Death Sentences to Drug Dealers… If They Dont Support the Regime

Critics argue that the regime's actions in combating drugs appear to be primarily motivated by a desire to deflect Arab pressure, al-Modon says.

Research centers have raised concerns about the measures implemented by the Syrian regime to address the drug industry and smuggling. Critics argue that the regime’s actions in combating drugs appear to be primarily motivated by a desire to deflect Arab pressure, rather than a genuine commitment to curbing drug trafficking from Syria.

Submerged characters 

Karam Shaar, the director of the Syrian program at the Observatory of Political and Economic Networks, has disclosed that the Syrian regime has handed down numerous death sentences “in absentia” to Syrians accused of drug trafficking. Notably, Shaar revealed on Facebook that all the sentences targeting fugitives involved “obscured” individuals. Meanwhile, the regime has taken no substantive action against well-known figures at both local and international levels, such as Wassim al-Assad—a relative of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Wassim al-Assad, along with his relative Samer al-Assad, faced US and European sanctions for their alleged involvement in smuggling Captagon.

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Shaar contends that these death sentences in absentia serve as a tactical move to showcase the regime’s purported commitment in addressing the drug issue, particularly in Arab countries. Despite extensive work by the Networks Observatory on the drug issue, Shaar emphasized that not a single identifiable figure has been linked to the names sentenced to death. Simultaneously, the regime has failed to hold accountable or take any measures against prominent figures overseeing and managing the drug industry.

Questioning the effectiveness of these measures in convincing countries demanding serious action against drug manufacture and smuggling, Shaar asserts, “The regime realizes that the likelihood of believing its demonstrative practices is low, especially since the Arab Gulf states are fully aware of the regime’s role in drugs.” Shaar further exposes “undeclared” collaboration between the Syrian regime and certain Arab countries targeted by drugs, revealing that the regime contributed to the seizure of some drug shipments in Saudi Arabia by providing information. However, he adds that Saudi Arabia is cognizant that the regime’s cooperation is a means of circumvention—simultaneously supporting some drug traffickers while selectively reporting on others to create an illusion of genuine anti-drug efforts to Riyadh.

Protected Traders 

In addition to the issuance of death sentences in absentia, the regime’s media persistently reports daily news of arrests on charges related to drug involvement, raids on manufacturing “dens,” and seizures of drug quantities. Lieutenant Colonel Abdullah al-Najjar, a researcher in security issues, highlighted to Al-Modon that pursuing and combating drugs is a standard practice in all countries, involving the arrest and sentencing of users and promoters. However, he emphasized that attention should be drawn to the fact that, in the case of the Syrian regime, these procedures predominantly target smaller figures and networks.

Najjar pointed out, “The names proven to be involved in the production and manufacture of drugs enjoy protection from the Syrian regime, including Iran-backed militias and certain formations within the regime’s army, such as the Fourth Division led by Maher al-Assad.” Echoing these concerns, Youssef Hussein, a member of the Free Syrian Bar Association, asserted to Al-Modon that “the regime’s actions against drugs primarily focus on members outside its controlled drug system.”

Hussein added that the regime appears to be selectively targeting “uncontrolled” networks to create an illusion of comprehensive control over the drug trade. This, he suggests, is an attempt to deceive countries into believing that the regime is actively addressing the issue, despite the widely known fact that the regime has become reliant on drugs as a source of funding—a reality no longer concealed from public knowledge.


This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.


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