Enab Baladi – Aleppo countryside
Terms like “missiles and their fillings” are circulating in opposition-held areas in the eastern countryside of Aleppo, but they do not always carry a military meaning. The missile is the “weed cigarette” and pills and the narcotic substances are the “fillings” .These substances have become a widespread “fatal” problem that security and military forces in the area are trying to fight.
The confiscations of pep grain and Captagon have reached a peak in cities bordering Turkey such as Jrabulus and Azaz. In terms of quantity, the seizures varied from eight to ten thousand drug pills that have stimulating effects and whose consumption may end up with addiction.
In an interview with Enab Baladi, the Commander-in-Chief of the National Police and Security Service in northern Aleppo, Major General Abd al-Razaq Aslan al–Laz, stated that “in the previous period the National Police confiscated around 3500 of various kinds of narcotic substances, along with approximately 500 grams of weed, 50 Grams of heroin, 10 grams of the deadly cocaine substance, and 300 soda-plus pills.”
Where do Drugs Come From?
Weed, locally known as “cannabis,” is the most important type of drugs whose cultivation and trade was active mainly in areas controlled by ISIS, in addition to “Tramadol” pills of which a 50 milligram pill weights around 225 milligrams.
Major General al-Laz explained that the narcotic substances “are distributed by people who sell them in the northern rural areas. The police forces in Azaz observed some distribution hotbeds that took the region of Afrin as their den. He accused “the regime and groups belonging to ISIS and PKK for promoting and encouraging this”.
The police chief referred to “secret dens, cars and public and private means of transport through which drugs are transported, after they are carefully concealed so as not to attract attention, in addition to smuggling them on boats through the Euphrates River under the pretext of fishing.”
The Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) and al-Assad forces encircle the northern region of Aleppo countryside and Afrin area, considered as the city’s western gate, which is controlled by the People’s Protection Units, while al- Assad forces and the supporting militias are controlling the southern region of the borders of al-Bab city in eastern Harb, along with the border with Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) in the area of east Manbij.
According to the Major General, “drugs enter through the crossroads between the liberated northern countryside and areas of Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) militias on the one hand, and al-Assad regime on the other, in addition to the amounts stored before the deployment of police forces in the region that have been left after the period of anarchy that prevailed earlier.”
However, military sources stated to Enab Baladi that “important officials affiliated to the military factions operating in the northern countryside of Aleppo are charged with facilitating the entry of these substances and are paid for that.”
“The security barriers deployed on the main roads in the region,” these sources claim, “contribute to this trade by tolerating and turning a blind eye on the quantities that enter mainly from al-Assad’s regime-held areas as part of the medical supplies needed by the region’s pharmacies.”
Lands Planted on the Euphrates Both Sides
In addition to trade and smuggling, the “Sultan Murad” division, one of the “Free Syrian Army” factions operating in the region, confiscated a land in early June planted with “cannabis” weed in the village of Jatal that administratively belongs to the city of Manbij. The one-dunam land was planted by one of the displaced people in the region.
The commander of the “National Police” clarified that “a field planted with cannabis (weed) and situated on the banks of the Euphrates River was discovered and is going to be fully destroyed. The farmers will be inferred and brought to justice.
He referred to the measures taken by the “police” to set up confiscation lists for drug users, traffickers and dealers, identify the amounts they possess and “submit their files to justice to receive the punishment they deserve. The court would assess their situation within the legal frameworks.”
He stressed out that police forces are also working to launch an awareness campaign in the northern rural areas to warn people about the dangers of drugs, pointing out that “the cooperation of citizens is vital so that we can put an end to this phenomenon.”
He explained that, “the police forces have criminal security departments that are deployed in all regions and are specialized enough to accurately follow up this issue. This phenomenon will start to shrink in a short period of time.”
From his point of view, “suspicious activities are still going on but are limited to some individual action by some people who are weak enough to sell their souls and their homeland to the devil or to alien entities to cause its social structure to disintegrate.” He also stated that “this is just a phenomenon that can by no means be compared to organized crime.”
What is the Reason behind the Marketability of Drugs?
Within the same context, the young man Ali al-Ahmed from the town of Dabiq in northern Aleppo attributed the propagation of drugs and cannabis in the region to “the weakness of the religious faith of most young people, in addition to the narrowness of the lands that are under control and the limited spaces they offer as the region has become almost entirely besieged by Syrian Democratic Forces and al-Assad’s Forces.
He considered that “the propagation of this phenomenon is a main reason behind the damage inflicted upon the consciousness of young people and society in northern Aleppo.” He called on the military factions operating in the region to “impose the harshest possible punishment upon cannabis and drug users as it is the responsibility of the factions and the polices alike.”
However, according to the Major General Abd al-Razaq Aslan al–Laz the main reason behind this recent propagation is the cheap prices of such substances that are sponsored by “anti-revolution” groups in addition to “the number of citizens who have become addicts during the period of anarchy that corresponded with the total absence of any regulatory authority at the time.”
This phenomenon takes its toll on all aspects of life, and it would smash the social fabric if it develops to the level of organized crime. That’s why social workers and specialists are warning people before it is too late.
Drug consumption increased in Syria during the war years, as neighboring countries stopped cargoes of drugs more than once along their borders with Syria.
Fighters and militants are at the forefront of the consumers of stimulants, because of the way they boost their enthusiasm during the battles.
Some of the people who have been wounded in the battlefield addictively resort to to pharmaceutical drugs to alleviate their pain as they can’t undergo urgent operations or receive proper treatment.
The absence of a solution in the short run in Syria and the dissemination of depression among Syrian youth is one of the main reasons behind the use of drugs.
There are no accurate statistics on the propagation of the phenomenon among the Syrians. However, the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Interior published in 2014 statistics showing that they confiscated more than 500 kilograms of narcotic cannabis, 27.5 kilograms of heroin and 4066 kilograms of raw materials used in the manufacture of narcotic pills, in addition to more than two million tablets of Captagon (…) and a ton of cannabis seeds.
The Syrian regime’s justice institutions receive more than 60-70 cases related to drug use and marketing even though they are operative in just one quarter of the Syrian territories.