SOHR exclusive | Narcotics decimate residents of “Euphrates Shield” area
Drug business is “flourishing” throughout Syria, securing sources of income of an estimated hundreds of thousands of US dollars to many players in Syria. Many parties have already been concerned about a potential war because of the rampant trafficking and smuggling of hashish and captagon to Gulf and European countries.
Illicit drug business is widely rampant in areas under the control of the Turkish-backed factions and the Lebanese Hezbollah which support the Syrian regime. Reports have confirmed that narcotics are distributed in full view of regime authorities which share drug dealers revenue of the sold stuffs.
Areas near the crossings of Al-Sukariyyah Al-Saghirah and Al-Tafri’ah have experienced several murders and assassinations between members and commanders of the Lebanese Hezbollah on one hand, and officers of the 1st and 4th divisions on the others because of frequent disagreements over smuggling operations, where the two sides are deployed on the administrative border of villages inhabited by Shammar tribe.
Syrian Observatory sources have confirmed that narcotics are smuggled by senior dealers directly from Manbij to United Arab Emirates, using roads running through “Euphrates Shield” area towards Turkey. Meanwhile, murders have dramatically escalated and continued in an upward trend in that region, especially by members of the dominating military formations, where the motives behind most of these murders are confined to retaliation. In the meantime, residents are concerned about the repercussions of this phenomenon which has become strewn everywhere affecting young people and minors the most.
One example, among many, on the series of assassinations, which followed disagreements over drug business, was that rivalry which took place in Al-Bab area. According to SOHR sources, a man called “Saif Bolad” has been involved in the assassination of “Sheikh Sattam Al-Nawwaf,” the Shammar tribe’s dignitary and the elder of a group of villages, including Al-Tafri’ah village. The dispute expanded further after the assassination of a leader of Shammar tribe known as “Aziz Al-Rahil Abu Qusayy” also at Saif Bolad’s order in Um Shkaif village a few months ago. This dispute had erupted following disagreement over sharing revenue of smuggling operations through the crossings of Al-Sukariyyah Al-Saghirah and Al-Tafri’ah, as well as attempts to impose predominance on illicit drug business which is led by the Lebanese Hezbollah, the 1st and 4th divisions which are deployed on the administrative border of villages inhabited by Shammar tribe.
A few months ago, SOHR source reported that the Turkish-backed Al-Hamza Division confiscated trucks carrying a shipment of millions of captagon tablets estimated to weigh nearly half a ton. The trucks belonged to Faysal Sattam, who is Sattam Al-Nawwaf” cousin, and they were heading from regime-controlled areas to Bizaah area in Aleppo. The confiscation of that shipment had ignited a dispute between Sattam Al-Nawwaf and his cousin on one hand and Al-Hamza Division on the other, which led later to killing Sheikh Sattam Al-Nawwaf. On the other hand, Aziz Al-Rahil was ambushed and killed, after the murderers had cut off his hands, for “attempting to draw down his money from the bank.”
SOHR sources also confirmed that the two crimes were committed by “Qusayy Bolad,” at orders by his brother “Saif Bolad” who paid 2,000 USD to a man called “Mohammed Al-Sa’our” from Douma and a similar sum of money to another man called “Mohammed Al-Ahmar” from Aleppo in return for pleading guilty to the murder of Sattam Al-Nawwaf, so that the “Bolads” could escape accountability for killing Sheikh Sattam. Meanwhile, the circumstances of the death of Aziz Al-Rahil have been kept secret.
It is common knowledge that “Saif Abu Bakr Bolad” was the chief commander of Al-Hamza Division’s Syrian mercenaries in Libya, where he once appeared in a video footage on frontlines in Tripoli, and he also supervised the division in “Euphrates Shield” area in Syria. Saif and his brother Qusayy are prominent drug dealers in “Euphrates Shield” area.
Several types of narcotics, such as captagon, tramadol, zolam and hexol, are widely prevalent in “Euphrates Shield” area. SOHR sources have reported that vehicles of the Syrian Red Crescent are used for smuggling drugs from and to “Euphrates Shield” area. Meanwhile, drug abuse is not confined to a specific age or gender, where nearly 70% of the area’s residents, including lawyers, intellectuals and employees, take illicit drugs. It is worth noting that the punishment of drug abuse in “Euphrates Shield” area does not exceed two months in prison, as well as a fine of no more than 500 USD.
Sadly, police officers, who are supposed to protect the residents from drugs and the serious repercussions of the prevalence of narcotics, are abusers and dealers at the same time. Furthermore security services in “Euphrates Shield” area do not destroy the drugs confiscated during security campaigns with the aim of trading in them for their own favour.
SOHR sources have reported similar violations committed by a major known as “Abu Enad” who is the head of the “Counter-Narcotics Department” of Al-Bab police. According to SOHR sources, the major, who is a drug abuser, loots large amounts of the confiscated narcotics. The man weighs and films the confiscated shipment. However, he does not destroy it according to laws, as he informs Turkish government that his agents have to be provided with specific amounts of the confiscated drugs, so that more dealers and abusers can be uncovered. After getting approvals, the major distributes these large amounts to his acquaintance who sell them under the major’s protection. With this evil plan which is carried out within a legal framework, the major managed to make a fortune.
Observatory sources also confirmed that authorities controlling this area continue their disinformation and to underestimate and mislead the residents through circulating pictures and video clips showing dried mlokhiya, a green plant, the dried leaves of which look like marijuana, in order to cover up the considerable failure of security services to arrest dealers and corrupt officials and put an end to the growing drug business.
In earlier reports, SOHR shed light to the involvement of Iranian-backed militias in drug business, where these militias opened new crossings in the Syrian desert used for smuggling operations between Al-Qa’em and Al-Bokamal areas. Accordingly, this region has become a corridor for smuggling millions of illicit pills towards Homs countryside, then to Lebanon, before having been distributed to other countries around the world. SOHR has been all along warning against the repercussions of drug business in Syria, which targets and affects all Syrians, particularly young people.
Several sources have reported that the rampant narcotic business in Syria is attributed to the instable security, deteriorating social and living conditions, economic hardships and the prevalent numerous armed groups which misuse their power to grow illegal businesses and activities, mostly protected by intelligence services.
The Syrian Observatory have frequently highlighted the serious situation in “Euphrates Shield” area and confirmed that many of the residents, who informed about drug dealers, were humiliated and killed.
We, at SOHR, appeal to all international and human rights institutions and authorities to interfere immediately and put an end drug business which is strewn everywhere across the entire Syrian geography and to launch campaigns to raise the awareness residents, mainly young people and minors, about the perils of drug abuse.