A groundbreaking documentary by the BBC titled; “Syria: Addicted to Captagon” exposes the dark underbelly of the thriving Captagon drug trade in the Arab world. The investigation reveals the significant threat posed by this illegal and highly addictive amphetamine, highlighting its impact on regional stability. With alarming statistics and harrowing accounts, the documentary sheds light on the involvement of Syria’s powerful Assad family and the regime itself in a multi-billion-dollar enterprise rooted in the country.
The scale of the illicit trade is staggering, with security services around the world intercepting around half a billion captagon pills in 2022 alone. Valued at an estimated five billion dollars annually, the Captagon market wreaks havoc on societies, leaving addiction, crime, and shattered lives in its wake.
Jordan, a key transit point for Captagon trafficking, has experienced a surge in drug-related crimes. The documentary introduces viewers to Yasser, a former addict who shares his firsthand experience with Captagon’s destructive effects. Determined to protect his family, Yasser recounts his journey of hitting rock bottom and fighting to break free from addiction.
The investigation uncovers a complex web of connections between drug smugglers and the Syrian regime. The Assad family is Implicated in facilitating the trade, particularly Maher Al-Assad, the brother of President Bashar Al-Assad and commander of the powerful Fourth Division military unit. Insider testimonies suggest complicity of officers associated with the Assad family in the internal movement of Captagon within Syria’s borders.
An incident involving a military pickup truck, carrying a valuable cargo of two tons of hashish and three million Captagon pills is highlighted. The truck crashes en route to the coastal city of Tartus, revealing the involvement of Samuel Zareeq, a former state security officer from Qardaha, the Assad family’s hometown. The surviving brother, Hossam, was subsequently arrested on drug trafficking charges.
High-ranking officials within the Syrian regime are extensively involved in the Captagon trade, as revealed by testimonies. Thriving networks of factories operating in regime-controlled territories produce vast quantities of Captagon. Proceeds from the drug trade significantly contribute to the financial structure of the Assad regime.
Insights from the General Security Services (GSS), the security apparatus of the authorities in Idlib, a province in northwestern Syria are revealed in the program. The GSS reports successfully seizing over three million Captagon pills in recent years. Despite being a stronghold of the revolution, Idlib remains vulnerable to the drug trade plaguing Syria. The GSS is determined to disrupt the networks involved in drug trafficking, acknowledging that sources of drugs exist in both regime-controlled territories and the liberated areas.
Intercepting drug shipments, including a recent incident involving a truck carrying hundreds of thousands of Captagon pills, plays a crucial role in protecting Idlib and countering the drug trade that directly impacts the region. Authorities in Idlib have stopped numerous attempts at drug smuggling, further underscoring the undeniable link between the drug trade and regime-controlled areas.
The prevalence of numerous factories in these regions, exporting drugs through Latakia’s port to neighboring countries, underscores the ongoing fight against drugs by the GSS, whose operations not only disrupt the drug supply chain but also reveal the complicity of high-ranking officials within the regime. The battle against drug trafficking in Idlib plays a critical role in safeguarding the region and addressing the broader issue of the Captagon trade in Syria.
The international community has taken notice of the dire situation, as evidenced by the Arab League’s recent decision to readmit Syria after 12 years of expulsion, conditioned on concrete actions to address the drug trade. The Captagon trade’s revenues far surpass Syria’s state budget, underscoring the regime’s dependence on these illicit funds.
The film makes an urgent call for action and international cooperation to tackle this pervasive issue. Inaction would have dire consequences, with lives being destroyed and regional stability at stake.