Breaking News
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

Syrian refugees farm cannabis in Lebanon

GlobalDec 22, 2015 12:43
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
© Reuters. The Wider Image: Syrian refugees farm cannabis in Lebanon

By Alia Haju

BEKAA VALLEY, Lebanon (Reuters) - Inside a garage in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley filled with green dust and piles of cannabis, stand a woman and a 13-year-old boy, sifting through the twigs and buds of the recent harvest.

They are Muslim refugees from Raqqa province - de facto capital in Syria of Islamic State fighters - and part of an extended family of about 25 that fled in the past few years to live in tents in the relative safety of a Lebanese village.

The 29-year-old woman, who declined to be identified for safety reasons, left two months ago with her youngest son, 5, to join family including cousins, second cousins and grandparents.

Wearing scarves over their faces to protect them from the crop, the women and their relatives work in fields of the sticky green, spiky-leafed plants. It is a job that migrant workers from neighbouring Syria have done for many years, spending a few months a year in the region before returning home.

Since the rise of Islamic State, it is now a task that could put them, and their family back in Syria, at risk of harm including death because working with, getting close to or consuming drugs and alcohol is considered a sin in Islam, refugees say.

"If Islamic State back home knew we work with hashish, they would cut us" with knives, says another refugee, Aisha, 15.

Hind, a Lebanese landowner, spoke of the longstanding ties between Raqqa and the Bekaa, a broad and fertile valley in the centre of Lebanon.

"Farmers from Raqqa have been coming to work our fields during harvest season for the past eight years," she says. However since the rise of Islamic State, Hind says that the Lebanese villagers tend to view the Syrians with suspicion.

The Syrian woman says she grew cotton on her 10 acres of land in Raqqa, adding that she often encounters racism from locals in Bekaa.

"The Lebanese villagers sometimes call us Daesh," she says, using a derogatory Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

Although what is said may sometimes sound like a joke, she says that she believes that some Lebanese regard Syrian immigrants from Raqqa with caution because of their home region's association with Islamic State.

Growing cannabis can be a lucrative business for landowners, even if it is illegal in Lebanon.

"Any job in Lebanon makes you $700 per month, but working with drugs can get you $10,000 a day," says Sharif, a landowner and grower of cannabis.

The woman earns $16 a day processing the plant, which allows her to send some money back home to her family still in Raqqa.

Living in Lebanon has also given her and other refugee women a measure of freedom they didn't enjoy in Syria, she says.

"In Raqqa I have to be covered from top to bottom, even my eyes are not allowed to show," she says, wearing a tight veil, jeans and long top. "If I went out with what I'm wearing now, I would get a few whips" from Islamic State supporters, she adds.

As she harvests and processes cannabis, the woman constantly thinks of family still in Syria, she says. She aims to get her husband and other son out of Syria to join her.

"It was really hard to flee Raqqa," she says, declining to give details on how she smuggled herself out of the country. The journey took about five days, much of it on foot. "I want my husband and son to get here, that's all I want now."

Syrian refugees farm cannabis in Lebanon

Related Articles

Russia shuts mission to NATO in spy row retaliation
Russia shuts mission to NATO in spy row retaliation By Reuters - Oct 18, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia said on Monday it would halt the activities of its diplomatic mission to NATO after the Western military alliance expelled eight Russians saying they were...

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind: 

  • Enrich the conversation
  • Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed.
  • Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically.
  •  Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and links within a comment will be removed
  • Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user.
  • Don’t Monopolize the Conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also believe strongly in giving everyone a chance to air their thoughts. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email