The extremist ISIS — now calling themselves the “Islamic State” — have left a bloody trial of mass murder in their advance across large swaths of northern Syria and Iraq over the past three months, slaughtering and enslaving Christians, Shi’ites and others deemed to be heretics. It is hardly surprising that they’ve been taking a tough line on cannabis.
ISIS militants have posted footage on the Internet showing their men burning cannabis fields in the Syrian governorate of Aleppo. The video, online at The Telegraph, shows men cutting down the plants in a large field, making a number of piles, dousing them with a flammable liquid and setting them alight. ISIS claim they discovered the farm after having captured the town of Akhtarin from the rival Free Syrian Army in recent weeks. The militants claim the farm owner fled over the nearby border with Turkey, according to Huffington Post.
The Syria Deeply blog, which supports the opposition to both ISIS and Syria’s dictator Bashar Assad, notes that a cannabis economy has taken hold in the country’s rebel-held north over the past three years of war. The crop has become a key source of financing for a proliferation of armed groups, and nearly all other economic activity has been disrupted by war. The blog reports from the Jabal al-Zawiya in Idlib governorate, a mountain range along the Turkish border. Once famous for growing olives, it is now growing almost exclusively cannabis. “We don’t have jobs anymore,” said Ahmad, a 31-year-old cannabis farmer from the town of Maarret al-Numan. “We have no land, no trade, nothing. If it wasn’t for smuggling, we’d starve to death.”