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The Tehran Neighborhood Where the Rich go to Buy Their Drugs

October 8, 2021
IranWire Citizen Journalist
4 min read
The Tehran Neighborhood Where the Rich go to Buy Their Drugs

There are drug addicts everywhere: men, women, old and young. Their presence overshadows the light coming from the large crystal shops so populous in the area. This is Shoush, a neighborhood in southern Tehran, home to two worlds: large bazaars where successful businessmen make their fortunes side by side by rife poverty and addiction.

Shoush businessmen say it has become a hangout for addicts and that drugs can be found in abundance. They say wealthy people from all over Tehran travel there to buy and use drugs.

A citizen journalist going by the pseudonym Nazanin Bayani wrote the following account of her time in Shoush and the people she talked to.


"I grew up in a poor, religious family," says Jamal, as he takes shisheh [the Persian name for methamphetamine] sitting next to one of the city’s streams. "As a child, all I witnessed was my parents beating each other up. Eventually, in 1987, my mother doused herself with gasoline, set herself on fire and killed herself. When my mother died, I took refuge with my relatives, but they couldn’t really offer it to me. Soon after I became homeless. After sleeping rough, I turned to drugs because I felt that all my troubles were compensated by drugs and calmed me down. Then I became an addict. I, along with so many others, inadvertently got involed in a game — we couldn't have known the outcome. An addict is miserable in any economic situation. I have a Master's degree in literature. I have written 218 lines of poetry, but drugs have destroyed me."

"The amount of drugs in this neighborhood is so great that right now, if I close my eyes and pick a random door and ring the doorbell, I can get drugs," he tells me. "They don’t arrest thieves, swindlers, bullies and drug dealers, but they target us, the consumers. I paint cars for a living and I spend everything I earn on drugs, but I don’t break into people’s places. The authorities could find the drugs if they wanted to, but they won’t."

"Shoush has become known as Tehran’s druggies’ hangout for addicts in Tehran; they all come here,"  a shopkeeper called Majidi tells me. "This is the best place to get drugs."

Anybody who visits the neighborhood may be surprised to see people on the street using drugs such as shisheh and opium. But the businessmen and residents of the neighborhood seem to be used to this situation. They pass by addicts and don't even react. Everything appears to be normal; people carry on with their business, do normal things. 

"Addicts don’t do anyone any harm, and it’s the government’s job to bring them back to a healthy life and community by implementing support and rehabilitation programs," says Mohsen, who lives in the neighborhood. "These addicts also have families. They have wives and children and parents. They don’t want to be addicts. I wish they could get help and support. Addiction is linked to poverty. People who are not in need or under pressure are unlikely to become addicts."

But, Jabri, a Shoush taxi driver, has a different opinion. "Addicts are the parasites of society. The government should round them up because people don’t want them around. But instead it leaves them to God and no one takes responsibility. These people are everywhere, and they steal our belongings. They are infected and dirty and they spread the virus to other people."

Watch video: {{ __192228_videocomponent__video component__ }}">Drugs on the streets of Shoush

But Mohammadian, who owns a spare parts store in Shoush, says: "The problem of addiction must be tackled at the root, not just on the surface. The main problem is the state of the economy. I see a nice young man two meters tall with his head hanging down. My heart aches. All kinds of drugs can be found here — they’re more readily available than ice cream. I once worked for the Anti-Narcotics Organization. The drug dealers we arrested and handed over to the Revolutionary Court were released two hours later and are free to go."

Shop owner Hamid says the police are not doing anything to fight the drug problem in the area. "The police and the municipality are certainly aware of the situation, but they are not doing anything. When the police arrive, they don’t come to arrest people, they just turn on their sirens to give the addicts and thieves a chance to hide. Why don’t they arrest drug dealers? They say they have operations underway, but what is the use of them? Thieves steal mobile phones off people every day and the police do nothing. There is no CCTV on the streets to monitor crime and drug dealers. Why? Because the drug dealers and thieves pay bribes to police officers. People come here in expensive foreign cars, pick up their drugs and leave. They don’t even have to pay — they arrange beforehand to deposit the money in the dealers’ accounts. Some people come to the area to actually take their drugs here and then go off. There are even some people who arrive with their wives and children, jump out on to the sidewalk, take their drugs and leave."

Read more from IranWire's citizen journalists: 

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Citizen Journalist Dispatch: Shopkeepers Defying Lockdown Orders

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Drugs in Iran: The Two Faces of Opium

Drugs in Iran: The "Moratorium" on the Death Penalty

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