Dubbed the “jihadist’s drug,” Captagon is quickly flooding the middle East and is claimed to be supply the bloody conflict in Syria. French media recently reported that the Paris attackers might have taken the drug.
Last weekend, Turkish anti-narcotics police confiscate eleven million Captagon pills in a haul that weighed nearly 2 tonnes. it was set to ship to Gulf countries. widely illegal since the mid-eighties, the pills offer an inexpensive and long high and are extremely addictive. They also have the potential to cause mental disease and brain injury.
The production of the drug, which keeps fighters awake over long periods of time, is said to be providing financial gain for all factions concerned in the Syrian war.
During the last year, shipments of Captagon have been seized on the way to the West Bank, Jordan, Sudan, Syria and also the Gulf. In October, an Saudi prince who was arrested for attempting to export two tons of the drug onto a plane.
As Syria has been engulfed in war, smugglers of the little-known, extremely addictive pills have been forced to search out alternate routes through Lebanon.
Lebanese journalist Radwan Mortada has spent ten years investigating crime, corruption, and the war in Syria. In her documentary for journeyman photos, The Drug supply Conflict in Syria, Mortada follows the Captagon path, from users on the battlefields to traffickers on Lebanese importing routes to the kingpins at the top of the provision chain.
“There was no fear anymore”
Since the Syrian war began, police in the region have continued to seize record-breaking numbers of the pills. Lebanon’s biggest haul so far was a whopping fifty million tablets with a street price of $300 million, weighing over four tonnes, on the way to Dubai.
In Mortada’s documentary, men in Beirut are shown crushing the pills and chopping them into lines. They describe the results as “better than cocaine” and “really strong and like morphia — for extremely strong pains.” Their experience points to why Captagon has become the drug of choice for a few Syrian fighters.
“There was no fear any longer after I took Captagon,” one ex-fighter said. “It stops you feeling anything, you know? It makes you numb, numb,” said another, who described the primary time he took the drug as making him feel physically match. “If there were ten people in front of you, you may catch them and kill them. You’re awake all the time,” he said.
Since 2013, Captagon smuggling in Lebanon has skyrocketed. The Syrian war has not only pushed importing through the country, however has allowed gangs to set up makeshift Captagon factories in the country itself.
Mortada’s documentary is the 1st time an illegal manufactory has ever been filmed. It shows the pills being packaged and disguised in packets of tissues. Factory employees reveal that they use vegetables, bread, and hair gel for smuggling in Lebanon’s home-grown Captagon trade.
Shia militant group Hezbollah — currently fighting in Syria for the Assad regime — has also been suspect of being involved in the trade after two factories were discovered on its premises.
“Standing on their feet”
On the surface, Abu Zeus appearance a bit like a wealthy businessman, however he has been funding Captagon factories for years. He fled Syria when the war began and now resides in Europe. It took Mortada months to persuade him to be interviewed.
Described as being at the top of the provision chain, Abu Zeus boasts on camera of a $6 million profit last year from trading the tiny pills. The Syrian brigades that have publicly named him as a benefactor range in the thousands, according to Mortada.
Opposed to each the regime and jihadist groups, Abu Zeus brags of keeping the secular groups in Syria “standing on their feet.’’ He boasts of ‘supporting’ around 12,000 armed men.
He claims the Saudis love the drug as a result of the country’s alcohol ban and admits that selling to them has made him an excellent deal of cash. He’s adamant that his drug profits counter the money from Saudi Arabia that he believes is funding jihadist groups and destroying Syria:
“The truth is that the country that exports terrorism to the middle East and also the protector of terrorism is Saudi Arabia,” he said.
He continued: “The fight isn’t a revolution any longer, it’s a fight between seculars and Salafists — a fight between countries.”
Going a way towards explaining why Captagon is tailor-made for the battlefield — and why some have come to believe the drug after five years of fighting — another fighter described the drug’s effects. He was frank:
“You don’t have any problems. You don’t even thinking about sleeping or leaving the checkpoint. It provides you excellent courage and power,” he said.