Crime & Justice

Jordan kicks off drug awareness campaign

By Mohammed Ghazal in Amman


Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah kicks off the Tahseen initiative during a June 26th event coinciding with the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. [Photo courtesy of Abdullah's Facebook page]

A new Jordanian awareness initiative seeks to protect young people from the dangers of illegal drugs amid an alarming rise in cross-border smuggling attempts from Syria.

In addition to safeguarding youth from the obvious dangers posed by addiction, the campaign is teaching them that drug smuggling harms society in other ways as its proceeds are often used to arm extremist groups, experts told Al-Shorfa.

Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah launched the Tahseen (Immunisation) initiative during a visit to the Nour Youth Centre on June 26th, which coincided with the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

Tahseen is an initiative of the Crown Prince Foundation. It is being implemented and administered by the Royal Health Awareness Society (RHAS), with participation from the Ministries of Education and Youth, the Drug Enforcement Administration and several addiction treatment centres and institutions.

The initiative aims to protect young people from the dangers of drug and tobacco addiction, and focuses on the implementation, in schools and at youth centres, of educational programmes that promote the acquisition of life and social skills.

The RAHS and the Ministry of Education will roll out a number of educational preventive programmes under the auspices of the Tahseen initiative in about 100 public schools during the upcoming school year, programme officials said.

This will begin with training school counsellors and teachers to implement the programmes, which will be expanded to include all the kingdom’s directorates in the coming years.

Increase in cross-border smuggling

The initiative comes as attempts to smuggle in drugs from Syria are on the increase.

On June 27th, Jordanian border guards foiled an attempt to smuggle in drugs from Syria, destroying a vehicle in the process, Jordanian media reported.

Jordanian forces seized 6.2 million Captagon pills -- an amphetamine -- and 1,692 palm-sized sheets of hashish during the incident.

Jordanian armed forces continuously are foiling attempts to smuggle large quantities of drugs into the kingdom and across it into neighbouring countries, said military expert and retired officer Maj. Gen. Adib al-Sarayreh.

"Jordan is a passageway and not a headquarters for drugs," he said. "But armed groups and gangs in Syria and Iraq are trying to exploit the chaos in those two countries to ramp up their attempts to smuggle drugs to Jordan and from Jordan to neighbouring countries."

The kingdom has long borders with Syria and Iraq, he said, which makes it difficult to fully monitor the border.

"Armed gangs and groups are actively attempting to smuggle drugs from Syria and Iraq in order to buy weapons, as the drug trade is an important source of funding for those groups," he said.

This is why educational and awareness-raising initiatives such as Tahseen are so important in combating drug abuse among the kingdom’s youth, he added.

Awareness critical

Al-Balqa Applied University sociology professor Hussein al-Khuzai told Al-Shorfa that there needs to be an increased effort to raise awareness about the danger of drugs, particularly among young people.

"The number of drug users in Jordan is 14,000," he said, noting that young men account for the majority of users.

Of the drugs smuggled into Jordan, he added, around 90% pass through to neighbouring countries.

Drug use is most common among youth over the age of 12, al-Khuzai said, adding that drug use largely spreads due to imitation and poor parental oversight.

Efforts to raise awareness must be continuous, co-ordinated and unified to bring about the desired change, he said, adding that places of worship, schools, universities and civil society organisations each play a significant role.

"This issue concerns every Jordanian," said Bassim Rashid, a financial manager at a private company in Amman.

"As a father of two, I am now constantly worried because gangs and drug smugglers target the youth, who are the future of the nation," he told Al-Shorfa.

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