Adeeb Alshalaf grew up in the neighborhood of Baba Amr in Homs, a neighborhood of both rural and urban character since it had been part of the countryside before it was administratively added to the city of Homs after urban expansion.
Adeeb was influenced by his father, a senior army officer and director of the Military Academy, who urged him to enroll in the academy in 1982 and later join the Ministry of Interior.
Adeeb graduated as a police officer after studying for three years at the Military Academy followed by six months at the Police Academy.
“Sectarianism was strongly prevalent in the Military Academy. About 90% of the students were Alawites, most of whom joined the Ministry of Defense as army officers, and we formed friendships with them that lasted for many years,” says Adeeb.
“From the 1980s until the mid-1990s, the Ministry of Interior was considered a Sunni ministry, and most of its officers and the Minister of Interior were Sunni. However, the situation changed in the mid-1990s, when Alawite officers outumbered Sunnis,” he adds.
In 1986, Adeeb was appointed to the Criminal Investigation Department within the Criminal Security Branch in Homs, a department specialized in detecting all types of crimes, especially unsolved ones. He then moved to the Anti-Narcotics Department, which he headed for five years until 1996.
“Fortunately, organized crime did not exist in Syria before 2011,” says Adeeb. “If that kind of crime had occurred, we would have definitely failed to fight against it because we did not have the necessary means, such as advanced criminal or judicial evidence.”
“For example, during my entire term of service in the police, we were unable to detect a single crime by means of fingerprinting because of the primitive tools used,” he adds. “24 hours after a crime was committed, the expert would say that fingerprints could no longer be collected.”
In the 1990s, drug abuse was rare in Syria. For instance, in 1991, the rate of drug abuse was less than one per thousand, despite Syria being geographically close to Lebanon, a producer of hashish. In the same period, Adeeb was assigned to participate in a training course in the Republic of Egypt and was surprised to learn that the rate of drug abuse in Egypt was 50%.
“On the other hand, the biggest dealers of Captagon pills in the Middle East were Syrian since Syria was a transit country for trucks heading from Turkey and Lebanon to the Gulf states,” said Adeeb. "These dealers were protected by high-ranking officials in the Syrian state.”
The Anti-Narcotics Department could not detect these drug shipments, even if suspicious trucks were inspected. It was very difficult to locate the goods in the truck, unless the entire structure of the truck was cut open, or the exact location of the goods was identified by the detective.
“Drug dealers worked with senior State officials, especially intelligence officers. On one occasion, I was threatened by the Head of the Political Security Branch just for calling a person known for smuggling drugs,” Adeeb says. “If a dealer was caught red-handed, everyone sidestepped and denied any knowledge.”
In 1996, Adeeb was transferred to the city of al-Qatifa in the countryside of Damascus because he refused to succumb to pressure by the Political Security and release criminals arrested for drug abuse.
The Political Security Directorate was considered responsible for the security of the Police Force, and the two organizations were supposed to be under the Ministry of Interior. However, the Minister of Interior had no power over the Head of the Political Security Directorate, who was always appointed by the Alawite community.
“Branches of political security were found in all governorates, and its members were responsible for writing malicious reports against police officers who did not obey their orders,” says Adeeb.
Adeeb believes that the most important reasons for the corruption of police officers were their low salaries compared to the cost of living, and the Political Security’s control of them. Police officers used to pay off Political Security officers so that they would leave them alone.
Adeeb was promoted until he reached the rank of Colonel. He moved from al-Qatifa to the largest police station in Syria, in the Mezzeh municipality of Damascus. He oversaw important neighborhoods inhabited mostly by State officials, such as the Mezzeh Autostrade, Mezzeh Villas and Mezzeh 86, a popular area that was one of the most difficult to work in. Adeeb says, “Mezzeh 86 was a slum area with the majority of its population belonging to the Alawite community and the Republican Guard. Many problems prevailed, such as theft, drug abuse, prostitution and robbery. Most of those involved were former members of Rifaat al-Assad's Defense Brigades or members who had been expelled from the Republican Guard.”
“The Presidential Palace, the Minister of Interior, and even the Prime Minister could have interfered with any problem referred to the Mezzeh department,” says Adeeb. “So, I tried to implement the law and immediately present the public defender with the reports to avoid pressure and mediation.”
Adeeb served as Head of the Works Division in the Administrative Branch in the Damascus countryside from 2007 till 2009. He then enrolled in the senior leadership course and was promoted to the rank of Senior Colonel in conjunction with his appointment as Head of al-Tabqa district in the Raqqa Governorate in 2009.