Syrian refugee boys are passed out on a sidewalk in Istanbul after inhaling "the flame," seen in a plastic bag next to them. Photo: Ahmad Zaza

On the streets of Istanbul, amid the throngs of tourists, a new disturbing sight is increasingly common: Syrian orphans, refugees of the war next door, are turning to drugs.

Dressed in worn-out clothes and often barefoot, these children can be seen staggering around after inhaling a newly discovered substance, nicknamed “the flame.”

Sometimes they are also trying to sell packets of tissues or bottles, their sole form of income. Other times, they have no merchandise to sell and resort to chasing anyone who passes, asking for money and help.

They are just children, filling the street with their noise.

Mother lost at sea

Ten-year-old Omar and his brother, 15-year-old Ali, are originally from the northern Syrian province of Aleppo. They became homeless in 2016, after losing their mother to the sea during an attempt to reach Europe by boat. The two boys were rescued by Turkish ships and brought back to Turkey, but this time with no one to provide for them.

Their situation as orphans on the streets of Istanbul made them easy prey for the begging gangs of the metropolis, according to the elder brother.

Ali recounts their father being killed in a shelling attack in 2014, which prompted their mother’s decision to flee for a safer life in Turkey, and then Europe. After their mother drowned, the boys were placed in an orphanage.

“We faced harassment by older Syrian boys there, and my brother and I had to flee. We started begging in Izmir, then we travelled with one of the guys that we met to Istanbul, where we could make more money by begging,” Ali told Asia Times.

The flame

The two brothers started using “the flame” in Istanbul after watching other homeless children inhale it. 

The flame is the street name for a type of heavy-duty adhesive glue, which is squeezed into a plastic bag and inhaled. A small tube costs just one Turkish lira (under 20 cents), while a larger bottle sells for 4 lira (75 cents). They are widely available in shops and legal for anyone of any age to purchase. This makes the substance a perfect escape for many homeless Syrian children trapped in a painful reality.

Ali explains that the drug takes his mind off the biting winter cold and hunger, as well as the struggles he and his brother faced after their mother’s death.

Ten-year-old Omar soon started using it too, despite his young age.

“When I saw my brother using the flame, I first tried to stop him, but after a while I wanted to try it,” the boy said. 

“Then I felt happy and now I can’t start my day without inhaling it. Sometimes it causes violent coughing, but that goes away quick.”

Mohamed, a resident doctor in Istanbul, says that when inhaling solvents such as the flame, the fumes replace a high percentage of the oxygen in the brain, depriving its cells of oxygen.

The immediate effect of the substance is alertness, which gives a type of high, and then dizziness. Some people experience a loss of balance, confusion, distorted perception of colors, sounds and shapes, and hallucinations. This state lasts (depending on the quantity used) from 15 to 45 minutes but can be prolonged for hours through intermittent use. The more chemicals concentrated in the brain, the faster the loss of consciousness.

In the short-term, the flame can cause severe coughing, headaches, and vomiting. If the substance is inhaled continuously over a long period of time, the doctor warns, it can cause suffocation – or even death. 

In all cases, addiction to this makeshift drug has devastating health risks over time.

Like other chemical solvents, the glue contains toxic elements that rapidly cause damage to the nervous system. Once inhaled, these substances travel quickly to the brain and cause direct damage to brain cells as well as serious skin inflammation and harm the respiratory system.

For an hour of happiness

There are no accurate statistics for the number of homeless Syrian children in Turkey, but there are thousands, if not tens of thousands.

Seventeen-year old Saeed is also from Aleppo. He was forced by the cruel conditions of war to come to Turkey with another young man from his neighborhood. Saeed’s plan was to work and send money back home after his father, the family breadwinner, was killed. But the young man accompanying Saeed from Aleppo stole his money and threw him out in the street. 

Saeed never told his mother what happened to keep her from worrying. Instead, he began begging in the streets.

Saeed says he began using “the flame” six months ago, and it immediately became a daily habit, an indulgence before and after work.

“When I inhale the substance, I lose consciousness. Sometimes I get a headache, but it doesn’t matter.”

The young man says he wants to feel happy “even for one hour” at the end of the day.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now. 

Join the Conversation

21 Comments

  1. Thanks for another informative site. Where else could I get that kind of info written in such a perfect way? I’ve a project that I am just now working on, and I’ve been on the look out for such info.

  2. Greetings from Carolina! I’m bored at work so I decided to check out your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the info you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how fast your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, superb blog!

  3. Excellent goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely wonderful. I really like what you have acquired here, certainly like what you’re stating and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it sensible. I can not wait to read much more from you. This is really a tremendous website.

  4. I really don’t accept as true with this blog post. Nevertheless, I did looked in Yahoo and I have found out that you’re correct and I was thinking in the improper way. Carry on publishing good quality material like this.

  5. There are some interesting deadlines on this article however I don’t know if I see all of them middle to heart. There’s some validity but I will take hold opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we wish extra! Added to FeedBurner as effectively

  6. Very nice article and straight to the point. I am not sure if this is really the best place to ask but do you folks have any thoughts on where to employ some professional writers? Thanks in advance

  7. Have you ever thought about creating an ebook or guest authoring on other blogs?
    I have a blog centered on the same subjects you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I
    know my viewers would appreciate your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an email.
    pof natalielise

  8. I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to reach my goals. I absolutely love reading all that is written on your blog.Keep the aarticles coming. I liked it!

  9. Si alguna vez has alquilado turismo con Tramunta si te decides a reservar hoy para que te lo entreguemos a tu llegada al aeropuerto de Menorca, sabras que nuestros vehiculos son siempre de primera calidad y nuevos, es por eso que en vez de alquilar sin franquicia arrendamos nuestros vehiculos sin franquicia retenida, que es una modalidad considerablemente mas segura para nuestros clientes del servicio.

  10. La historia de LG Electronics siempre ha estado rodeada del deseo de la compañía de crear una vida mejor y más feliz. LG Electronics se estableció en 1958 con el nombre de GoldStar y, desde entonces, lideró el camino hacia la era digital avanzada, gracias a los conocimientos tecnológicos adquiridos mediante la fabricación de numerosos electrodomésticos, como radios y televisores. En 19 0’s Produce las primeras radios, televisores, refrigeradores, lavadoras y aparatos de aire acondicionado de Corea.

  11. El consejo sería que durante los próximos días, vigiles las temperaturas con el termómetro, y en caso de volver a presentar anomalías, llamar al Servicio Técnico oficial, ya que tienes dos años de garantía. Los frigoríficos No Frost, eliminan el exceso de humedad del interior mediante unos conductos (normalmente en la pared trasera) y conectan con un recipiente que se encuentra al lado del motor y evapora el agua.

  12. Hoy los precios en lo que al satélite se refiere son cada vez más ajustados en España donde siempre hemos tenido cuotas por encima de otros países europeos (en referencia a precios de ADSL) como Francia, Reino Unido, Estonia Alemania. Pero ya les decíamos, que quede claro que la banda ancha no compartida por satélite nada tiene que ver con el ADSL, es más eficaz y permite servicios bidireccionales. El problema del Internet por Satelite, es el precio, en paises latinoamericanos, es muy dificil poder pagar este servicio. Me gustaria que se contactara alguie conmigo para informarme de servicios y costos de internet satelital en mi area.

  13. Frigoríficos Siemens no frost con una gran capacidad de congelado y refrigeración de todos los alimentos. Los lavavajillas Siemens tienen la posibilidad de regular en altura las bandejas para así poder poner cualquier tipo vajilla. Los electrodomésticos como secadoras Siemens secan todo tipo de prendas ya que hay una gran variedad de programas tanto para ropa normal y delicada. Informamos que no somos un servicio oficial de Siemens, somos un servicio técnico que está especializado en la marca, capacitado para reparar y realizar labores de mantenimiento y reparaciones. Lavadoras de Carga Superior MADRID, se trata del tipo de lavadora mas economica.

  14. Epígrafe 253.7.- Fabricación de colas y gelatinas y de productos auxiliares para la industria textil, del cuero y del caucho. Epígrafe 255.9.- Fabricación de otros productos químicos destinados principalmente al consumo final N.C..P. Nota: Este epígrafe comprende la obtención de toda clase de piezas en fundición de hierro acero por cualquier procedimiento. FABRICACIÓN DE HERRAMIENTAS Y ARTICULOS ACABADOS EN METALES, CON EXCLUSIÓN DE MATERIAL ELECTRICO. Epígrafe 31 .5.- Fabricación de cocinas, calentadores y aparatos domésticos de calefacción, no eléctricos. Epígrafe 324.1.- Construcción de máquinas para las industrias alimenticias, de bebidas y del tabaco.

  15. En el Servicio Técnico Fagor en Madrid recomendamos que actue con cautela y avise a un servicio de asistencia Fagor ya que seguir utilizando su aparato, si este está averiado, puede empeorar su estado y encarecer la reparación. Lo primero es reconocer donde falla su electrodomestico Fagor despues póngase en contacto con nosotros y solicite la asistencia a domicilio de un técnico para reparar su aparato. En primer lugar, queremos informar de nuestra forma de funcionamiento, ya que somos una empresa que esta ofreciendo servicio técnico desde hace mas de 20 años, lo que nos permite contar con una plantilla de técnicos profesionales en la reparación y mantenimiento de electrodomésticos.

  16. Ya no hablo de como nos pagaron para ser en festivo y en horario nocturno (7,50€ brutos/hora), no menciono tampoco que había que ir un día antes entre semana (día no remunerado) para aprender el manejo del TDI y aguantar una charla de riesgos laborales (unas tres horas), ya no comento que en Adecco prometieron un mímimo de 5 horas que no se cumplió en muchos casos, olvido también a la coordinadora de Adecco que estuvo presente hasta las 22,30h.

  17. A) Cuando exista presupuesto inicial, deberá confeccionarse otro adicional correspondiente a la reparación de la avería defecto oculto no previsto, al objeto de que el usuario exprese su conformidad. El presente Real Decreto entrará en vigor a los seis meses de su publicación en el «Boletín Oficial del Estado». A) La presente hoja de reclamación es un medio que la Administración pone a disposición de los clientes de los talleres de reparación de aparatos de uso doméstico, a fin de que puedan formular sus quejas en el mismo lugar en que se produzcan los hechos.

  18. Muelles Barberá, S.A. es una empresa familiar fundada en el año 1983, dedicada a la fabricación de muelles y piezas de estampación. 2. El éxito de nuestro negocio consiste en el mecanizado y decoletaje de piezas complejas y de alta precisión. Realizamos trabajos de torneado y mecanizado de piezas bajo plano muestra en materiales como el acero, latón ,cobre, aluminio, plásticos.

  19. Por complejo que sea el mecanizado de piezas que buscas en Mettcom podemos ayudarte. Los plazos de fabricación estimados son los mejores que le podemos ofrecer en el momento de realizar el presupuesto de la pieza. También estamos apostando, en materia de fresado, por centros CNC de 5 ejes que, al igual que los torno multitarea, eliminan las segundas y terceras fases, con lo que se aporta mayor agilidad en plazos, al evitar los tiempos muertos inter-fase.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *