Jordan campaigns to combat drug addiction taboo

Jordan courts sentence drug traffickers for up to 20 years. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019
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Jordan campaigns to combat drug addiction taboo

  • The number of drug addictions in Jordan increased by 32% since 2017
  • Authorities arrested 20,000 in 2018 for drug abuse

AMMAN: Issam was reduced to tears recounting his life as a drug addict, as Jordanian authorities press an unprecedented campaign in the Muslim-majority country where substance abuse remains taboo.
Slogans such as “No to Drugs” are part of the new drive, launched in the wake of a worrying rise in the number of cases of addiction, possession and smuggling, to raise overall awareness of the issue, according to the anti-narcotics department.
Jordan’s public security directorate has also started a primetime radio show that airs every Tuesday to address the dangers of drug addiction.
“Drugs have made me an outcast. No one respects me or even looks at me,” Issam said during the show, hosted by Major Anas Al-Tantawi of the anti-narcotics department.
“It got to the point where I sold my furniture and my five-year-old daughter’s gold earrings ... I tried to commit suicide twice.”
As the show came to a close, Tantawi said: “They are victims, and we must help them, not discard them.”
Brigadier Anwar Al-Tarawneh, director of the anti-narcotics department, told AFP there has been a 32 percent increase in cases of addiction, possession smuggling in Jordan since 2017.
The evidence is there. In a room in the department, the shelves are crammed with white plastic bags and brown envelopes bulging with seized drugs — including heroin, cocaine and amphetamines. Some were smuggled into the country in hollowed-out books, or shoes or disguised as pastries in a box.
But authorities say hashish is the most commonly used drug in the kingdom, where 20,000 people were arrested in 2018 for drug abuse.
Drug traffickers in Jordan, which has a small population of just over nine million, face sentences of between three and 20 years, depending on the amount and type of drugs seized.
Under a 2016 law, addicts are exempted from serving time if they agree to treatment at a rehabilitation center.
But drug addicts are generally still looked down upon by Jordan’s conservative society.
“Drugs are a (vice) that affects one’s mind, soul, finances and health,” Muslim preacher Raed Sabri, who has a YouTube channel, told AFP.
Recovering addicts however must be “cared for and not discarded so that they can again be contributing members of society,” he insisted.
The kingdom’s anti-drugs campaign targets those aged between 18 and 27, who make up 47 percent of users, according to the anti-narcotics department.
According to Jamal Al-Anani, a psychiatrist and drug addiction specialist, “curiosity, lack of maturity and stress” are the main causes that lead to addiction among teenagers.
Apart from workshops in schools and universities, Tarawneh said authorities were using “modern methods,” including social media, to reach those most vulnerable.
At a 170-bed rehab center in the capital Amman, affiliated with the public security directorate, posters on the walls read “Drugs are a Monster, don’t come near” and “Drugs are a Waste of Money.”
Treatment lasts between one and two months, said Fawaz Al-Masaeed, the center’s director.
“There are three stages: detox, treatment and rehabilitation,” he told AFP, and the center follows up with patients for four months after their discharge.
Omar, 32, said his mother encouraged him to check in to the center after having struggled with drug addiction for 14 years.
“A friend offered me a cigarette when I was depressed, telling me ‘Take this, it’ll make you relax,’” Omar, now a father of four, told AFP.
“When I asked for another, I realized it was hashish ... I was 18 years old.”
After years of substance abuse, “my health deteriorated, I lost 27 kilos, I lost my job, and it strained my relationships with everyone around me. I destroyed my life.”
Now after his rehabilitation, Omar hopes “to start a new life.”


Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

An Asian domestic worker walks her employer's dog in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, on April 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 April 2019
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Amnesty urges Lebanon to help end domestic worker abuse

  • Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come

BEIRUT: Amnesty International on Wednesday urged Lebanon to end what it described as an “inherently abusive” migration sponsorship system governing the lives of tens of thousands of foreigners working in private homes.
Domestic workers in Lebanon are excluded from the labor law, and instead obtain legal residency though their employers’ sponsorship under the so-called “kafala” system.
But activists say this leaves the maids, nannies and carers at the mercy of their employers and unable to leave without their permission, including in numerous documented cases of abuse.
“Amnesty International is calling on the Lebanese authorities to end the kafala system and extend labor protections to migrant domestic workers,” the London-based rights group said.
“The Lebanese parliament should amend the labor law to include domestic workers under its protection,” including to allow them to join unions, the group said.
Lebanon hosts more than 250,000 registered domestic workers from countries in Africa and Asia, the vast majority of them women.
In a report released Wednesday titled “Their house is my prison,” Amnesty surveyed 32 domestic workers employed mostly in and around Beirut, revealing “alarming patterns of abuse.”
Among them, 10 women said they were not allowed to leave their employer’s house, with some saying they were locked in.
Twenty-seven said their employers had confiscated their passports.
Many worked overtime, 14 were not allowed a single day off each week, and several had their monthly salaries revoked or decreased, despite it being a breach of their contracts.
The labor ministry introduced a standard contract for domestic workers in 2009, but the forms are often written in Arabic, a language they cannot read.
The government in late 2018 said it had translated the contracts into several other languages.
Amnesty registered eight cases of forced labor and four of human trafficking, the report said.
Six reported severe physical abuse, while almost all had been subjected to humiliating treatment and several were deprived of food.
“Sometimes I would get so hungry... I used to mix water with sugar when I was hungry and drink it,” one worker said.
With the abuse taking a toll on their mental health, six said they had contemplated or attempted suicide.
Only four of those interviewed had private rooms, while the rest were relegated to living rooms, storage rooms, kitchens or balconies.
“There is a man in the house who can enter the living room any time he wants,” said one worker who was forced to sleep in the living room.
Activists accuse the Lebanese authorities of being lax in bringing abusive employers to account.
Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned their citizens from domestic work in Lebanon, but still their citizens find ways to come.
In 2008, Human Rights Watch found that migrant domestic workers in Lebanon were dying at a rate of more than one per week from suicide or in failed escapes.
Many other countries in the Arab world also follow the “kafala” system for household workers.