Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Uighuristan, Part 5

We continue from Part 4 reviewing Tackling China's quiet killer: Feature on the AIDS epidemic in China's Xinjiang province (we pick up the transcript where it recaps some of Shmxunir's words about her situation):

"I don't think too much about myself, but whenever I think of my daughter, I feel great pain."

Shmxunir (translated): He wanted to go to school, but his father couldn't afford his schooling. So, he went to polish people's shoes and he met some bad people. He learned to take drugs from those people.

Charlotte Glennie: Adil Kasim is a HIV-positive ex-drug user who is now a community educator. He tells a similar story.

Adil Kasim, HIV sufferer and community educator (translated): In this area, there's a young man who used to study at a Kashgar sports school. After one year his family couldn't afford his schooling. He was very angry. When he returned to home, he started to smoke the hashish for a while.

Charlotte Glennie: Here in one of Yining's poorest areas, Adil Kasim works at one of several drop-in centres funded by the Australian government.

Drug users are given clean needles and syringes as part of the $18.5 million aid project.

Adil Kasim (translated): In the past there were lots of abandoned needles on the street, lots of young people use those needles. And it causes the spread of HIV/AIDS. This phenomena was very common. Knowing this, we travel and visit people, educate them and make sure one person has one needle.

I had seven or eight good friends, they were all infected by AIDS from taking drugs and they died. It's meaningful work, it's good. This work can save my ethnic people.

Charlotte Glennie: Before being introduced to heroin, Adil Kasim was a successful photographer.

Adil Kasim (translated): At that time, no one told us clearly that somebody could get infected by sharing needles or even die. So, all that was in our minds was to take drugs. We were not aware of the danger of it.

"In the past there were lots of abandoned needles on the street, lots of young people use those needles. And it causes the spread of HIV/AIDS."

Charlotte Glennie: Few people took any precautions. Since this AusAID centre opened three years ago, 160 AIDS deaths have been recorded in a neighbourhood of 42,000 people.

There are 85 AIDS orphans here, and one per cent of pregnant women are HIV positive, with a combined area of this neighbourhood and two equally poor suburbs nearby.

But things are changing. Dr Kim Wheeler lives in Xinjiang and is in charge of the aid project.

She says employing ex-drug users contributes enormously to its success.

Dr Kim Wheeler, AusAID project leader: It's just the most remarkable experience here because of the enthusiasm at all levels. And that's really reflective of a lot of change that has happened. I think it is... the enthusiasm is there because the policy is there and the environment is there to enable people to make a difference.

Charlotte Glennie: In Xinjiang's mosques, devout Muslims have been forced to confront some grim realities. Drugs and sex outside of marriage are strictly forbidden in the Koran, but in a major break from tradition, imams have begun teaching HIV prevention during prayers.

Abdureh Mankaray, Taranqimasqit Mosque imam (translated): Drug dealers bring drugs to tempt young people. What these people are doing is hurting each other. We educate them using the teachings of the Koran not to hurt each other, and ask them to stop what they are doing.

Of course, Beijing's policy has been to prevent young people from attending mosques until they are 18.

And, in a region where Islam is persecuted and under-funded, we know the Saudis are just out of sight, ready to turn on the petrodollars to build Islam -- but, the price the Uighur people would pay in return is their souls, as Saudi Arabia's hateful and violent brand of Islam would destroy Uighur culture far more thoroughly than any effort of the Communist Chinese.

Then, there are the narcotrafficking Al Qaeda and Taliban, closely related to the Saudis ideologically -- they would offer both poisons.

Charlotte Glennie: In Xinjiang's capital city Urumqi, police say heroin consumption has increased seven-fold in as many years.

The average monthly wage here is less than $US200. Yet, we're told some drug users are spending nearly $800 a month on heroin. Many are poor and out of work so they turn to crime to feed their addiction.

This is very common. Junkies will do just about anything to get their next fix.

Here's a question: If you could wave a magic wand, and interdict, say, 60% of the drugs going into your city, would you?

Most of us would do so without hesitation.

If you did that, though, what would happen to the price of drugs on the street? Supply goes down, while demand remains the same....

How do drug addicts pay for their drugs? Street crime.

If you interdicted the flow of drugs into your city, supply would go down, the price would go up... and what would happen to street crime?

In an effort to wean people off drugs, the government is setting up methadone clinics. Police have agreed not to arrest drugs users within 200 metres of a needle exchange centre. Before this program started, drug users were always harshly punished, usually with compulsory detox or re-education by labour.

Still in Yining alone, hundreds of drug users are currently incarcerated. Drug traffickers are mostly executed.

"Drug traffickers are mostly executed."

I wonder if they're getting the high-level drug traffickers? (Not likely.)

"We educate them using the teachings of the Koran not to hurt each other, and ask them to stop what they are doing."

Dr Mai Mai Ti Ming (translated): Combating drugs and keeping people away from drugs will still take a long time. Historically affects people's health and lives in Xinjiang, it affects the health and lives of healthy young people. We're deeply worried about this.

Charlotte Glennie: On the outskirts of Urumqi is a busy truck stop where 3,000 drivers a night stay from all over China. Dozens of prostitutes work here and AusAid is trying to avert another AIDS crisis.

They're giving out free condoms and providing safe sex education, helping sex workers become more assertive.

Prostitute 1 (translated): We are very alert to AIDS. If a client asks not to use a condom, we don't accept him.

Charlotte Glennie: Like drugs users, commercial sex workers have also traditionally attracted hefty punishment in China, but police are becoming more lenient.

Prostitute 2 (translated): Before when the police found condoms in my bag, they would question me endlessly, suspecting I'm a prostitute. Since this program began, I take condoms with me anytime.

"The next transmission of course is maybe to women or men, partners, sexual partners who are also extraordinarily vulnerable."

Charlotte Glennie: But the great danger now is that HIV/AIDS is creeping into the community at large.

Dr Kim Wheeler: The next transmission of course is maybe to women or men, partners, sexual partners who are also extraordinarily vulnerable. But they are very hard to reach, so you must connect programs together to enable those people who are silent and potentially vulnerable as the next phase to try to protect them as well.

Charlotte Glennie: Shmxunir has joined a community theatre group to educate women about drugs and HIV.

Adil Kasim has also taken up acting to try to reach out to as many people as possible. He says those most at risk now are people in remote villages who still often share needles and don't use condoms.

Adil Kasim (translated): All of this work is only done in urban areas. I think it's very necessary to extend our scope to work in rural areas and villages.

Charlotte Glennie: Across the whole Xinjiang region, eight out of 10 people living with HIV/AIDS are Uighurs. But Kim Wheeler says achievements to date make her cautiously optimistic.

Dr Kim Wheeler: Culturally, I think they're very strong. I think that they are people who have shown us how to work in this environment, and that has meant that we've been able to effect change I think.

It's a sinister combination: getting people hooked on heroin, and sucking money from them, even as heroin and AIDS compete to suck the life out of them and their communities.

Stay tuned to Stop Islamic Conquest as Uighuristan continues!

1 comment:

Faheem said...

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