SOHR exclusive | 12 crossings used for smuggling illicit drugs to SDF-held areas and Iraq
Iranian-backed militias led by Lebanese Hezbollah make a lot of money from drug business in west Euphrates region
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) continues monitoring and tracking all developments of illicit drug business in areas dominated by Iranian-backed militias in Deir Ezzor. In two reports published in September, SOHR presented detailed information of the issues of manufacture of illicit drugs and plantation of hashish in Deir Ezzor, including lists of the militias implicated in this business and the most popular ways of trafficking narcotics in those areas.
In this report, SOHR would like to highlight the issue of smuggling illicit drugs by Iranian-backed militias from areas they dominate to areas controlled by Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), areas held by Turkish-backed factions, Iraq and other countries around the world, and to disclose the most prominent figures who are directly implicated in such operations.
Smuggling operations to SDF-controlled areas
Illicit drugs are smuggled from areas dominated by Iranian-backed militias in Deir Ezzor to SDF-controlled areas in the same province across Euphrates river via crossings linking the river’s eastern and western banks. Iranian-backed militias sell narcotics to local dealers in SDF-held areas. Those dealers sell a share of the smuggled drugs in SDF-controlled areas, while another share is smuggled, with the help of the same dealers, to areas controlled by Turkish-backed factions.
The most prominent river crossings used for smuggling narcotics to SDF-held areas are as follows:
- Al-Abbas crossing: It separates Al-Abbas village from the SDF-controlled area of Hajin in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. It is controlled by the 4th Division under the supervision of the Lebanese Hezbollah.
- Theban crossing: It separates the SDF-controlled area of Theban from Al-Mayadeen in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. It is controlled by Jaysh Al-Ashayer militia under the supervision of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
- Al-Quriyyah crossing: It separates Al-Quriyyah from the SDF-controlled area of Shenan in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. It is controlled by the 4th
- Al-Asharah crossing: It separates Al-Asharah town from the SDF-controlled village of Darnaj in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. It is controlled by Jaysh Al-Ashayer militia.
- Al-Baghouz crossing: It separates the SDF-controlled area of Baghouz from Al-Bokamal city in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor. It is controlled by the National Defence Forces (NDF).
- Al-Beghayliyah crossing: It separates Al-Beghayliyah area from the SDF-controlled area of Al-Jininah in the western countryside of Deir Ezzor. It is controlled by the 4th Division and Jaysh Al-Ashayer militia.
Iranian-backed local militias are responsible for smuggling operations to SDF-controlled areas, under supervision and at orders by Syrian and foreign individuals operating for the Iranians in west Euphrates. Here is a list of the most prominent figures working in illicit drug smuggling to SDF-controlled areas:
- Hamad Hussein Al-Rajab, nicknamed (Abu Ruwaydah): An NDF commander from Al-Jawshinah tribe.
- Amir Al-Haj Awwad: A commander in the military security service.
- Hassan Muhaysen Al-Orwah: An NDF member.
- Abd Hassan Al-Orwah: A member of the 4th
- Hossam Muhaysen Al-Orwah: A member of Jaysh Al-Ashayer militia.
- Nasr Ahmed Al-Orwah: A member of Jaysh Al-Ashayer militia.
- Omar Said Al-Hassan: A member of the 4th
- Yehya Mohammed Al-Assaf, nicknamed (Abu Tallas): An NDF commander from Al-Bosaraya tribe.
- Munzer Mohamed Al-Shamali: A member of Jaysh Al-Ashayer militia from Al-Bakara tribe.
- Anwar Amir Al-Shamali: A member of Al-Baqer Brigade from Al-Bakara tribe.
- Abd Al-Kareem Hajem Al-Basheer: A member of Al-Baqer Brigade from Al-Bakara tribe.
- Abdulqader Hajem Al-Basheer: A member of Al-Baqer Brigade from Al-Bakara tribe.
- Muhannad Hajem Al-Basheer: A member of Al-Baqer Brigade from Al-Bakara tribe.
- Mohamed Saad Al-Basheer: A member of Al-Baqer Brigade from Al-Bakara tribe.
- Fares Al-Afis: A commander of Al-Baqer Brigade from Al-Bakara tribe.
- Hussein Ahmed Al-Younes: A member of Jaysh Al-Ashayer militia.
- Alaa Amjad Al-Younes: A member of Jaysh Al-Ashayer militia.
- Dahham Hussein Al-Ghadban: A member of Jaysh Al-Ashayer militia.
- Tarrad Abdullah Al-Shaweesh: A former member of the International Security Forces.
- Hammadi Abu Malak: A member of the 4th
- Salem Jaber Al-Fayyad: A member of the 4th
SOHR sources have confirmed that those individuals work for tycoons who have recently become famous for running drug business in Deir Ezzor, such as Mehana Faysal Al-Fayyad, who is a member of People’s Assembly of Syria from Al-Bosaraya tribe, and Madlul Al-Aziz, who is also a member of People’s Assembly of Syria and the president of Al-Fetewwah sports club. It is worth noting that Madlul Al-Aziz has created a great fortune from smuggling oil as well.
Revenue of smuggling operations is shared by Iranian-backed militias, which get 50 to 60 percent of the total revenue, influential figures, who get 30 percent, and smuggler, who get ten percent.
Observatory sources have reported that smuggling operations to SDF-controlled areas, mostly conducted late at night, are funded in various ways. Meanwhile, the most common way used for evading detection of narcotics is putting narcotics in boxes used for transporting chickens, where these boxes are delivered to local drug dealers in SDF-controlled areas, who are “collaborators” with and relatives of Iranian-backed militiamen.
Drug smuggling to Iraq
Running of illicit drug smuggling operations to Iraq is confined to specific Iranian-backed militias: IRGC, the Lebanese Hezbollah and the militias of “Al-Abdal” and “Asayeb Ahl Al-Haqq” which are affiliated to the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). Such operations are directly run by military commanders of those militias, the most prominent of whom are the following commanders:
- Haj Mahdi: An Iranian commander.
- Abu Retaj Al-Iraqi: The leader of Al-Abdal militia.
- Abu Ahmed Al-Iraqi: The leader of Asayeb Ahl Al-Haqq militia.
- Haj Aby Safi Al-Lobnani: A commander of the Lebanese Hezbollah.
- Haj Hussein Ali Hussein: An IRGC commander.
The ways of smuggling narcotics to Iraq depends on the quantity of narcotics, as small shipments of captagon and “ice,” aka “crystal meth” or “H-bose,” are transported in military vehicles affiliated to those militias, via military and unofficial crossings under their control, where these vehicles are not stopped or inspected. The large shipments, however, are transported by trucks under heavy guard by military vehicles of those militias, after narcotics are packed in large bags used for rice and sugar and in vegetables and fruit boxes to evade detection. The Iranian-backed militias claim that the heavy guard which escorts the trucks aims at protecting “vegetables and fruit” from being robbed by bandits.
The most prominent crossings, which Iranian-backed militias use for smuggling illicit drugs to Iraq, can be distributed as follows:
- The military crossing in the south of Al-Bokamal city run by the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces.
- An unofficial crossing in Al-Hirri village on the Syria-Iraq border run by the Lebanese Hezbollah.
- Al-Sekak crossing which is located to the west of Al-Hirri village on the Syria-Iraq border and run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
- Akashat crossing which is located in Al-Bokamal desert on the Syria-Iraq border and run by the Iraqi Hezbollah.
- Al-Sanjaq crossing which is located in Al-Bokamal countryside on the Syria-Iraq border and run by the Iraqi Hezbollah.
- Al-Huwayjah crossing which is located in Al-Bokamal countryside on the Syria-Iraq border and run by the Lebanese Hezbollah.
SOHR sources have confirmed that the narcotics en route to SDF-controlled areas and Iraq are stored in specific sites whether in the laboratories where they are produced or in highly-guarded warehouses. Here are the most prominent sites of storing illicit drugs in Deir Ezzor:
- Warehouses and civilian houses, which had been taken over by Iranian-backed militias, in Al-Mayadeen city.
- Warehouses in Al-Khazanat and Al-Mazare’ areas on the outskirts of Al-Mayadeen.
- Civilian houses, which had been taken over by Iranian-backed militias, in Al-Qusour and Al-Ommal neighbourhoods in Deir Ezzor city.
- Warehouses in Hatla area in Deir Ezzor countryside.
- Warehouses on the outskirts of Al-Bokamal city in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) emphasises that the situation in areas controlled by Iranian-backed militias in Deir Ezzor province is too serious and warns against the considerable risks and unwelcome repercussions of the rampant narcotic business. SOHR confirms that Iranian-backed militias continue exploiting the extreme poverty and dreadful living conditions in areas under their control and recruit more young and adult men, turning them into tool serving Iran’s interests in Syria, mainly illicit drug business which is the most major sources of income for Iranian forces and affiliated militias in Syrian territory.
SOHR also vows to continue monitoring and tracking the issue of rampant narcotic business in Deir Ezzor and to disclose all implicated figures and entities with the aim of curbing this business.
We, at SOHR, address a recommendation to all actors, all Syrian tribes in Deir Ezzor in particular, to launch local campaigns for raising the awareness residents, mainly young people and minors, about the perils of drug abuse.
We also demand all international authorities to intensify their efforts to curb Iranian-backed militias’ activities in Syria and put an end to their violations against civilians.