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Syrian Smugglers' Operations Booming in Jordan

  • Alex Pena

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Northern Jordan - As violence has intensified in Syria, the smuggling business has boomed. A recent trip to northern Jordan near the Syrian border showed how the dangerous practice of dissidents smuggling food and medicine to injured and famished people in Syria is thriving.

Overlooking Syria's southern border from Jordan, Ahmed Al-Masri is making plans to cross it. He leads a group of Syrian smugglers who risk everything on a daily basis to bring supplies into the country. From an undisclosed safe house on the Jordanian side of the border, Ahmed explains why they take the risk.

"Everybody inside Syria needs everything from outside. They need food. They need medication. They need some communication machine like a satellite phone," he said.

Clothing, food, medicine needed

This storage facility is filled with donated clothing. Some will be sent across the border to Deraa, just a few kilometers away.

In another safe house, rooms are full of medical supplies. This doctor, who chose not to show his face, fled from Syria two months ago. Now he works with smugglers to supply doctors inside the country with life-saving tools and medicines.

"So in this, three small packages, we put in one big package, and we smuggle it through the border," he said.

The group supplies three field hospitals inside Deraa and a few others elsewhere in Syria. They send items ranging from gloves and bandages to tools for surgery.

"Everything for three small surgeries and about 20 patients is found in this package, and it is not heavy, and it's easy to carry," said the doctor.

High stakes, dangerous conditions

In one of the safe houses, Ahmed's boss, who asked to remain anonymous, is arranging to smuggle more supplies north, and people south. If they are caught in Syria, he said, they will be arrested and maybe killed immediately.

In the few kilometers from the Jordanian border, they face snipers and land mines placed by Syrian forces.

"We have so many friends killed in his job, and so many arrested - maybe 35 or 36 now," said Ahmed.

Ahmed was in Deraa when recent uprisings took place. His activism got him arrested, and his family has been threatened, but he continues the work.

"If I were scared, and my friends were scared, nobody would do this thing. We must do it," he said.

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