Syria: Masked men arrest drug dealers in city of Suweida

Syria: Masked men arrest drug dealers in city of Suweida
Unknown, masked men in Suweida have been cracking down on drug dealers, reports say, in a city which has long suffered from the illicit trade.
3 min read
04 June, 2023
Captagon is a cheap but highly dangerous amphetamine pill which has a large market in the Gulf [Getty/archive]

A group of unknown masked men have been arresting drug dealers in southern Syria’s city of Suweida where the trade and use of narcotics has witnessed a boom in past years amid chaos and instability.

The masked men have been seen storming houses and surrounding vehicles, capturing wanted drug dealers without violence.

Up until the start of June, five people were arrested on charges of drug trafficking and abuse, and handed over to Syrian regime authorities, the source told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

A relative of one of those arrested told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the masked men promised her that they would put her relative in a rehabilitation clinic to help him recover from drug addiction.

She indicated that the group belonged to a large local faction, based on what they told her when they stormed the house. However, there is no confirmation from any faction or official body as to the status and affiliation of these people.

Since the start of the conflict there in 2011, Syria is said to have become a narco-state, with the multi-billion-dollar captagon industry dwarfing all other exports and funding Bashar al-Assad’s regime and many of his enemies.

Captagon is a cheap but very dangerous amphetamine pill, which has a large market in the Gulf. It is smuggled through Syria’s neighbouring countries and has been a cause for condemnation and diplomatic crises between regional states.

Following Syria’s return to the Arab League earlier this month after a 12-year suspension, Arab countries have pressed Damascus to curb drug production and smuggling.

Residents and militant factions in Suweida, a largely Druze city, have for years complained of the large spread of drug gangs in their communities. Tensions have very often led to armed clashes, and they have called on Russia – a major force in Syria – to expel Iranian and Iran-backed militias from the region promoting the use and trade of captagon and other drugs.

But the latest measures in Suweida have risen questions on the motives behind these arrests, as some have claimed the regime is only doing this to improve its image and send a message to regional states that it is taking serious measures to combat drug trafficking.

Civil activist Hani Azzam told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that following Jordanian airstrikes on the house of prominent drug dealer Marei Al-Ramthan in Suweida earlier this month, many analysts believed Syrian regime authorities would step up efforts to rid the region of drug dealers.

But all expectations and rumours that drug dealers were disappearing and them leaving Syria were false, he claimed.

Jordan has warned drug lords in southern Syria - with which it shares a border and has largely been affected by the illicit trade - to hand themselves over or face a similar fate to that of Al-Ramthan.

Lebanon has taken efforts since a diplomatic rift with the Gulf in 2021 to clamp down on drug rings and has shut down several drug factories in recent months, reports say.

Iraq, neighbouring Syria to the east, has also voiced its concerns to Syria regarding cross-border trade.