Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Exclusive - Drugs Invade Syria through Help of Militias

Exclusive - Drugs Invade Syria through Help of Militias

Monday, 8 April, 2019 - 06:30
A man who fled Manbij city smokes a cigarette after arriving in the areas SDF forces seized on the outskirts of Manbij city, Aleppo province, Syria June 8, 2016. (Reuters)

The war in Syria has helped drug smugglers infiltrate the country, creating a new generation of abusers and addicts to compound the misery of people suffering from eight years of conflict.

“Our country has become a scene for hashish and drug mafias,” a taxi driver told a woman who asked why a new restaurant in Damascus was named The Godfather, like the name of the famous American movie trilogy about a mafia boss.

“Every mafia boss thinks he’s a godfather,” said the driver.

The war helped drug traffickers and smugglers increase their activities, he explained.

“Several new restaurants and cafes have recently opened up across Syria. They are financed by money laundering and the spread of drug and cannabis addiction in society,” he revealed.

In the past, the Syrian regime used to turn a blind eye to the increased drug trade, especially across the Lebanese-Syrian border that is controlled by Lebanon’s Hezbollah party.

Now, it has started to notice the negative impact drug abuse is having on society. There has been in a rise in theft, murder and prostitution among the youths and adolescents.

Drug addiction has spread throughout Syria and has started to even affect school children.

The head of the Department of Drug Control in the Syrian Ministry of Health, Majida al-Homsi said authorities uncovered several cases of drug abuse in schools and some universities located in the Damascus countryside.

The Department has no accurate statistics about drug users in Syria, but Homsi said that the major suppliers have been uncovered.

Not a day passes in Syria without news that the Narcotics Department at the Interior Ministry has arrested a drug dealer or seized an amount of cannabis, narcotics or captagon pills.

In less than two weeks, operations have led to the arrest of drug smugglers in each of Damascus and its countryside, Homs and the al-Rastan region.

Reports have revealed that smugglers are adopting innovative methods to conceal their goods, such as in baby milk containers or medical equipment.

The operations have led to the confiscation of some 257 kilograms of cannabis in two weeks.

Sources in Damascus told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Interior Ministry announced the arrest of small drug dealers, who cover the crimes of bigger dealers, who benefited from the years of war to earn millions of dollars.

“There are two principal sources for drugs: Either through the opposition-controlled areas in Idlib coming from Turkey, or from Lebanon,” the source said.

It added that after Hezbollah controlled the Syrian-Lebanese border in the Zabadani, Qalamoun and Qassir regions, the party opened the area for the trafficking of drugs to the port of Latakia.

One student in Latakia revealed that drugs can be easily obtained by texting a dealer through the WhatsApp messenger app.

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