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A scarlet letter for drug dealers

Published time: May 24, 2011 05:02
Edited time: May 24, 2011 16:18

Although Russian authorities are stepping up the war on drugs – for some progress has been lagging. Activists have taken the fight into their own hands – marking “sellers of death” with scarlet paint to serve as a warning to drug dealers.

The “marked” dealers, they say, will have to hide from the public. Some are skeptical about their methods, others even accuse them of hooliganism, but the anti-drug vigilantes argue that their form of justice is worth it if it helps save even one life.

It’s said that all is fair in love and war, and perhaps even more so in the war on drugs.

Drugs kill 2.5 million people every year across the globe and almost 250 men, women and youngsters every day in Russia alone.

Some are fighting their own controversial battle against the threat.

Posing as customers, they arrange to meet drug dealers and, once they are satisfied that the suspect is a drug pusher – they serve them with what is known as a “black mark,” something of a misnomer since the act of throwing a water-proof red dye in the individuals face leaves it red for three weeks.  

“People have to know their enemies, what they look like. Moreover, these people will be afraid to go out next time, because next time the police might be there, not just a “dye-attack”,” says anti-drug activist Daniil Shamanov.

These activists are not alone in their unconventional methods of fighting against drugs in Russia.

Their “colleagues” from the “Drug Free City” movement have been accused of torturing addicts after they used handcuffs to force them to kick their habit.  They have also been known to mark suspected drug dealers houses to shame them in the community.  

“It is our uprising against drug dealers. Do you think it’s better to sit at home and watch how the drug dealers are killing you? We managed to unite our forces and declare war on drug dealers,” says Evgeny Malyonkin from the “Drug Free City” movement.

Sociologists say mob justice occurs when people become disillusioned with official efforts.  But the public taking the law into its own hands is an unwelcome trend.

“There are a lot of enthusiasts, who are striving to eradicate this horrible evil by any means possible. But when their actions don’t comply with the law, the law is against them. For sure, we can eradicate this evil, but only by legal methods,” says Nikolay Kartashov, an official from the Federal Drug Control Agency.

According the report by the International Narcotics Control Board, there are currently over five million drug users in Russia. This number has almost doubled in the last decade alone.

Vast amounts of money is being blown on stemming the demand for drugs and treating addicts – but statistics are gloomy to say the least.  

Moscow activists will continue to throw red dye into their “foes” faces – marking them – to stop the menace which is threatening their country.