Parents in the UAE have told how their teenage children are being spammed with messages on their mobile phones, offering a cocktail of illegal drugs including crystal meth and hashish.
The messages come as Dubai Police are stepping up initiatives to tackle the criminals who target the public through an illicit WhatsApp drug delivery service.
Earlier this year, police revealed 100 such criminals were targeted during a major anti-narctics campaign.
Videos shown to Al Arabiya English from concerned parents, who filmed their children’s screens, show the unsolicited messages and images of an array of Class A to Class C drugs – all strictly prohibited in the UAE – offering teenagers access to narcotics.
“You need this. Good quality and good price. All UAE available,” the caption on one video read, depicting images of narcotics piled high. “Hasheesh, crystal…lyrica etc.”
One mother spoke to Al Arabiya English on the condition of anonymity.
She said her 14-year-old son’s friends received a video on his phone from an unknown number, offering him an array of drugs.
“He was scared, he didn’t want to get into trouble, so he showed them to his dad,” the mother told Al Arabiya English.
Weeks later, her son started receiving the same messages.
“He is always open with us, and he showed us straight away,” she said. “They were messages from WhatsApp. Of course, it was frightening.”
She blocked the number, but days later a different unknown caller then left several voice notes via WhatsApp in Arabic.
“The person was saying, ‘Habibi, I have this, I have that. What would you like? He was offering all different substances,” according to the mom.
“This time I went to the CID at Barsha police station. They told me it is a citywide problem and took the numbers down.”
There she was told to block the numbers of anyone offering narcotics.
The phone numbers, she said, suggested the calls had been placed from outside the country, perhaps from Pakistan or Bangladesh.
“I just want it to stop; my son has been contacted about five or six times,” she said. “It is bad enough in the age of social media of what your son can be exposed to, but when these people are seeking out and finding your children, offering them drugs, it is concerning.”
She continued, “I trust my son completely, but it is still a worry. These are substances no one should be exposed to, let alone a teenager.”
While initially concerned that drug dealers were exclusively contacting impressionable teenagers, she said that she has spoken to several acquaintances who had also received similar messages.
“My friend’s husband has similar messages, even the police officer at CID said he had received the same messages,” the mother added.
There is no legal use for crystal meth, also known as, ‘glass,’ ‘shards,’ ‘ice,’ or ‘Tina’ among those who make, distribute, and use the highly addictive drug, which can damage your body and cause severe psychological problems.
Hashish, also known as hash, is a cannabis-based drug, while Pregabalin, also known by the brand name Lyrica, is an anti-epileptic drug also used to relieve chronic pain. It has been linked to deaths in the UK.
Even very small possessions of medications such as codeine can be deemed illegal in Dubai and can result in imprisonment, fines, and deportation.
Dubai Police has worked closely in conjunction with the UAE’s telecommunications providers, Etisalat and du, as well as the Roads and Transport Authority and the Central Bank to raise awareness of the WhatsApp drug networks as part of a high-profile initiative run from July 15 to November 1, 2021.
Warning messages were sent to millions of du and Etisalat users as part of the campaign.
Dubai Police said hundreds of people reported messages promoting the sale of drugs to its e-crime platform during the initiative.
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