A city on Europe's drug transit route: Rising drug crisis in Van

A city on Europe's drug transit route: Rising drug crisis in Van
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Amidst increasing drug operations, Van has become a transit point and a focal point for drug use.

By Senol Bali

Van, located on the border with Iran, is at the heart of a growing drug crisis. The city serves as a critical transit point for drugs transported from Middle Eastern countries, notably Afghanistan, en route to Europe.

Recent statistics from the Van (Wan) Security Directorate are alarming: 531 drug operations were conducted in just the first seven months of this year, confiscating over 3 tons of drugs and almost 39,000 drug pills. A staggering 720 individuals were detained in these operations, with 192 facing subsequent arrest.

Yet the root of this issue runs deeper than mere numbers. Sociologist Osman Turgut, chairman of the Association for the Protection of the Colors of Life, speaks to the geographical significance of Van, outlining how drugs enter Turkey via Iran and are then sent to European countries. Turgut highlights regions like Van's Baskale and Gurpinar districts and Hakkari's (Colemerg) Yuksekova (Gever) district as hotspots for drug transit due to their proximity to the Iranian border.

But why is drug use on the rise in Van? The answer is multifaceted. A booming young population, which constitutes 45% of Van's nearly 1.5 million residents, coupled with unemployment, migration, and unplanned urbanization, creates an environment susceptible to drug use. Turgut further highlights the alarming fact that drug usage starts as young as 10 in Van.

According to a study by Turgut, many drug users come from economically challenged backgrounds, face strained family relationships, and perform poorly academically. A vast majority, around 80%, procure drugs from street dealers or unfamiliar sources.

Murat Atabay, Chairman of the Van Branch of Eğitim-Sen, expresses concerns about the easy accessibility of drugs in school environments. The need for holistic educational reforms prioritizing student social, cultural, and sporting activities is underscored.

The political sphere is not detached from this crisis. Green Left Party Van MP Gulcan Kacmaz Sayyigit draws attention to the paradoxical increase in drug use despite significant seizures. She argues that there seems to be an intentional push to drug the youth, alienating them from political activism.

In conclusion, while Van is a significant drug transit route, the city grapples with drug consumption issues rooted in socio-economic challenges, political agendas, and geographical positioning. Only a comprehensive, multifaceted approach can hope to address and rectify this escalating crisis.

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