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The Qat War - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Qat-users are among those who have fallen victim to the military clashes with the Huthi rebels on the Saudi Arabian border.

Sessions in which intoxicating qat-leaves are chewed will become harder to hold now that the price of qat – which is smuggled into southern Saudi Arabia from Yemen – has risen by more than 300 percent, according to Qat-traders spoken to by Asharq Al-Awsat.

The news of the complete disruption of qat smuggling operations [into Saudi Arabia] is a cause of concern for qat-users. However according to my Asharq Al-Awsat colleagues, Mohammed al-Kaabi and Hadi Faqhi, qat-smuggling operations from Yemen are ongoing despite the intense Saudi military patrolling of the border region.

A security source in Jizan told Asharq Al-Awsat that qat and other drug smuggling operations have decreased by around 50 percent, and that most of these cases take place in the area of Thuwal, south of Jizan. The security source attributed this large decrease to the large-scale deployment of armed forces in the most important area for qat and drug-smuggling.

Despite the fact that this is a war zone and a military theatre of operations, this has not stopped the qat-smugglers from exhausting all possibilities to guarantee the continuation of their supply utilizing other smuggling routes in the area south of Jizan and north of al-Jawa, close to the al-Ardha governorate.

Prices of qat have skyrocketed, and one smuggler claimed “the amount [of qat] that we used to sell for 100 riyals is now selling for 300.”

This was a great scoop by my two colleagues, and the reason for this is that this report delves into the details of the delicate mosaic that make up this scene. We tend to ignore or fail to appreciate many of the complexities of what is taking place [in the Saudi – Yemeni border region] as this is overshadowed by the military advancement and aerial bombardment.

Every major war is made up of a number of different kinds of smaller wars.

Qat-smuggling – and I will not talk about the harmful effects of this drug or the importance of fighting it – brings handsome profits to many families [in the region]. This is an independent industry that has got caught up in the thunderous train of current events. The same could be said about those who smuggle livestock or arms. Economies have been founded upon chaos and lax security, and man knows how to adapt to his surroundings in order to make a living in the shadow [of war].

Away from politics, we must look at the other shadows of major wars, we must look at the background and the hidden stories [of these wars] because have a huge influence on the course and outcome of the war. Arms dealers, qat-smugglers, human and drug traffickers are also involved in this war, not because they believe in the Huthi ideology, but because they and their industry benefit from this. If [Abdul-Malik Badreddin] al-Huthi himself became the central authority [in Yemen] they would fight him, because they only care about themselves.

This leads to another question; why are their interests best served in times of chaos, rather than times of stability, when trade is normally known to flourish?

This is a difficult question and one for another time, as its answer has nothing to do with qat or arms smugglers.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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