It’s 4/20, and there are whispers of the word “Legalize” floating through the air (among other things). While plenty of folks here in the States are fighting in the soon-to-be-ramped up war on drugs, the war on drugs in ISIS-controlled territories has way higher stakes.
For Mosul resident Mohamed Ahmed Saleh, his personal fight to “legalize” was in the name of not marijuana, but simple tobacco. His enemy: ISIS itself. Sure, smoking kills; but under ISIS’s strict, drastic code, the killing process becomes expedited. Speaking to journalist Rukmini Callimachi, Saleh details his battle for boges as a victim of the militant group’s control.
When ISIS captured Mosul, cigarettes were outlawed and had to be smuggled in. The price of a pack rose from 750 dinars ($0.63) to 20,000 ($17). Unable to afford a single pack on his own, Saleh pooled money with four of his friends to buy one, breaking each cigarette in half to make them last longer.
To mask the scent, Saleh and his friends would brush their teeth and spray each other with perfume. He says that, at one point, and ISIS fighter sniffed him at a checkpoint. If caught, smokers were punished with 20 lashes. Eventually though, ISIS began chopping off fingers, the two used to hold a cigarette.
Upon Mosul’s liberation, Saleh triumphantly chainsmoked 4 packs of cigarettes. To this day, he proudly wears packs of cigarettes in his shirt pocket, and walks around holding cigarettes “because I can.” Smoking is a gross, expensive, dirty habit, but you have every right to do it, especially if it spits in the face of ISIS. In the name of freedom, I salute you Mohamed Ahmed Saleh. Blaze on, sir, blaze on.