Marijuana growers in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border want to join the fight against Islamic State jihadists, reports Public Radio International (PRI).
The Islamic State (IS, ISIL, or ISIS) has been destroying some marijuana crops, notes the U.S.-based public radio organization.
“The Lebanese army and the hash growers are now confronting the same enemy, because ISIS has also been targeting marijuana crops in Syria,” the article explains. “The group recently posted a video online of militants destroying shoulder-high stalks of bushy green cannabis plants near the city Aleppo.”
“This is very popular in America and Europe,” one of the jihadists says in the video, holding a handful of marijuana leaves, according to PRI.
In somer areas in Lebanon, hash growers have already joined the fight against ISIS.
“When militants attacked a village between Bouday and the Syrian border in October, hash farmers joined in to defend it,” reports PRI.
“Their goal is to put fear in the hearts of people. But for us, ISIS is nothing,” a man, who asked to be called Abbas, told the organization.
For years, the Lebanese government has cracked down on the illicit drug trade in the Bekaa Valley where the cultivation of hash is a big source of income.
Bekaa Valley hash growers, such as Ali Nasri Shamas, have taken up arms to defend their crops against the Lebanese military.
However, “with Syria’s civil war raging just across — and sometimes over — Lebanon’s border, soldiers now have more pressing concerns,” reports PRI.
Hash growers and the Lebanese military now find themselves fighting a common foe.
“Shamas’ arsenal of mounted machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, amassed to defend his crops from the Lebanese army, is ready to be turned against the jihadis,” notes the public radio organization.
“This is for ISIS and [the al-Qaeda-affiliate in Syria] Nusra Front,” Shamas told PRI, showing off a two-foot long machete blade.
Hash remains illegal in Lebanon.
Abbas and Shamas are no strangers to military conflict. They, along with many other hash growers, are battle-hardened veterans of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war
“We fought everyone,” Shamas told PRI, “the Communists, Israel, Hezbollah, the Syrians.”
Shamas, like many other hash growers, is not aligned with a particular sect or political party. He said that his fight goes beyond protecting his crops.
“We support every village in Lebanon,“ Shamas told PRI. “Christian, Sunni, Shia — whatever they are, we’ll defend them against these terrorists.”