Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Anti-Narcotics Responses in Jordan

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Anti-Narcotics Responses in Jordan

Article excerpt

Jordan has long been an important transit route for the smugglers of illicit drugs. As in much of the Arab World, fears are rising over increasing local addiction levels. Amman has been a regional leader in admitting the existence of such a problem. Official state responses have tended to focus on the supply side, through the provision of resources for law enforcement. Since the early 1990s the Kingdom has struggled to establish an institutional response capable of dealing with all aspects of the problem. But Jordan has garnered international prestige by satisfying minimal external requirements for addressing the narcotics issue.

Since the 1960s, narcotics have come increasingly to be identified as a major challenge to Western societies. Until very recently this view tended not to be shared by the countries of the Middle East, especially the Arab World. If the attitude that prevailed across much of the developing world at the time was that the globe could be neatly divided into three types of states with regard to illegal drugs: producer countries; transit countries; and consumer countries, then the core states of the region hardly seemed to merit consideration in terms of any of these categories. Moreover, it was widely believed that a combination of tight kin structures and high levels of religious piety made such societies largely immune to the spread of narcotics.

The story of narcotics in the Middle East has always been more complex than such a view would allow. Some Middle Eastern countries have seen significant cultivation of illicit drugs, most obviously: opium in Turkey until 1975 and in Iran until the 1980s; hashish in Morocco and Lebanon until the present. Likewise, the large-scale consumption of such substances in countries of the Middle East is a historical fact, for example hashish in Egypt and the smoking of opium in parts of rural Iran. Some of the northern tier countries, notably Turkey, but also Iran, have long been important transit routes into Europe for opium produced in Afghanistan. By and large, however, the bulk of the populations of the Middle East remained untouched by narcotics, and certainly hard drugs (cocaine and heroin), until the 1980s.

This assumption of immunity helps explain the unpreparedness of the region for the steady rise in hard drugs use in the 1980s and 1990s. As has been the experience in much of the rest of the world, responses to the spread of hard drugs in the Middle East have followed a broadly similar path. Such responses have spanned policy complacency, the denial of the existence of the problem, and policy responses concentrated overwhelmingly in the area of law enforcement and the development of a supply-side strategy, to the neglect of demand-side responses. Only in the mid to late 1990s did states in the region begin to admit that they had a problem and that there needed to be an open debate in order to recognise and combat it. Even today the typical response in the region is to be evasive and defensive about the size and nature of the challenge.

It is the intention of this article to explore the issue of hard drugs in the region at the turn of the 21st century. To do so, I intend to look at the case of Jordan, focusing on the nature of the problem in the Kingdom, together with the various and fitful policy responses of the state. The reasons for choosing Jordan as a case study are threefold. First, Jordan, which has throughout its 80 year existence always suffered cross-border smuggling, has emerged over the last two decades as a significant transit country for drugs bound for the Gulf, and, to a lesser extent, other destinations. Recently, concerns have also grown about the local consumption of illegal drugs. Second, Jordan was one of the first countries of the region to end the public taboo on open debate on the subject. Third, Jordan has by regional standards a political environment that facilitates public policy research, from an accessible administrative machine, through a garrulous political class, to relative political pluralism. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.