Afghan Kids Caught Up in Heroin Trade With Iran

By McCarton Ackerman 02/13/12

Children from villages near the border are often forced to swallow heroin capsules and smuggle them.

Drug smugglers prey on children, who are too
young to face the death penalty in Iran.
Photo via

An investigation by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting has found that a high number of children from four villages studied in the Ghoryan district of Afghanistan are becoming entrenched in heroin smuggling into Iran. An estimated 60 children in these villages have died from swallowing heroin capsules as part of the smuggling efforts, while another 1,000 have gone missing while attempting to cross the Iranian border. The children are paid approximately $260 to smuggle five capsules a time. The crystallized version of the drug sells for $1,200 per kilogram in Afghanistan—and double that amount in Iran. "The smugglers exploit our poverty and obligations," says Aarash, one of the children from the villages who has trafficked crystal heroin. Children are particularly attractive to smugglers because they are not executed in Iran—unlike adults. Border police apparently do little to stop the heroin trade and often help facilitate it; last year, Mulhim Khan, the general in charge of the Herat border police, was arrested by the Iranian authorities in Islam Qala on charges related to drug smuggling.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.