion of human and equipment losses inflicted upon the government results from border skirmishes with drug smugglers. The total of 1,070 cases of armed confrontation have been reported in the year 2002 as a result of which 1,845 drug trafficking groups have been dismantled. During the same period more than 1,196 different types of weapons were also seized in the course of gun battles.
The Anti-Drug Campaign Martyrs:
Drug traffickers mostly Afghan are heavily armed and infiltrating vehicular convoys or camel narco-caravans are escorted by riflemen. The efforts by the police and other Iranian drug control agencies to hinder the passage of convoys frequently lead to armed clashes between the two sides. In the past two decades, more than 3,200 anti-drug personnel have lost their lives in conflicts with drug traffickers. In the year 2000 alone, 67 officers have been martyred.
The total amount of 151,393 kg of different types of narcotics have been seized in the year 2002 throughout the country. The Police of the Islamic Republic of Iran as the main drug law enforcement agency with nearly 89% has the highest share of the nationwide drug seizures. Ministry of Intelligence, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Customs that make seizures on an occasional basis and have drug control as part of their ancillary duties, stand next respectively.
Drug Seizures Statistics in the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1998-2002
Drug Seizure Methods:
In general, the common methods of drug seizures by relevant drug control agencies of the country can be summarized as follows:
|Row||Method of Seizure||Percentage|
|1||Vehicle inspection at checkpoints||33%|
|3||Infiltration & drug seizure from camel narco-caravan||9%|
|4||Ambush & patrolling||8.5%|
|7||Undercover operation (U/C)||4%|
|8||Unclaimed drugs at depots||4%|
|9||Body and luggage inspection||2%|
Rising Drug Seizure Trends at the Customs:
In the past two decades, drug seizures have undergone a rising trend at airports, the customs as well as air mail services in Iran. Great importance has been attached to the issue despite the fact that quantity of seizures has remained small, but smuggling cases were increasing in number. Statistics show that 3987 kg of drugs were seized by the Customs in 2002 as compared to 118 kg in 2001.
Of this figure, 3,892 kg of various types of drugs, destined to 14 countries abroad including Canada, South Korea, UK, the Netherlands, UAE, Germany, Austria, US, Japan, Italy, Turkmenistan, Malaysia, Turkey and Afghanistan, were detected in 10 provinces.
Drug related Offences:
The evolution of drug trafficking methods has now led to increase in the use of drug couriers and those who swallow drugs. Basically, drug couriers, mostly Afghan, constitute the largest portion of smugglers. These people are usually hired with very low payment for perpetrating drug-related crimes, while drug lords seek refuge in other countries and lead heir drug convoys indirectly through their agents. Hence this circle continues to move even with the arresting of drug couriers and they are replaced with new ones.
In 2002, more than 118,000 individuals were arrested on charge of drug law violations in Iran, of whom 3384 individuals had foreign nationalities.