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Society & Culture

Four-Month-Old Baby Dies of Drug Addiction

June 7, 2016
Shima Shahrabi
4 min read
Imam Ali Charity urged the public to attend Roya’s funeral, and to show their sympathy for others like her
Imam Ali Charity urged the public to attend Roya’s funeral, and to show their sympathy for others like her

She had no name, no parents and no one to look after her, according to an employee at Loghman Hospital, where four-month-old Roya had been brought after being abandoned at another hospital in Varamin just outside of Tehran. “She was so poisoned with drugs and she was in such a bad condition that they had to transfer her to this hospital.”

The nurses at Loghman Hospital called her Roya and put her in a hospital crib next to another four-month-old baby. Both babies were born addicts, their young lives thwarted by the addictions of their mothers. When they were born, they had to be given further medication to keep them calm. At Loghman Hospital, they lay next to one another, crying and in pain.  

The second baby had no birth certificate or identification card, though his parents called him Behnam. Imam Ali Charity Society workers, who brought him to the hospital, called him Ali. Every day, one of the charity’s student volunteers arrived at the hospital to look after Ali. Two days after he was hospitalized, Roya arrived. Since she was an orphan, social workers and the people of the Imam Ali Charity Society took it upon themselves to care for her.

 “The other babies started crying when Roya and Ali cried,” Sharmin Meymandi Nejad of Imam Ali Charity Students Society told IranWire. “They did everything they could for Roya but...early on she wouldn’t drink milk or even cry. In her last days she improved. But on Friday...” Despite all the efforts of the hospital and the charity, on Friday, June 3, Roya closed her eyes for the last time.

“Hungry, Really Hungry”

Ali, however, has survived, and he has been cured of his addiction. Maryam Afrafaraz, another member of the Imam Ali charity, brought Ali to hospital in the first place, and was there when Roya arrived, helping to look after her. She is devastated by Roya’s death. “She was hungry, really hungry,” she told IranWire. “Her condition was so critical that her face had turned ashen. She was so weak that she did not have the stamina to cry or to move.”

Afrafaraz is thrilled that Ali has been saved. She and her colleagues got to know Ali’s family last year after they visited the Boumehen area to work with underprivileged neighborhoods and families. “Ali’s aunt told me that her brother-in-law’s children had no birth certificates,” Afrafaraz told IranWire. “Ali has a sister and a brother. We visited the family at home and talked to the couple. The mother talked to us about her physical condition, which led us to believe that she was pregnant. After her pregnancy was confirmed, we visited them again a while later.”

Ali’s brother and sister are nine and four years old respectively. “The parents say that they were born addicted,” says Afrafaraz. “The boy and girl both search through garbage to find things to sell.” Last week Ali’s brother told her that he wanted to sell balloons.


Baby for Sale

According to Afrafaraz, the couple had planned to sell Ali. “But they could not find anybody who was willing to pay the asking price so they decided to give up on the idea.” A few weeks ago, when she visited the family to see how they were doing, Afrafaraz got the feeling that Ali was not doing well. “I held the child and noticed that his chest was making scratchy noises and his body was parched,” she said. “We thought he had flu and took him to a doctor in the area. The doctor said Ali had acute symptoms of addiction and must be taken to a hospital immediately.”

At the hospital, Ali tested positive for methadone. To keep the baby calm, the parents had mixed his milk with the synthetic opiate. After his addiction was cured, Ali was not returned to his family. Instead, he was put in the care of Tehran’s Social Welfare Organization.

But Afrafaraz’s joy and relief about Ali’s survival is overshadowed by sadness about Roya. She says she can’t get the baby’s cries out her head. “When everyone saw Ali had been saved they were hoping for the same thing for Roya,” she said. Roya’s death has been a blow to everyone who tried to help her.

The people from the Imam Ali Charity have hung up a notice about Roya’s funeral, urging people to attend and to show their sympathy for the abandoned baby and others like her. The poster features a photograph of four-month-old Roya wearing a pink dress. Her bandaged face looks weak and lifeless. “We decided it was our duty to mourn Roya the same way that we would mourn our own children,” the charity said. “And we want to give some comfort to the people who were with Roya day and night.”


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