Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Crime Increases at Hysterical Rates in Syria

Crime Increases in Syria
Syrians walk in old Damascus in front of a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on June 16, 2020. LOUAI BESHARA / AFP

Hussein Al-Zoubi

It seems that the theory of the renowned sociologist Ibn Khaldun still applies to our time, as he says in his book “Al-Muqaddimah“: “When nations fall, many astrologers, beggars, hypocrites, pretenders, talkative people, vagrants, fortune tellers, politicizers, praisers, and opportunists appear. What cannot be confused will be. Honesty will be confused with lies and Jihad with murder. Terror reigns, and people will seek refuge in sects. Falsehood prevails, and righteousness fades, dreams become scarce and hope dies. The sane becomes more alienated, belonging to the tribe becomes the norm, and belonging to nations becomes a path of insanity.”

He also says: “Oppressed peoples’ morals become corrupt, and the longer their individuals are marginalized, the more they resemble cattle, nothing matters except food and instinct.” It is as if Ibn Khaldun says that the entire value system of society has collapsed. Society’s value system consists of social accumulations based on the inheritance of relations between people, which form the societal rules that preserve society’s fabric and humanity. However, this is not the case when nations collapse, and Syria can be described as a collapsed nation if we consider the spread of crime as one of its indicators.

Crime in Syria is growing hysterically in both quantity and quality. Recent statistics issued by the Criminal Security Department in Damascus indicate that 7,500 crimes were recorded from the beginning of 2021 until late September. Hussein Jumaa, head of the Statistics Department in the administration, explains that from the beginning of 2021 until the end of August, 366 murders and 3,663 robberies were recorded. That is only in the areas controlled by the regime, while there are no statistics for other areas.

According to Jumaa, there are no accurate statistics on the type of weapons used. Still, the facts indicate the use of medium firearms and grenades in crimes committed during mass brawls, especially in Damascus.

The official figures had recorded more than 332 murders during 2020, including 50 cases in the bloodiest June alone, according to the head of the General Commission of Forensic Medicine in Syria, Dr Zaher Hajo. In contrast, the number of personal and revenge murders was no more than 30 in Damascus in 2010.

According to the Numbeo Crime Index, Damascus is currently the second most unsafe Asian city after Kabul in Afghanistan, where its crime index scored 68.09 points (out of 120). In contrast, its safety index decreased to 31.91 per cent. For the third consecutive year, according to the website, Syria ranked first in the Arab world and ninth globally in terms of high crime rate in 2021. The ranking relies on several indicators: social security level for residents, crime and theft level, in addition to armed conflict and terrorist threats.

It is worth mentioning that the website’s data ranked Syria in 2019 as the Arab country with the highest crime rate and ranked 16th in the world out of 118 countries.

In 2018, the statistics of the Criminal Security Department in Damascus revealed that 4,274 arrests were made for various crimes, while the number of detainees amounted to 4,736. In comparison, the Ministry of Interior data indicated that 570 murders were committed among Syrian citizens in 2017, mainly in the capital, especially in its countryside.

Legal advisor Rami Zuhair confirms to Fanack that organized crime in Syria continues to grow due to weapons and militias proliferation, such as bandits and outlaws. According to him, the main reason behind this mess is the “deliberate” insecurity and the absence of legal accountability.

In this context, Zuhair points out that the high level of corruption in the judiciary and security institutions and the spread of nepotism have contributed significantly to the rise in crime rates, especially since many criminals realize that they have an opportunity to escape punishment if they bribe officials. Zuhair believes that this state supports creating an incubating environment for crime. He stressed that the spread of drugs, unemployment, poverty, widespread ignorance and homelessness are among the factors that contribute to the horrific reality that Syria is going through in general, accusing the regime of deliberately seeking to disintegrate society.

According to the legal advisor, among the most prevalent crimes in Syria are murder, burglary, robbery, rape, and other crime forms, as well as cases of suicide and honour killings of women by their relatives, in addition to kidnapping for ransom and drug dealing.

Furthermore, Zuhair points out that the Syrian regime’s statistics only include the areas under its control due to the difficulty of scanning other areas, which lack accurate statistics on murders.

It is noteworthy that the Syrian street was shocked last year by a murder committed by two young men in the Beit Sahm area after they broke into a house, handcuffed the house owner, and then raped his wife in front of him. Then, they stabbed him several times, killed his wife and children, stole a sum of money and burned the house. They fled, but the husband’s survival contributed to exposing the crime and the perpetrators.

Drugs, Chaos and Arms

Crime Increases in Syria
Syrian police show seized drugs at the Drug Enforcement Administration in the capital Damascus, on January 4, 2016. A string of major drug busts in Syria and Lebanon has drawn new attention to the trade in captagon, an illegal substance that has flourished in the chaos of Syria’s war. Security forces in both countries have clamped down in recent months on exports of the psychostimulant. LOUAI BESHARA / AFP

Journalist Mohamad al-Owaid holds the regime responsible for this high-crime phenomenon because it issued amnesty in 2011 that released many convicts of criminal offences, arming them and giving them authorities and influence that enabled them to impose themselves in Syria.

Al-Owaid also told Fanack that the regime directly sponsors these crimes committed in Syria, explaining: “The regime forces and its affiliated militias were the first to commit crimes such as summary executions, looting, property theft and rape. Those criminals utilized the advantages they obtained from the regime to significantly expand their criminal activities, especially since many crimes are committed with firearms and grenades, some of which are carried out by former members of the regime forces.”

Al-Owaid asserts that this phenomenal rise in crime rates leaves no room for doubt that there are certain parties, particularly the Syrian regime, supporting these activities, especially since they are the same parties accused of dumping Syrian cities in drugs, which are the main cause of transforming a person into a criminal due to being under the influence of narcotics.

It is noteworthy that Duraid al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad’s cousin, had earlier revealed that the Syrian regime was responsible for drug trafficking in Syria. He wrote on his Facebook page that the drug shipment that was seized by the Italian police coming from Syria last year did not belong to ISIS and that none other than the regime was the culprit behind it, adding: “We want to manufacture paper to salute our national industries, and here it is, the national economy is starting to move again, but then we stuff paper rolls with Captagon pills.”

It is noteworthy that murder and revenge crimes in Damascus and Rif Dimashq governorates exceeded 400 per cent during 2011 compared to 2010, according to Damascus General Prosecutor, Marwan Louji.

According to the semi-official “Al-Watan” newspaper, Louji explained that the increase in murders in the two governorates during 2010 did not exceed 20 per cent compared to 2009, describing this percentage as acceptable within the objective circumstances. Noting that while the number of murder and revenge killings in 2010 did not exceed 30 in Damascus and 220 in Rif Dimashq, crime numbers during 2011 reached thousands, considering that it is a dangerous social indicator by all standards, revealing that the Palace of Justice is overwhelmed with murder lawsuits of this kind.

The Absence of Value System

Journalist and social researcher Fayez Al-Samra told Fanack that crimes exist in all societies and vary in quantity and quality. Some crimes result from compelling social circumstances that led to a psychological disorder that couldn’t be dealt with, not necessarily stemming from a “criminal thought process.”

These disorders cause anger outbursts, in which a person loses his reason and humanity, pushing him to commit a crime against himself, such as suicide, or against others, even those close to him.

Al-Samra believes that living pressures have disintegrated family and social ties and that poverty and hunger pressure people towards crimes, such as theft, murder and kidnapping. He stressed that the war caused a social rift and a humanitarian crisis that changed people’s principles and values, which once were reinforced by social cohesion.

Al-Samra also points out that the regime’s war on its people, as he described it, has dismantled the values of Syrian society, as we find the brother on one side of the regime forces fighting his brother on the other side. There is no longer an all-encompassing value system that controls society members, adding that “whoever fights battles and kills hundreds and thousands, will find it easy to kill individuals during a theft attempt.”

It is not only the numbers that have changed during the bloody decade in Syria but also the quality of the crimes. It is sufficient in this context to mention one of the most horrific examples. Last June, the Syrian Ministry of Interior broadcast the confessions of a female drug addict who also dealt in drugs. She aborted her fetus and kept its body in her refrigerator, only to use it in transporting, promoting and selling narcotic substances, such as cocaine and heroin, by placing them inside the body and between the clothes that cover it.

According to her confessions, she aborted her fetus by taking abortion pills in the eighth month of pregnancy. Then she moved it from the hospital to her home and placed it in the refrigerator, to begin using its corpse to deal in narcotics between the capital Damascus and its countryside.

The woman admitted that she was hiding narcotic substances inside the dead child’s clothes while travelling since no one could think of a mother using her child’s body to transport drugs. After each operation, she would return the body to her home and put it in the refrigerator until the anti-drug security forces arrested her during one of the raids.

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