Black Crack in Iran

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ISBN-13: 1000121

by Aslon Arfa
Text by Steffen Gassel

Iran / Drugs
7.25 x 10 inches
144 pages
132 full-color photographs
ISBN: 978-1-57687-554-4
by Aslon Arfa Text by Steffen Gassel Iran / Drugs Hardcover 7.25 x 10 inches 144 pages 132 full-color photographs ISBN: 978-1-57687-554-4

Tehran has a drug problem. On the streets, in back alleys, and in small, crumbling low-cost apartments, Iranian crack addicts are finding their fix in steadily rising numbers. The crack—a term used to describe many types of crystallized narcotics—currently flooding the streets of Tehran is different from that found in the West in a significant way: the “black crack” in Iran is made from heroin, not cocaine.

With neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan still ranking as world leaders in the production of poppies and their derivatives, and the demand for these products increasing daily, the flow of these drugs into Iran has been hard to stem. Despite severe consequences for possession, distribution, and trafficking, new customers are picking up needles and pipes at an alarming rate. Intent on documenting the plight of these masses of addicts, Aslon Arfa struck out into the underbelly of modern Tehran, camera in tow. The results of his mission, compiled here in Black Crack in Iran, are devastating images of men and women in the midst of a downfall. Some, including a young man with glazed eyes and infected burns stretching across his torso, are closer to the bottom than others.

Creating an accurate picture of daily life in Iran is a difficult task, and depicting addicts even harder. Due to strict religious and moral codes, even photographing a woman inside her home without a scarf covering her head is all but impossible. Add to the equation the shame of addiction, the misunderstanding and disapproval of drug use by outsiders, and the lack of trust from suffering people whose sickness is also a crime punishable by death, and the massive difficulties in completing this project become apparent. Yet, after months spent in the trenches, Arfa has succeeded astoundingly with Black Crack in Iran. The results are raw and humanizing, offering hope through exposure for an otherwise hopeless group of people.

Aslon Arfa was born in Tehran, in 1970. When he was 17, he became a photo assistant for Kamran Adle (a noted Iranian photographer) and worked with him for several years. Arfa studied Atomic Physics at Tehran University, but after graduating he started working as a photographer for Danestaniha magazine, where he worked until 1998. He also worked for an Iranian newspaper for a year and spent another year working for Iranvich Daily. Arfa has worked on several journalistic photography projects, documenting such subjects as women in the Peshmerga (Kurdish military forces) of northern Iraq, the life of Afghans in Northern Afghanistan, the repatriation of Afghans from Iran, and Iran’s martial arts. His pictures have been published worldwide in several magazines and newspapers including Newsweek, Time, Paris Match, The New York Times, Stern, Der Spiegel, Panorama, L’Hebdo, and Le Figaro.