Drug use is rising in Jordan, warns Interior Minister

Mazen Al Faraya says 'we cannot ignore' increase, as kingdom tries to tackle flow of narcotics at Syrian border

Powered by automated translation

Drug use in Jordan is rising, Interior Minister Mazen Al Faraya has warned, as the country struggles to stem the flow of narcotics across its border with Syria.

“Jordan is still a passage for the dealers in drugs, but we cannot ignore the rise in the intake among the sons of our society,” the official Jordan News Agency quoted Mr Al Faraya as saying.

This was a rare public admission of a drug problem in the kingdom.

Mr Al Faraya praised the Jordanian military's role in guarding the border with Syria, the report on Tuesday said.

He did not give details of security operations, nor mention the Damascus government.

The minister was speaking at a meeting in Amman with the anti-drugs committee of the Iraqi parliament.

He told the Baghdad delegation that Jordan's border with Iraq “does not constitute a security burden”, because of “distinct co-operation” between the countries.

In the past five years, southern areas of Syria under the control of President Bashar Al Assad have become the main regional source of narcotics – particularly the amphetamine-type drug Captagon.

Syrian government loyalists and pro-Iran militia took the area in 2018 from rebels who were supported by Western and Arab countries. This followed a deal between the US, Russia and Israel.

Since then, smuggling drugs through Jordan to the wider region has created a trade worth billions of dollars a year, officials say.

Jordan has accused the Syrian military and Iran-backed players in south Syria of sponsoring the drugs trade.

In an interview with Sky News last week, Mr Al Assad denied that his regime had any involvement in the drugs trade.

Jordan's western allies of Jordan have poured hundreds of millions of dollars to help the kingdom fortify its border with Syria.

Jordanian border forces often intercept drug shipments from across the border, sometimes clashing with traffickers.

Amman has supported the Arab world re-establishing links with the Syrian government, partly in the hope of curbing the drug flow.

Mr Al Assad attended an Arab League summit in Riyadh in May, with his country readmitted to the 22-member group after being suspended for 12 years.

Syria's membership was frozen in 2011 in response to the brutal crackdown on anti-government protests that led to civil war.

This conflict has killed more than 500,000 people, displaced millions and devastated Syria's infrastructure and industry.

Security officials from Jordan and Syria met in Amman in July to discuss cross-border drugs problem, though neither side revealed details of the outcome.

On Tuesday, officials from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon met in Cairo with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad.

They issued a declaration saying they looked forward “to continuing and intensifying joint co-operation” with Damascus on curbing narcotics smuggling.

Meanwhile, a Jordanian police spokesman said 13 drug dealers have been arrested in Amman and northern regions in recent days.

Among them is a suspected dealer in Ramtha governorate.

Police said he was found with 115,000 pills and half a kilogram of cocaine, as well as two firearms.

Officers described the suspect as one of the most dangerous drugs dealers in Ramtha.

Updated: August 16, 2023, 1:32 PM