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Maraud through the Middle East capturing territory at a breakneck pace? The President’s going to throw some shade at you in interviews. Behead American citizens? We’ll bomb the hideouts you stopped using four months ago back to the stone age. But this, ISIS… this is how you get President Obama into King Hussein “I’ll fly the damn jet myself” mode. From Nabih Bulos, writing in the L.A. Times:
Beheadings have become commonplace in the territories held by the militant Islamic State, but the severed head reportedly found last month in the eastern Syrian city of Al-Mayadeen was nevertheless unusual — It had a cigarette placed between its lips.“This is not permissible, Sheikh,” someone had scrawled in Arabic on the decapitated corpse lying nearby, according to an account from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitoring group. The body and head belonged to an Islamic State official, a deputy police chief.
It goes on:
From consuming alcohol to cursing, vices of all types are frowned upon by Islamic State.
But it is the militants’ injunction on smoking, in a region rife with chain-smokers and water-pipe aficionados, that may be the hardest habit to kick. (About half of Syrian men and one in 10 women smoke, according to the World Health Organization)
Shortly after the group’s takeover of large swaths of Deir Elzur province in eastern Syria, Islamic State began to close tobacco shops and shutter the ubiquitous water-pipe cafes.
For those of you keeping track at home, lighting up a Marlboro=punishable by death. Lighting up another human being=ISIS employee of the month.
“There is a lot of smuggling going on,” said Abu Mohammed, a Raqqa-based activist who uses a pseudonym for security reasons. “There are many ways to do it,” he explained via Skype. For instance, smugglers hide cigarettes inside cans or in sacks of flour or stuff them inside bags of Arabic flatbread.
More innovative was an approach pioneered by a truck driver making regular runs to the Iraqi border town of Qaim, where there is no smoking ban. Once there, the trucker would strap cigarette packs to the wings of carrier pigeons for hassle-free home delivery to Raqqa, some 175 miles away, according to an account on an opposition news website on Facebook.
See, this is why George W. Bush was right about the importance of nurturing liberal societies in the Middle East. In America, that trucker would be in the C-Suite at Amazon.
Even many of Islamic State’s own recruits have buckled under the strain.
In November, Flavien Moreau, 27, a French citizen who had traveled to Syria to join Islamic State, was convicted on terrorism charges upon his return to France and slapped with a seven-year prison sentence, according to France24, the French news broadcaster.
His career as an extremist warrior had been brief. Only two weeks after joining the group, he said he handed over his Kalashnikov rifle and headed back to Europe.
“I really struggled with not smoking,” Moreau testified, according to France24. “I had brought Nicorette gum with me, but it wasn’t enough,” he explained, referring to the nicotine replacement product. “So I left my gun with my [commander] and I left.
He left the battlefield, people! See that. It’s like I’ve always said: smoking saves lives.Published in