The day after the UN released its report on Afghanistan's poppies, finding production down overall but still strong in Helmand province, the Helmand Theatre Group enacted a new short play as part of a theatre festival in Kabul. Locals had packed the hall for the previous performance, Moliere's Tartuffe, and came out strong for the Helmand group's show as well. Afghans are an active theatre audience, laughing loudly and applauding any rich actorly touches, and they were held rapt for the 30 minutes of "Drugs."
The story was simple: a poor, desperate father accepts a gift of poppies for his daughter to become bride of a local poppy farmer. Weeks later, after being beaten and suffering from too much work, the daughter comes running to her mother, sobbing. But her father, knowing that he'd be killed if he were to renege on his agreement, forces her to return. The message is clear: poppies equal power.
And in Helmand, which now produces two-thirds of Afghanistan's opium poppies and supplies about 60 percent of world supply, poppies have never been more powerful.