With so many overlapping conflicts in the Middle East, it can be hard to keep track of who’s fighting whom, and which former enemies are now finding common ground. Consider the case of Ali Nasri Shamas, who lives in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
Defending his marijuana crop has always been Ali Nasri Shamas’ impetus to fight – that is, until ISIS came along.
Shamas runs a small factory on a hillside in the village of Bouday. Workers sift through huge mounds of dried vegetation, separating stalks from leaves amid a cloud of dust and the din of processing machines.
“This is three tons,” Shamas says, smiling. Three tons of hashish.
For years, the Lebanese government has attempted to end the drug trade in the Bekaa Valley despite the significant amount of money it brings to the area. They even sent an army to destroy Shamas’ cannabis plants in 2007, though he and dozens of his men responded with force.
“That year we were sitting on our land,” Shamas said. “All of the sudden we see the army rolling in. We take our weapons — rifles, Dushka machine guns and RPGs — we hit them with everything.” The Lebanese government mostly backed off from that point on, with their last visit being in 2012.
With Syria engaged in a civil war just across the border from Lebanon, a new threat looms for Shamas’ business – ISIS extremists.
Shamas and his workers have stocked a large collection of weapons, including machetes, machine guns and grenades, in preparation for a potential ISIS invasion. He says, however, that a violent defense is not exactly something new for him and his business.
“We fought everyone,” Shamas said of his experience defending the factory during the 15-year Lebanese civil war. “The Communists, Israel, Hezbollah, the Syrians.”
Shamas has said that although he’s concerned about his business coming under attack, he also cares for the people of his country and would take up arms to defend them against the terrorist group.
“We support every village in Lebanon,” he said. “Christian, Sunni, Shia — whatever they are, we’ll defend them against these terrorists.”
Source: Public Radio International