Afghan "Rehab" Chains Up Addicts for 40 Days

By McCarton Ackerman 06/03/13

Addicts unable to afford health care are confined to cells as a drastic "cure."

A harrowing cure Photo via

With limited resources available for even basic health care throughout Afghanistan, many families turn to extreme measures to help their loved ones break free from addiction. One drastic example is the 300-year-old Mia Ali Baba shrine in Jalalabad, where residents are chained in a small cell for up to 40 days with other inmates in a bid to "cure" their drug addiction, mental illness or to "free themselves from evil spirits." In addition to living in squalid conditions without windows, the addicts are only allowed to wash their hands and face and permitted a strict diet of water, bread and black pepper during their stay. Talking is strictly prohibited and the men may only go outside, use a proper toilet or pray if one of the keepers deems that their health is improving. Health care professionals say that the shrine's "keepers" are exploiting poor addicts who can't afford medical treatment, but the keepers claim they have cured hundreds of people and are upholding the tradition set by historic figure Ali Baba of looking after those who have been shunned by others. "This is an obligation for my family, but it's also an honor," says Mia Subadar, who works at the shrine. War-torn Afghanistan is home to an estimated one million addicts, and the government estimates that 60% of its citizens suffer from some form of psychological disorder.

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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.

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