The arrest of drug dealers is news being spread lately in the north of Syria, and this issue is not being covered in the local press, although it is very important and dangerous.
Drug supply networks are trying to attract their clients by convincing them that those drugs lead to calmness and pressure relief, taking advantage of the hard conditions that people in the north Syria are living in where 90% of them are under the poverty line.
smuggling routes which have been opened with the help of the Syrian government are the main source of drugs, coming from the factories where the Syrian government is dominant and these factories are the biggest manufacturers of drugs in the area.
According to “the Guardian”, a British newspaper, there are lots of smuggling operations that have started at the port of Latakia, it included five tons of Captagon pills found in Greece in 2019, as well in Dubai in the same year, furthermore four tons of weed were found in Port Said in April 2020. The drugs were wrapped in the company branded materials of the “milk man”, the owner of it was the Syrian business man, Ramy Makhlouf.
According to some reports, the Syrian drug networks are international. According to the German newspaper, “Der Spiegel”, the total value of the Captagon shipments was 5.7 billion dollars in 2021, this revenue is much higher compared to legal Syrian exports. The newspaper confirmed that the drugs were hidden in wheels, sofas and even fruits and its source was Latakia’s port that has been under the control of the Assad regime since the 1980s.
Dissemination and promotion of drugs amongst the local community
Syria is one of the most important countries in exporting drugs in the area and in the whole world. The prevalence of drugs in Syria has become noticeable, many Syrians need to escape their traumas caused by the war so they turn to taking drugs. In Syria lots of kind of drugs have been prevalent, the first were captagon, weed, opium, LSD, Baltan and some other similar kinds of pills that relieve pain and stress, according to the locals.
Drugs in Syria are either locally manufactured or from Lebanon through smuggling networks run by Hezbollah and the Syrian Army and some other armed factions in the northwest of Syria which are smuggled across the borders shared by the armed factions.
In the last report done by the “Al Jousour” center, focusing on drug dealing/trading in northwest Syria, it talks about the presence of networks to manufacture drugs under the management of armed factions that deal directly with Hezbollah. Also, there are some smuggling rings that make crystals which are one of the most dangerous kinds of drugs. According to the “Al Jousour” center, “Marii” and “I’zaz” cities are the most important spots for the promotion and spread of drugs in the northwest of Syria despite the security campaigns carried out by the security apparatus.
The report points specifically to areas along the drug distribution routes, the areas controlled by Hezbollah in Nubl, Zahraa and Afrin, in addition to another road between the town of Al-Rai and Turkey, and finally between Manbij and the city of al-Bab. It is noteworthy that the muliplicity of the forces controlling northern Syria led to a deterioration in dealing with the problem from the competent authorities. Despite the security campaigns carried out by the security units leading to the closure of some drug manufacturing and storage places, the scale and number of traffickers prevents the elimination of this organized crime.
Lawlessness, poverty, unemployment, and lack of education are all factors contributing to the prevalence of taking some drugs, especially for the youth as they do not have any hope to live a better life and it is just easy to get the drugs because they are locally made. It is also easy to import them from the areas of the regime in the presence of the Assad regime and the SDF militia.
According to one of the activists that lives there (she prefers not to say her name) who is working on fighting drug addiction in the northwest of Syria, the main reasons for the spread of drugs in the north are the Syrian government and Hezbollah, they work so hard to let drugs into the north of Syria and they sell them through their dealers at very low prices for young people who have dropped out of education and the unemployed in order to destroy the social structure, spread corruption and crime and escalate chaos in the area.
The activist continues by saying that one of the most important consequences of insecurity in the north are the illegal pharmacists that sell drugs without a doctor’s prescription. In some cases, Pharmacists are threatened to sell sedatives and analgesics although these cannot be given to patients if they do not have a doctor’s prescription.
In addition to the security reasons, there are some bad people that sell drugs in order to become rich! A website mentioned that a young man working in the fight against drugs was caught in possession of a small amount of weed and drugs as he was delivering them to his customers, despite the fact that he works in combating them, this prompted the police to arrest him immediately.
Weak prevention and local awareness methods
With the drug prevalence, northern Syria lacks addiction treatment centers and specialized doctors and trained staff, as doctor Houssam Korra Mouhamad, the director of Al Salam hospital says; there are no addiction treatment centers in the north of Syria and it is limited to the psychiatrist’s clinics that give the patients drugs that help in the recovery from addiction, and the responsibility for following up on the case remains with the addicted and their family.
Doctor Houssam adds that they tried to build a center to help the addicts but it did not happen because of the lack of funds and the absence of support from local and international organizations to establish these types of centers, which are increasingly needed due to the rapid spread of the phenomenon of addiction.
As for awareness campaigns, the forensic expert Mouhammad Kahil says that there are annual awareness campaigns under the name; “Help Me to Heal”, which includes filling the streets with banners and distributing brochures. In addition, Awareness lectures are held at the universities in the north, as well as signs in the squares and public roads for the “Help Me to Heal” campaign.
It should be noted that the treatment of addiction can be summed up in three stages: The first is to rid the body of the drug, which lasts for two weeks or up to a month. Followed by the stage of psychological support and at the end of the treatment comes the stage of caution, which varies from case to case according to the cause that led the person to fall into the clutches of addiction.
Kahil adds that the concerned authorities should raise awareness to confront the scourge of drugs and work to introduce the technology component, such as publishing awareness campaigns on Facebook and working on publishing them on platforms with high visibility. Also, working on partnerships with influencers and actors on those platforms to reach the largest segment of society. In addition, the spread of local Turkish television networks must be exploited by using television advertisements, which greatly helps to achieve awareness on the widest possible scale.