It is hard to predict how this year’s planned destruction of the hashish crop in the Bekaa will play out.
The farmers insist on confronting any such attempt, and the security forces are “determined” to destroy the cannabis crop.
While the security forces continue with their preparations – which include communicating with the owners of agricultural tractors as well as coordinating with the leadership of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF) – hashish growers are adamant that they will “protect their livelihood.”
Fighting the coming invasion is the farmers’ last resort after the state deserted them by “abandoning any attempt to address agricultural problems, support traditional crops, and compensate losses resulting from natural disasters or any downturn in agricultural production in light of the Syrian crisis,” according to one farmer.
Despite the security preparations, hashish growers in the Bekaa are optimistic that the season “will pan out just like I see you and you see me,” says Abu Ali, as he checks the irrigation of his cannabis field and the stems which have grown over 70cm.
As he rubs the green leaf in his hand and smells its strong scent, this 50-something-year old man says that he bases his conclusion on the overall security situation in the country.
“Lawlessness is everywhere and they don’t dare confront anyone, so why should we be any different? Are we lesser mortals?” he asks, adding: “They should feel for us a little bit.”
Abu Ali does not hide the fact that many farmers “sowed their land – no matter how small – with cannabis seeds, because they are convinced the season will pan out,” pointing out that large areas “for as far as your eyes can see have been planted in Baalbek-Hermel.”
Hanna, a resident of a village in west Baalbek, says the responsibility “falls on the shoulders of the Lebanese state and some of its security agencies.”
He accuses these agencies of intimating to farmers that “no one will touch the hashish. Then they scouted the planted areas, took pictures of them from airplanes, and sent them to international institutions to collect funds in order to destroy them.”
Hanna asks political and party leaders to intervene to prevent the destruction operation this year. He refuses to believe that “the decision to destroy the hashish crop was taken by the security forces alone.”
Tractor owners, who are brought in to uproot the cannabis fields, have not been spared from the threats made by farmers.
A written statement distributed last Thursday evening in a number of villages in west Baalbek warned that the farmers “will deal with the owners of agricultural tractors and hired workers as enemies, because they are conspiring against people from their area for a little bit of money.”
The statement, signed in the name of “the wise elders in Baalbek-Hermel,” addressed the state as “an outlaw, that looks at one side only and uses double standards.”
It goes on to accuse the government of releasing a number of people who “killed our sons in the LAF” and points to “the chief of spies and agents provocateurs who remain outside prison.”
A security official pointed out that the relevant agencies “are dealing with the statement seriously.”
He added that they have taken adequate precautionary measures and the law will be applied, saying that “if it is not applied, then it will be a blow to the security institution and to the honor of the Baalbek-Hermel tribes.”
He argued that the purpose of the statement might be to create a rift between the area and the security forces.
As for destroying the hashish crop, the security official confirmed that the operation is still on and will commence next Monday morning, explaining that “various measures were all taken in coordination with the LAF, which confirmed their support for the operation.”
The army has received “maps of the sites and centers where the operation will begin,” the official said.
The security official revealed that the destruction operation will not take off in one center as was the case in past years but “will take off in more than five centers.”
The areas planted with cannabis in Baalbek-Hermel cover more than 150,000 acres, based on unofficial numbers collected by the security forces.
Communication was established with a large number of tractor owners who participated last year (65 tractors), and their number this year might exceed 80 tractors.
The number of security personnel that will be deployed this year, however, decreased compared to last year, from 800 to about 650.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
By Rameh Hamieh