Robert Pittman/William Breathes.
Reports from Turkey this week are that they have broken their all-time record for drugs seized in a single operation, when anti-smuggling and organized crime agents from the Diyarbakir Police Department uncovered over 23 tons of weed – a stash roughly the size of a full grown killer whale, testicles and all.
The record-setting sting occurred in the southeastern region of Turkey, in the district of Lice, just a leisurely drive to the border of your choice; Syria, Iraq, or Iran. Lovely.
The same area saw a 10-ton pot bust just last month, and the region is known for heavy terrorist activity, which authorities cite as justification for the full air support and military-style raid by 24 teams on 7 separate locations in the 23-ton round up.
Labeled as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), spent decades as public enemy #1 for the government when it comes to drug trafficking – a charge they continue to deny. But with the drums of war beating in neighboring Syria, Iraq left in unrest, and Iran still being ruled by cruelty, demand for the funds generated by the region’s cannabis trade are in higher demand than ever.
Thirty years of internal violence between the Turkish authorities and the PKK has led to over 45,000 deaths on both sides, and generations raised on revenge. In July, however, a cautious peace settlement was reached between the two, which not only stemmed the violence, but has led to these multi-ton seizures.
This latest bust, which tore down a 5000-hectare growing operation and netted 516 arrests, took a 23-ton stash worth 6-million Turkish Lira ($3-mil U.S.) off of the mean streets of Lice.
Just since May of this year, the Turkish government has carried out 198 such operations, and claims to have destroyed 47,893,000 cannabis plants in that time.
Governor of the Diyarbakir Province, Cahit Kıraç, knows how important the support of the locals is, as he presides over an area that is estimated to be about 90% Kurdish. “As long as our people do not support our operations”, says Kıraç, “we cannot achieve any success.” He knows the challenge before him, but refers to the government intervention in the drug trade as a “human duty”.
Marijuana, known locally as “esrar”, is a popular drug in Turkey, and laws are very lax regarding personal consumption and simple possession. A little under an ounce will run you somewhere around $80, and $50 will pay off pretty much any Turkish piggy.
Toz esrar, or hash, is much more popular with the locals, as the buds are literally more of a cash crop, harvested to be exported throughout Europe. In fact, authorities found the 23-ton super stash packed in shipping containers that the traffickers typically bury underground until demand comes calling. That made it easy for the cops who backed up a few big rigs and took the record setting haul back to an evidence room the size of a brontosaurus’s…well, you get the drift.