Opium Nation: Child Brides, Drug Lords, and One Woman's Journey Through Afghanistan
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When veteran reporter Fariba Nawa returned home to Afghanistan—the nation she had fled as a child with her family during the Soviet invasion nearly twenty years earlier—she discovered a fractured country transformed by a multibillion-dollar drug trade. In Opium Nation, Nawa deftly illuminates the changes that have overtaken Afghanistan after decades of unbroken war. Sharing remarkable stories of poppy farmers, corrupt officials, expats, drug lords, and addicts, including her haunting encounter with a twelve-year-old child bride who was bartered to pay off her father’s opium debts, Nawa offers a revealing and provocative narrative of a homecoming more difficult than she ever imagined as she courageously explores her own Afghan American identity and unveils a startling portrait of a land in turmoil.
is a work of nonfiction. The events and experiences detailed herein are all true and have been faithfully rendered as I have remembered them, to the best of my ability. Some names, identities, and circumstances have been changed in order to protect the integrity and/or anonymity of the various individuals involved, and who have a right to tell their own stories if they so choose. Though conversations come from my keen recollection of them in my native language, Farsi, they are not written to
on the floor for food to be served, I ask Saber what the worst part of the drug trade is for him. He takes only a second to answer. “The girls being sold off to pay opium debts. These cowardly smugglers will sell their daughters at young ages to save themselves. It takes away any honor we have,” he says, his voice rising. Families normally ask a bride price for their daughters. It took Saber a few years digging dozens of wells before he could pay the $2,000 dowry Tarana’s family requested. But
to Europe and the United States. Nigerian drug trafficking organizations also move Afghan drugs to West African syndicates inside the United States, who then team up with African-American gangs to supply consumers. Experienced Turkish organized crime groups include the Uzan group, led by Turkish businessman/politician Cem Uzan, and the Britain-based Arifs, who run Afghan opiates to Europe. Albanian mafias are also connected to the Afghan heroin trail. And as India has become a more popular
way. Being Afghan is not one thing, you know. You can’t tell people what their identity is. They should decide for themselves.” I say these words quietly, though, without much confidence. “I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m sorry, khwarak.” We reach Barat’s house, which is situated on a tree-lined street in the new city of Faizabad. It’s the biggest house on the block, with marble floors, Persian carpets, and an SUV parked in the garage. Barat greets us himself—considering he is wealthy, I had
article, a trafficker claims that Daud helped him secure a large shipment of drugs through the Salang Tunnel, the road that connects the north to Kabul. It’s unclear if Daud has mistaken me for a Los Angeles Times reporter or thinks I can write a rebuttal. He’s angry and accusatory as I walk into his office. “You realize that you reporters are writing lies all the time,” he scoffs. I look at him confused. I’m aware of the article, but I’ve come to discuss a different matter. “You need to