Dealing Drugs in Saudi Arabia Is Stressful
“Abdullah” sounds nervous over the phone. He nearly didn’t want to talk to me in the first place, even though I’m not using his real name in this article. His paranoia stems from the fact that a close friend was recently arrested for possessing some of the hash Abdullah had sold him, and now he believes the authorities are “out to get” him, too. Which is why he’s recently shut down his Facebook, deactivated his email account and gone into hiding from the mutawa—the country’s religious police.
I’ve been an expat in Saudi Arabia for almost 15 years, so I’m well accustomed to how frustrating its hardline Islamic restrictions can be for secular people trying to live their lives. However, this doesn’t compare to the dangers of doing what Abudllah does and illegally importing or selling drugs or booze, crimes for which perpertrators can be thrown in jail, lashed, or even publicly executed. Increasingly, the mutawa are the ones responsible for finding and catching those deemed guilty of these crimes against Sharia.
Regardless of the law and the heavy penalties for breaking it, liquor and many other illicit substances are available in Saudi Arabia—it’s just a question of knowing where to look. A rare study on the topic, published by the World Health Organization in 1998, found that 24 percent of patients at a hospital in Riyadh had abused alcohol. More recently,WikiLeaks exposed the royal family’s wild parties, which include liquor, cocaine, and prostitutes.