Experts about Van, which has become one of the centers of the drug trade, warned that the age of drug use has decreased to 10.
According to the press release shared by the Van Provincial Police Department on July 4, 2023, a total of 209 kilograms of 8 grams of methamphetamine, 191 kilograms of 962 grams of cannabis, 28 kilograms of 20 grams of skunk, 19 kilograms of 38 grams of heroin, 2 kilos of opium gum, 1 kilo of 738 grams of bonsai, 22 thousand 712 pieces of synthetic pharmaceuticals and 54.34 liters of acid anhydride were seized. In addition, between these dates, legal action was taken against 50 suspects for the crimes of “trading/transporting drugs” and “accepting and possessing drugs or stimulants”. The seizure of this amount of drugs reveals the extent of the drug trade in Van.
‘Van is the most important point about drugs’
Speaking to Kadir Cesur from Wall, experts pointed out that the amount of drugs seized only reflects a part of the problem that actually arises. Lawyer Ümit Avcı stated that in addition to being close to the border, Van has become an attractive center for the drug trade with employment problems. Stating that the route used for drugs has shifted to the Black Sea years ago, but Van has still not lost its quality in terms of drug shipments, Avcı said: “Van is the most important point in drugs. There is demand and there is a group that is eager to meet that demand. This is much more than the apparent and officially announced amount of drugs. Considering that in the past, it was done using the identities of state officials, and some of it was done with the help of state officials who were involved in crime, the vast majority of drugs may pass through here without being caught. There are some leftovers in the market, and they are also shipped to other provinces. This shows that the route starting from Van to Istanbul and from Istanbul to the Balkan countries is still kept alive.”
‘Does the state want the youth in Van to get rid of drugs?’
Avcı stated that the fact that Van is a city with limited job opportunities forces people to migrate and that some of them try to earn income illegally. Stating that drugs are now entering the school, Avcı continued as follows:
“Van is one of the places where drugs are consumed the most in Turkey. Mostly methamphetamine is consumed. Families face serious problems because of this. Families are afraid to send their children to school. Because families see schools as places where their children get used to drugs. So what is the state doing about it? Does the state want the youth in Van to get rid of drugs or does it want to take a measure to cut the supply of drugs in Van? I don’t think they want that sincerely. Because a society infected with drugs is a society that has lost its antennae. It is a society that can be manipulated. It is an ineffective and faint structure. Therefore, instead of a youth who reads, develops and produces, a youth who is involved in drugs, harms each other, destroys their future and can be controlled and even used for certain crimes is unfortunately something that some people may want. Van’s special situation is partly due to this.”
‘Van is a risk factor’
Sociologist Osman Turgut, President of the Association of Let the Colors of Life Not Fade, stated that when the statistics of the United Nations are examined, Turkey ranks second after Iran among the countries where drugs are seized the most. Turgut stated that Van’s socioeconomic statistics are proportional to drug use and trafficking. Turgut said:
“Van has a population of close to 1.5 million. Young people make up 45 percent of this population. However, it is among the most backward cities in terms of employment. In terms of development, we know that Van unfortunately ranks fifth from the last in Turkey. In terms of secondary education, it is below the average of Turkey. When we look at it in the context of the cyclical conditions, Van constitutes the risk factor. When we look at the prisons, we see that the number of people inside due to drug trade and use is above the Turkey average. We know that close to 66 percent of those in T-type, F-type and M-type prisons in Van are inside because of this.”
Among the cities with the highest drug trafficking; Stating that Van came after Edirne, Istanbul, Izmir, Adana, Malatya and Diyarbakir, Turgut said, “Substance addicts in Van were going to different provinces and receiving treatment until 2012. At that time, when we look at the Istanbul – Bakırköy AMATEM, we see that the third province with the highest number of applications was Van.
‘The age of drug use has dropped to 10’
Turgut also stated that the age of drug use has decreased in Van and continued as follows: “In the Substance Addiction Workshop organized by the Van Metropolitan Municipality in 2015, there were statements that the use of drugs decreased to the age of 10 in Van. As an association, we know that our 10-year-old drug addicted patients are formed in line with the work we have done in Van. In this regard, rehabilitation centers should be established in our province urgently.”
‘AMATEM was built outside the city and in a hard-to-reach place’
Stating that the Alcohol and Substance Addiction Research, Treatment and Training Center (AMATEM) and Child and Adolescent Substance Addiction Treatment Center (ÇEMATEM) were opened in Van after 2012, Turgut also touched upon the problems experienced in these centers. Turgut said, “Unfortunately, our hospital was built outside the city and in a place that is difficult to reach. These centers need to be in more accessible places. Because we look at these patients as a whole. There should be a center where both families can be made aware of substance abuse and patients can be treated. Here, it is necessary to increase the number of doctors and the motivation of the staff. It has some shortcomings. One of the most important of these is that the laboratory is not operational. Urine analyzes of the patients are taken and they are taken to the Van Training and Research Hospital, and the patient has to wait there throughout the day. We think this is not true. Also there needs to be a canteen there. Patients may not find water there sometimes. Meals are served only to staff and inpatients,” he said.
‘Why isn’t there a rehabilitation center in Van?’
Pointing out that substance abuse is a public health problem, Turgut stated that the lack of counseling centers and rehabilitation centers in Van should be eliminated and said: They have centers. But why isn’t there a rehabilitation center in Van? We declare that the number of our substance addicts is increasing day by day. There was a project we carried out before. Within the scope of this project, we were providing 15 different courses to our drug addicts. This model, which can set an example for Turkey, was closed by the Provincial Health Directorate in 2016.”
Translator :Akif Coşkun