A Narrative of Drug Addicts from Camp Shafaq (Twilight)
ABF Note: Camp Shafaq was officially operating under state supervision as a forced rehabilitation center receiving individuals arrested in the streets as addicts. The camp was closed in early 2014, once the mistreatment of detainees in the camp was publicized. There is no information, however, on whether those in charge of managing the camp or supervising its operations will be held accountable for the tens of recovering addicts who died or if anyone will be compensated for the abuse they were subjected. How many other camps mistreat detainees remains unclear.
We Objected, They Replied This Place is a Forced [rehabilitation] Camp
Sharq Newspaper/4 Dey 1392/December 25, 2013/Society page
Interviews by Fatemeh Jamalpur (Interviewees statements in bold)
"53 of the addicts that were brought to Shafaq died from dysentery."
"The intern would tell the guys, ‘If you dance for me, you will get cold medicine."
"I stepped past the yellow line, and I was beaten close to death with a green pipe."
And . . .
These are all stories of addicts who experienced the forced addiction treatment camp, Shafaq (Twilight). They sit across from me and talk and talk, telling shocking narratives from Shafaq, from the point of view of a system that denies addicts their status as citizens and refuses even to consider them human beings. The narratives are so shocking that they can cause you to stop the interview and go for a walk or take a few deep breaths.
The addiction treatment camp "Shafaq," or as the authorities call it, "Camp Twilight," is based on the Amended Addiction Treatment Act, approved by the Expediency Discernment Council in 2011 for the treatment of obvious addicts, meaning those whose addiction can be detected through their appearances. The establishment of the camp, providing its equipment, and managing the addict population was supposed to take place through a collaboration of the Drug Control Headquarters of the Tehran Municipality . . . under the supervision of the Anti-Narcotics Coordination Council and the Ministry of Health, but none of this actually happened, and Shafaq became a place for holding addicts for a short time without observing basic human rights. Below, you will be reading interviews with addicts who have returned from “Shafaq,” including stories of death, hunger, and beatings . . . .
The First Interview: Seyed
Seyed Mohammad is 33 years old, with gray hair, a very thin face, and protruding bones. "I have used drugs for 10 years. For two years, I have been using methadone to prevent relapses. Although I had a “methadone” card, the municipal authorities took me in, but they didn’t even test me, even though they are supposed to test [each arrested individual], and I was sent to “Shafaq.”
When did they arrest you?
Two months ago. I was there for 47 days. I was at Shoosh Circle, heading towards the same addiction treatment center that is our shelter. The police forces arrested me. When I showed them my methadone card, the official said let’s go, we will release you, no problem. I said perform a test, I have no problem, but they detained me all night and day and then took me to Shafaq. I even said I would pay the cost of the drug test kit from my own pocket, so they can test me, and if I didn’t have any problems, they would release me, but they did not. I went to the camp. When I was using drugs, my weight and appearance were much better than at the time I was released from Shafaq. Every time I would give up drugs, my physical system [health] would be restored, and my weight and appearance would be return to normal. but now this is the appearance of a person that was just released from Shafaq. My friends are surprised and ask me if I have increased my drugs usage? I respond that I have just been released from “Shafaq,” so you can guess that the food situation was appalling.
How many of you were at Shafaq? Did you have people sleeping on the floor, too?
Three, four days a week, 20-30 people, in each room, would be sleeping on the floor. Only two days a week the guys slept on beds.
Is Shafaq a warehouse?
It is a warehouse with 14 rooms across from each other. Each room has 50 beds. On the floor of each room, 20-30 people sleep on the floor. There are 2 blankets for every 3 people - one underneath and another on top despite the cold.
They don’t have a heating system?
No, they do not have a heating system. The engine room doesn’t even work. When I came out, I spent 20-30 thousand tomans on doctor’s fees and medicine, because of my cold and the cold water. When we protested, they would say, “This is all that there is.”
You mean you did not have hot water for showers?
No, we did not. They would say, “Cold water is all there is.”
There were only three meals? What about snacks or fruit?
No, we only saw fruits in our dreams. Sometimes, they would not serve bread with our meals, saying that the bread has not arrived. Other times, breakfast was unsweetened tea, and they would say, “There are no sugar cubes or sugar. The state of cleanliness was awful. There was nothing like liquid hand wash, Tide, or shampoo. We had forgotten [their existence].
Were you subjected to battery and corporal punishment there?
Why were you beaten?
They did it to terrorize us. An old man was incontinent. He could not hold himself. This [wetting himself] happened three times and, because of that, they severely beat this 70-year-old man.
What was the situation with regard to bathing and using toilets? Were there enough showers and toilets?
The use of shower and toilets were allowed on specific hours. For example, they would announce through the speakers that that [we had] 20 minutes to use them. For 800 people, there were 5 toilets, and if someone was taking more time, he would be beaten. Whoever was left behind would be beaten, too.
How many times in a day would they ring the bathroom alarm?
Three times: once before breakfast, once before lunch, and once after dinner.
How many troops were stationed there? Police or ... ?
There are no security forces there. [They had their own guards.] Some of them also used drugs. I, myself, saw Mr. "A," who was in charge, using drugs. When I was in solitary confinement, he showed me his pipe, and this is the type of harassment we faced during our treatment.
Why were you in solitary confinement?
Because of the same punishment.
The inspectors were from which organization?
From the Judiciary and from Ministry of Health, but they [the camp’s administrators] had intimidated us, so we didn’t dare complain.
Were there social workers and doctors stationed there?
There was a male social worker stationed there for several years who got paid by the contractor [camp managers] and didn’t do anything.
You mean you were not offered social services?
Were the relatives of detained addicts informed? Did the detainees have any visitation?
The authorities would come and collect the [detainees’ phone] numbers and say they would contact [detainees’relatives], but they did not do so.
Those who were "HIV positive" or had Hepatitis, did they receive medication?
They never received attention. For example, there was a person who had a medical record and was under observation by the Medical University and received medication; he was HIV positive and had Hepatitis. When he told them, they tore up his record. They didn’t care.
What about the dysentery? While you were there, did anyone suffer from it?
The year that dysentery was rampant, I was in Shafaq. Forty-eight people died. The first 5 people died in “Shafaq,” and the rest were transferred to Kamard and died there. People were arrested in the framework of the [2012 Non-aligned Movement ]Leadership Summit Plan.
So you were arrested at the time of the Non-aligned Summit?
How about the camp’s capacity during this time?
It was awful. The total number of beds in “Shafaq” was for 450 people. There were 1,300 of us, at that time, meaning that the addicts also slept inside the hall and in the bathrooms. Each room had 60 people that slept on the floor, and this overcrowding resulted in the spread of the disease. One person who had dysentery caused the death of 53 people.
Why were they transferred to Kamrad?
Because the inspector was to visit, and they wanted to hide the issue.
How many people passed away in Shafaq? While you were there, did anyone else die besides the dysentery incident?
Yes, an old man, because of the shower’s cold water and so on, got ill, and they did not pay attention, and he died, and there was another who had [died] with digestive problems.
Did they hand over the bodies of those who died to their families?
The Second Interview: Cyrus
The head of the Rebirth Society Organization (a charity for drug addicts), says that the agents had popped Cyrus’s eye. He has also gone to “Shafaq.” Cyrus enters with a bloody eye, around which is bruised and swollen. The mere sight of him makes me panic.
I’m asking what happened to your eye?
I was hit by agents.
Because they wanted you to go to Shafaq?
Yes, it is mandatory. They arrest, take, and detain us. We addicts are sick. Instead of supporting us, they mistreat us.
How come you didn’t go, and, [instead,] you are here?
They took me from eight in the morning until eight in the evening. Without bread and water and food . . . . Then they let me go. I don’t know why. The old man’s voice was hardly audible. I try not to look at the scary injury of his eyes. He says: they make all the addicts at “Shafaq” become obsessive.
How many times have you been to Shafaq?
Two, three times.
When was the last time you went there?
When was that?
September 13. One time, I threw myself out of a car to avoid going there.
Shafaq is a nice place, if it were less crowded. The capacity is 600 people. It would be good if we were just 600 people there, but we were 1,800 people. Shafaq can’t handle it. They do not serve good food, and they don’t treat everyone properly.
Because they would step on the line.
By stepping on the line, do you mean “make a mistake?”
What was stepping on the line?
For example, they would say, “When I called you, why didn’t you look up?” We would swear that we didn’t hear them and beg for pardon, but they would beat us.
They [Rebirth Society administrators]are calling Shahrooz. He does not look like other addicts. He looks well-rested and has a large frame and a darker complexion with stubble and scars on his face. He is wearing a guerrilla jacket. He sits on a chair and starts saying,
“I went to Shafaq, twice. One time, they detained me from May 20th until early June and then arrested me the day after Eide Fetr.”
Where did they arrest you?
I was on Shoosh Street, coming to the “DIC” [Drop-In Center of the Rebirth Society], walking without any drugs. They arrest people in two ways; either by “NAJA” (Niruye Entezami Jomhuri Eslami - Islamic Republic Law Enforcement Force) or by the Municipality. The first type of arrest is called NAJA’s solitary [arrest], because they arrest one at a time; and the second type is called the municipal project.
Will you talk about the situation in Shafaq?
When you get there, there is a doctor named “H. Nami,” who signs whether you should enter or not. There is a man called Reza Motori. He accepts cell phones and money and conveniently changes the test’s results to negative.
When you get a positive result, you enter the warehouse that covers about 200 to 300 meters. I was arrested twice. The first time, we were 400 people to be arrested within what they call Project Hurricane 1. The other time, we were 600 people to be arrested under Project Hurricane 2. They would throw everyone in that warehouse. The warehouse only has two bathrooms. There is no such thing as fresh water. With a plastic water container, they would bring 20 liters of water. You have to drink with your hands. There is no water to take a shower and no water to drink for those 500 to 600 people suffering from drowsiness, pain, and physical withdrawal. Just like a flock they would send 600 people to the middle of the room, holding green pipes and beating them. There is a series of columns in the middle of the warehouse that they call the speaking columns; if you utter anything, you will be tied to the column, and if you fight back, you will be severely beaten. If you say, “Inform my family,” they say, “I will call, but you have to tell your family that they should send a service charge in the amount of 10,000 tomans. If you don’t send the money, they give you hell. In regards to the inmates from the provinces, their families are told to wire money to this account and and that they [the staff] will take care of their kids.
When the physical [detox] program is complete and the withdrawal symptoms are overcome, we are sent to the main warehouse. There are 15 showers with 60 people per room. Whether married or bachelor, old, or young, everyone is ordered to undress completely [in front of everyone else] and go to the shower. Three minutes is given to shower but there is no soap or shampoo or anything else. There is no warm water, ever. The water is cold during the summer and the winter. Once a week, you can take a shower, and that is only for three minutes. Lice are everywhere, climbing all over everyone’s bodies. Illness is widespread among the detainees. Whatever the detainee’s sickness when he sees the doctor, he gets a white pill. They don’t care. Addicts die easily before everyone’s eyes. The two times I was there, I witnessed the death of 5 or 6 people.
What caused their deaths?
When you have addictions, your body is weak and [in Shafaq] your food supply is nearly nonexistent. In the morning they give one piece of lavash bread and cheese the size of a pea. At lunch, there is this much rice (showing the palm of his hand). God is my witness, I saw a person who ate cardboard to fill up his stomach. At nights, they give you a cup of barley soup, similar to the size of a small ice cream cup, and there is no fresh water. On a daily basis, they would bring 20 liters of fresh water, and from today to tomorrow there is no water. When there is no fresh water, they drink salt water, and, I’m sorry, they would get dysentery and, with a weak body and no one to help them, they die.
Is there a doctor?
No, there are two interns who work in shifts. When you are sick, they see 10 to 20 people together. I swear, I saw it with my own eyes that the intern would mix liquid sore throat medication in a soda bottle and would say, “Whoever dances, I will give him the drink.” He would force them to dance to entertain him. He would say, Will you dance, or no? Then the patient would say, “I can’t dance, I am sick.” The intern would say, “Then, I will not give the drink to you. Go. Next person.” When we would protest, he would say, “This place is for mandatory drug treatment.” But elsewhere, when they talk about “Shafaq,” they say, “Don’t say it is mandatory. Say that it is Camp Twilight. One day, they beat one guy. He said, “God, why do you not help us?” The guy in charge came and said, “Look, Shafaq doesn’t have a god.” That saying is famous. They say that Shafaq’s sky does not have a god that you can pray to. No one would save us. I went there twice, and, both times, the instant I got out, I started using drugs out of spite and vindictiveness, because I didn’t go there on my own accord but was forced to go, and such horrible things happened to us. When I left, I used. They make the addicts do the worst things: construction and painting for a single cigarette, because they rationed out no more than 1 cigarette per person. The rule is three months and 1 day: they get the money for three months and one day, and then they released us earlier. One day, the inspector came, and the food was horrible. In response, they said that we don’t have the budget for it. The inspector said, “For 400 people, over 3 months and one day, the municipality had a budget of 900 million [tomans]. How is it that you serve such food?
The Third Interview: Moslem
Moslem is an old man with bright eyes. He is witty and talks passionately. He says he was arrested in a greenhouse.
I say, “Tell me about the situation at Shafaq?”
He says, “In terms of statistics, and the food, it is awful. The hunger made the addicts collude with each other, exchanging cigarettes for each other’s meals. At noon, they serve rice that is not filling, and so you really suffer from hunger. There are no facilities. I am not sure whether the municipality has to provide or another place. The capacity is 600 beds, but we were over 1,800 residents. Lice were rampaging, and there was no good shower. They took me to “Shafaq” for a while, and then they took me to the Elderly Program. Kamrad was much better. They would take elderly men to Camp Ali Saaber and would free them after a while. In “Shafaq,” they show no respect. For example, I crossed the yellow line, and I was beaten nearly to death.”
What does the yellow line mean?
Suppose this is the hallway. They would draw a yellow line in the middle of it and we were not allowed to walk pass the line. If we did, they would beat us.
There is no “for what.” It’s the rule.
How many days were you in Shafaq?
My term was for 28 days, 21 days of which I was in Shafaq, and then they took me to the Elderly program, Camp Ali Saaber. The next day I was released by the order of the commander, Roozbehani.
Tell us more about “Shafaq.”
Overall, “Shafaq” would be better if it were closed down.
Did you witness anyone die while you were there?