home to 25,000 street children
Iran - Thursday
10 August 2000
Agence France Presse
TEHRAN, Aug 10 (AFP) - Twenty-five thousand child squatters, most
of them girls, live on the streets of Tehran, where growing drug
use and prostitution are leading to a social crisis, a member of
the Iranian parliament said Wednesday.
"Social ills such as (drug) addition and runaway girls will
someday plague us all," MP Shahrbanu Amani told a conference
of provincial social welfare officials, as quoted by the IRNA
state news agency.
Amani warned of the consequence of social inequalities on the
young, calling "the unfair distribution of wealth" the
main culprit of Iran's social ills.
Tehran's press in recent weeks has been focusing on the plight of
runaway girls, which it calls "an appalling reflection of the
nation's social and economic situation."
The government-run newspaper Iran charged Tuesday that two decades
of incomplete attention to the problem were to blame, warning that
the social crisis threatened the very fabric of the Iranian
"Parental abuse, divorce, addiction, forced marriages and
social disregard for the young are the main reasons why girls run
away from home," the paper said.
The state daily warned that many girls, lured with the promise of
better lives, leave the country and wind up either in virtual
slavery or as the prey of organ traffickers.
In July, Mohammad-Ali Zam, head of Tehran's cultural and artistic
organization, reported on alarming trends in the Iranian youth.
"Drug addiction is the rage among schoolchildren.
Prostitution has increased 635 percent among high school students
and the rate of suicide in the country has exceeded the record by
109 percent" in the years 1998 and 1999, the cleric said.
Zam added that divorce is on the rise and that the average age of
prostitutes has dropped to 20 years old, compared with 27 a few
The Iranian population, estimated at 62 million, is one of the
world's youngest, with 35 million people under the age of 20.
Iran is a major passing point for drug traffickers, connecting
drug-producing countries -- particularly Afghanistan -- with the
markets of the Gulf and Europe.
About 250 tonnes of opium and its derivatives are seized each year
by Iranian security forces.