Confessions of a Kuwaiti Hash Dealer

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Military jet fighter take part in a military exercise at Udaira military range, 140 km North of Kuwait City, on 26 February 2013 (Photo: AFP - Yasser Al-Zayyat)

By: Haifaa Abbasi

Published Sunday, March 3, 2013

“I do not want to champion what I do...or for people to follow me as an example,” Jarik al-Khayer* says, sipping tea one cloudy winter afternoon. “But lessons may be learned... perhaps indirectly.”

A young Kuwaiti citizen, al-Khayer has been dealing hashish for more than five years. Starting as a petty private dealer buying and selling only a small amount, he quickly advanced to formulating and implementing a business model that efficiently serves more and more customers.

In half a decade, al-Khayer claims to have amassed almost a million dollars in profit solely from dealing hashish.

However, in sitting with him one could not tell that he was wealthy, let alone involved in one of the most vilified and risky trades in the region. Dressed in a dark grey dishdasha, he speaks in a calm, thoughtful manner, always quick to crack jokes about his work and throw out witty turns of Arabic phrases.

“I’m a good person, but I’m mainly driven by monetary gain,” al-Khayer says at the beginning of the interview. “Most people who are associated with monetary gain, and only monetary gain, tend to be of the unsavory variety. But I have a vision of what I want to do with my money once I have accumulated it. I have an agenda, with positive intentions that I want to carry out.”

“What is your overall goal?” I ask.

“I haven’t completely formulated it. It’s more about transferring my money into power for the sake of the greater good,” he replies, in between sips from the steaming cup.

“I mean I didn't think I would thrive and reach the milestones I set for myself, but I seized opportunities,” he continues. “For instance, one of my milestones was to be a millionaire. I took the necessary social steps to get there, such as getting a college education and working at a reputable company with an excellent salary. [Yet] I realized I needed a faster mode. It wasn't easy.”

Entering the Trade

“It was never hard getting rid of hashish. There were always takers,” al-Khayer notes. His clientele, he claims, ranges in age from 17 to 42, with higher consumption correlating to age. This, he muses, is because the older the client, the more likely they can afford the high price.

Despite the significant social and legal risks, drug dealing is a highly lucrative business – and hashish is particularly profitable. According to a survey conducted last year by one of Kuwait’s leading newspapers, al-Qabas, a “finger” of hash, no matter the quality or weight, is priced at around $178.

“I've been smoking [hash] with friends since the days of thanawiya (secondary school). Everyone had their hook-up, but nobody was consistent,” he reminisces. “That's another reason I wanted to take it upon myself to get into the business. I was a consistent person. I was reliable. I wasn't shady like other dealers.”

Consistency, he says, means not only that a dealer is reachable, but relates to the size and weight of a purchase of hashish. In local drug-speak, a piece of hash is designated as a “finger” – it spans the length of an index finger. Yet, due to the underground nature of this market, the size, weight and even what a “finger” of hash is differs significantly over time and by provider.

“[One dealer] I met managed to make it consistent. His sizes were always twice the market size. I could charge double and people were still happy to take it off my hands. But even before I met my main connection [in the trade], I was basically going around trying to be friends with dealers and trying to get more out of them...The problem was trying to score ‘weight’ – I’m talking about a quarter kilo to a kilo,” he explains.

“For a lot of people who deal hashish, it’s at the lower end of their food chain. Every year, there are new drugs on the market. Crystal meth is very big right now. Cocaine. Heroine has been a staple of Kuwaiti lifestyle,” he says.

“I never touched those kinds of drugs. I'm the farthest person to dabble in drugs. Hash is my only vice,” he adds with a faint smile.

He has been approached to sell other kinds of drugs but refuses, he says, because “hash doesn't pose the same health, behavioral, and psychological risks that other drugs do. I do not want to destroy my client. I want my client to get high and be happy – [to] have something for the weekend to unwind with. I'm not looking for them to get hooked. Customer service ensures people comes back.”

Drug use in Kuwait is widespread, as al-Khayer notes, touching all segments of society. Whether it’s crystal meth, cocaine, heroin or hashish, the drug of your choice can be easily found if you know where to look, who to speak to, and more importantly, have the cash to burn. Hashish is perhaps one of the most popular and readily available for general consumers.

The industry expanded considerably in the 1990s following the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait. Government statistics estimate that 75 individuals died from overdoses annually prior to the dawn of the 21st century. By 2011, the number of lethal overdoses dipped slightly to 60 deaths per year, especially after a massive crackdown and millions of dollars poured into rudimentary efforts to combat drug addiction.

Despite these measures by the authorities, including the implementation of a death penalty in 1995 for major drug dealers, the trade is booming: only 10 percent of smuggled drugs have been detected by security forces, the local English-language newspaper Kuwait Times reports.

Most of the individuals involved in the hashish trade are from the lower classes, according to al-Khayer, and hence, the majority of individuals detained and incarcerated for dealing and smuggling tend to be non-Kuwaitis.

“In a country like this, who you know gets you out of trouble. A lot of people doing this kind of business are straight opportunists; they are only doing this for the money, whereas the people that would be able to get out of these problems tend to have money and wouldn't dabble [in the hash business]. It's for the lower class,” al-Khayer says.

Getting Connected to the Source

Al-Khayer’s big break came after being repeatedly ripped off by various dealers. He made the acquaintance of a dealer – or as al-Khayer calls him al-wasta (the connection) – who was interested in building a more personal relationship.

“Al-wasta and I instantly hit it off. We were both hungry to move,” al-Khayer says.

Al-Khayer describes his connection as a middle-aged Bedouin man with a family, who holds a dual passport from Kuwait and an adjacent country. He has been involved in the drug trade for over a decade. Al-Khayer speaks of his connection in friendly terms, noting that he is a pudgy man with a kempt goatee and a slight limp, and is always dressed impeccably.

“For him, it was a family thing. With the Bedu – not to insult them, but they are ultimate hustlers. There are no moral compasses in terms of what to make money from as long as whoever they make money with is not cheated. His family is all into it. But for them, hash is the lowest rung of operations; they are into passport forgery, weapons, arms trade, trying to diversify their income. They always talk about land deals in Saudi Arabia [or] the logistics [of smuggling] into Iraq,” al-Khayer claims.

At first, al-Khayer and his connection would meet and exchange around $1,000 worth of finger hash pieces, which the former would swiftly sell, charging double to his customers. They tended to meet briefly four or five times a week, always during daylight, at two designated safe spots in public – one as a pick-up point, while the other was allocated to drop off the cash owed.

“They were areas in which both of us agreed on, where we knew every inch [and] where if anything goes down, we could try to flee and cover all our tracks,” al-Khayer explains.

Eventually al-Khayer and his connection built trust and a strong working relationship, which eventually opened the door to purchasing larger quantities. The kilos of hash were delivered in shiny aluminum coffee packaging, the product itself stamped with an image of a camel caravan.

Al-Khayer explains that hash blocks in Kuwait tend to come in four shapes. The first is the one-kilo block of hashish; second, and perhaps most common, is the “half-and-half” (two chunks of 500 gram pieces); the third are known as “quarters” (four 250 gram pieces); and finally, and most rarely, are “fivers” (five 200 gram slabs).

Each block has stamps or seals to indicate the “name brand” and quality of what one is smoking.

“There are tons of name brands. Every year there are more. The most popular one is the jamelah (beautiful) brand, which depicts a veiled woman on the packaging with five stars,” he says.

Hash from North Africa or Lebanon is a rare find in the Gulf. What does come through tends to arrive mainly from “factories” in Iran or Pakistan, al-Khayer explains.

“You've got Pakistani hash [and] Iranian hash that's all mixed with Arabica gum [among other things] and a touch of henna to give it that dark brown look. North African hash comes pressed up, is not malleable and has lighter complexions of brown. That doesn't make its way here,” he elaborates. “Iran feeds the region.”

Building an Ethical Business Model

About two and a half years into the relationship, which involved a continual flow of hashish, al-wasta suddenly disappeared without notice.

“I was dependent on him,” al-Khayer muses, after a slight pause. “I was starting to expand into other things in my life and I needed that income. I hate to say it, but I'm homeless in my own country [and] I would like to purchase my own house. It's easier said than done. Real estate prices are ridiculously inflated.”

Suddenly after six months of silence, al-Khayer received a phone call from al-wasta who admitted that he was in prison, detained on charges not associated with drug dealing. Jail, however, turned out to be a godsend for the business.

“A year into his jail time, he and his cellmates started making [plans] together to move huge amounts. Jail was very, very good to him. It kept him out of trouble and he was more entrenched [in the trade],” al-Khayer says. “His stint in jail was what basically propelled us. It got us linked, where I could just make one phone call and summon any amount of hash into the country, delivered right to me.”

Indeed, this claim isn’t outrageous. As the Arab Times reported, “all kinds of drugs are available in the prisons, and trading inside the prison is better than outside because the profit is much more.”

Throughout this whole time, al-Khayer felt protected. He didn’t know his connection’s personal name nor did his connection know his. Everything seemed to be running smoothly. By the fifth year in the business, al-Khayer was paying his connection about $300,000 and turning a profit of $700,000.

“What were the consequences if you didn’t pay him back?” I inquire.

“Nothing – I could have gotten away if I didn't pay him back. He doesn't know where I live. I could have shut down the phone that he used to contact me. But I'd never do that. Never. I appreciate the trust and would never want to abuse or jeopardize it. I see examples all over of how not to be with people,” he answers after some thought.

“It's funny those are the kind of people that survive in the black market – the ones that have honor, honor among thieves. It's the only way that things like this could keep going. Otherwise, you'd have chaos and violence. I don't think our area of the world has caught onto drug trade violence, because there might still be that honor, that code among people,” he adds.

He points out that breaking this code could unravel the whole industry. “I've been told by law enforcement agents I hung out and smoked with, who do not know what I do that there are only two ways to find dealers: by pure dumb luck, or someone snitching,” he says.

“What did you think of the police?” I ask.

Al-Khayer stresses that he doesn’t view them as an enemy. “They are doing their job, and my job is to avoid them,” he replies.

“I try to run it like a tight ship. As long as everyone is happy, and everyone is paid off, it just runs itself,” he says.

“I didn't go blindly into this. There were nights I sat up and thought about this. It just naturally progressed,” al-Khayer says when I ask if he ever regrets entering the business.

“The system is broke. Before the government can even tackle it, they need to figure out how to efficiently solve it in a strategic way. They need to be honest and have a frank, public discussion – not merely threatening death or prison terms. People need to express themselves. It’s a vicious hidden cycle where people resort to drugs. Everyone is to blame for it, even those who don’t take drugs, because they are not educating themselves about it,” he says.

Anyone may be involved in the drug business: from the person you are having lunch with to the person praying right next to you in the mosque.

We say our goodbyes and Jarik al-Khayer – the ethical, inconspicuous hash dealer and humble millionaire – walks away, slipping seamlessly into the crowd.

*Jarik al-Khayer is a pseudonym.

Comments

Excellent interview, and fascinating from the point of view of a British perspective; an ex-dealer from way back in sixties London wjo was busted and served time and I'll never be a millionaire since I lost everything!
It was gratifying what he said about not dealing other drugs and why, that was the spirit I lived by way back in the sixties, and everyone I knew, it was the herb, non addictive, health giving, high mind expansion. The start of environmental awareness, of moving back to the land, of living sustainably and simply in the midst of a technical, capitalis industrial society that was killing the planet.
I thought all that had gone and now it was just about money. Perhaps not. The herb is a global culture that spans everything, surely it's time to cut the crap and legalise it worldwide and for the UN to admit it got it wrong. Then we can start planting to save the planet from climate change meltdown; transformation by hemp which, as well as the very best high ever, can supply fibre for clothes, linens, ropes, canvas [English: can-vas = can-nabis] , oils, varnishes, medicines, uilding materials and so much more, it's hardly begun to be really utilised for humanity's benefit.

Thats one great interview,, i loved it, because people now a days dont inderstand you goy to have morals in what ever crap you are doing, not because you are a dealer or a millionare you have to act in a way that drives others away from you,
All gonna learn how to talk n walk n treat each other from drug dealers to imam masyed

He sound like a great connection, I'd like to invite him to Canada eh
We Love our Hash

Hahaha u better come to kuwait ;D

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