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ISIS Bans Cigarettes, Cracks Down on Black Markets It Doesn't Control

Al-ArabiyaAl-ArabiyaThe Associated Press has a report this weekend on the risky business of smuggling cigarettes into territories controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a radical Islamist group that enforces a strict fundamentalist interpretation of sharia law in its self-styled "caliphate." ISIS's war on drugs includes alcohol and tobacco. Smoking a cigarette can carry a penalty of having your finger broken—selling cigarettes can be punishable by death. Except where ISIS has overturned its own bans in an effort to shore up its popularity. The AP talked to 30-year-old cigarette smuggler Falah Jamil, who lives in the previously ISIS-controlled village of Ekil Mosul, and who had several brushes with the law, including once being found with more than 100 cartons of cigarettes at a checkpoint outside of Mosul. Via Haaretz:

The fighters took him to the checkpoint commander, who warned Jamil he'd go to prison and his car would be confiscated. Jamil promised never to do it again. "Just let me go this time for the sake of my children," he said. "If I don't have money, what can I do? Should I steal? If I steal, you'll cut off my hand."

In an interview with The Associated Press in May, Jamil sat in his modest living room, describing how he survived nearly seven months of IS rule before the extremist group was run from town by Kurdish fighters.

The checkpoint commander ordered his subordinates out of the room, Jamil recalled. Once they were alone, he made his offer: "I will let you go if you give me cigarettes." Jamil asked him what brand. "Anything, just give me two cartons," the commander replied.

Elsewhere in the lands ISIS holds the group controls the cigarette black market. More:

Iraqi civilians living under IS rule in Mosul, the group's biggest stronghold, told the AP that the militants actually control the cigarette black market, banning smoking in public while privately controlling the sale of cigarettes at an inflated price. They spoke anonymously for fear of retribution.

Saad Eidou, 25, a displaced Iraqi from the town of Sinjar near the Syrian border, said that like everyone else, militants smoke in private. The cigarettes come in through Syria, where movement in and out of Turkey and non-IS areas is easier.

"They brought in cigarettes from Syria, where you probably won't pay more than 250 dinars ($0.20) for a pack, but they were selling it here for 1,000 dinars ($0.80)," said Bilal Abdullah, another resident of Eski Mosul. With IS gone, he took deep draws from a cigarette in public as he spoke.

Governments around the world make good money off cigarettes, generally by taxing them at a high rate an cracking down on the black market those taxes create rather than outright operating the black market. In its attempts to emulate a government, ISIS is still a JV squad with a lot to learn. 

Photo Credit: Al-Arabiya

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  • Winston||

    But do they allow pot?

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    They do allow kettles.....

  • Winston||

    Also ISIS is surprisingly Western in its attitude toward cigarettes

  • Sevo||

    Or vice-versa.

  • PapayaSF||

    Zing!

  • Winston||

    Except where ISIS has overturned its own bans in an effort to shore up its popularity.

    Is this evidence of the Libertarian Moment?

  • Paul.||

    You know who else wants to ban cigarettes and crack down on markets they don't control?

  • Pathogen||

    The Vatican?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Bootleggers and Baptists?

  • Aloysious||

    Seattle city council?

  • Warrren||

    Sabremetricians?

  • Pathogen||

    "The checkpoint commander ordered his subordinates out of the room, Jamil recalled. Once they were alone, he made his offer: "I will let you go if you give me cigarettes." Jamil asked him what brand. "Anything, just give me two cartons," the commander replied."
    .
    And after brief negotiations, the free market triumphs again...

  • Warrren||

    To stay Godly and Halal make sure to only use Mo'bacco! It's what the Prophet smoked and if it was good enough for him it's good enough for everybody on Earth.

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    LOL!

  • Ken Shultz||

    There's an interesting article in June's NYRB about something like this:

    "The video that ISIS circulated of its demolition job on Mosul’s antiquities museum in February 2015 was designed to market what it did not destroy. Of the thirty original pieces in the museum’s Hatra hall, according to al-Jumaili, the ISIS jihadis had hacked at ten. They had not filmed the prehistoric, Islamic, and priceless Assyrian halls, because those artifacts were for sale. Their rampage through the Hatra hall, al-Jumaili surmised, was designed to boost demand and hike prices on the black market."

    ----Nicolas Pelham, NYRB, June 4, 2015

    http://www.nybooks.com/article.....ival-iraq/

    The article goes on to say that the U.S. bombing their oil refineries and distribution channels has made ISIS diversify their income streams. They're getting into all kinds of rackets now.

  • Muzzled Woodchipper||

    The article goes on to say that the U.S. bombing their oil refineries and distribution channels has made ISIS diversify their income streams. They're getting into all kinds of rackets now.

    You LIE!

    There is no such thing as unintended consequences.

  • JeSuisRaison, moulin à bois||

    Seems to me there is an Iron Law about that...

  • Cytotoxic||

    Even if it were true, so what? When you're forced to 'diversify' it means making less money.

  • Quincy chips in||

    So listen up, disaffected Facebook kidlings, IS isn't cool. No matter how many sex slaves you rape, you'll be be as cool as this.

  • Quincy chips in||

    *never be*

  • Aloysious||

    Smoking a cigarette can carry a penalty of having your finger broken—selling cigarettes can be punishable by death.

    Sounds like New York City.

  • Paul.||

    At least you can carry guns in Syria.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Sounds like IS has a chokehold on tobacco products.

  • Djucational Woodchipper||

    God it's like you can't even breathe there.

  • AlmightyJB||

  • Sevo||

    Has a US attorney heard about this?

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    There aren't enough trees in Israel to allow a market for woodchippers.

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    I hear they use rock crushers there....

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Sounds like a black market.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Oh, and Mozes with a "z"? Is that one of those precious misspelled names like Traci?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Do you want to know how to get control of black markets?

  • Warrren||

    Does it involve RACISM!!!!!?

  • Pathogen||

    Murder and intimidation?

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Hitler! It's Hitler this time, right?

  • Warrren||

    It's never Hitler or Lupus.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Legalize them. Correct answer is legalize.

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    Awwww. I was gonna say that!

  • Pompey||

    Attempting to enforce a tobacco use ban in part of the "3rd world" is a total non-starter.

    The history of tobacco use is utterly fascinating. I recommend Tobacco: A Cultural History. It's also written so as to be extremely readable rather than dry.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The fact that they act like a regular government in certain ways should probably tell us something.

    Religion may be the only basis for a state with any legitimacy in Sunni areas right now.

    I understand that the Shia leaders elsewhere in Iraq don't see the Sunni areas of the country as part of their problem to solve anymore. If ISIS just restricted themselves to Sunni areas, the Shia probably wouldn't care.

    The problem with the neocon solution over there started with the misconception that legitimacy comes from Democracy and elections. It doesn't even work that way in the United States--at least it doesn't for me. I certainly don't see the Drug War or ObamaCare as legitimate just because the politicians that elected them won a popularity contest. Any violation of my rights is still illegitimate even if it's orchestrated by a duly elected politician.

    Anyway, elections don't create legitimacy, and there isn't anything in Sunni areas that can except for religion. We're probably fighting against the only force that can stabilize the region--over the long term. If we wiped out ISIS today, whatever government would still be facing all of the same basic legitimacy problems tomorrow. And if fundamentalist Islam is the only thing that will stabilize those parts of the region, then how many bombs do we have to drop before that's no longer so?

  • ||

    All legitimate governments start and end as gangs of thugs?

  • Warrren||

    I don't get what you're saying here.

  • ||

    All legitimate governments start and end as gangs of thugs?

  • Warrren||

    Okay, now I understand.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, that question isn't very clear. I don't understand what you're saying.

    Legitimacy can't be forced on people. The local gangs of LA County enjoy a certain amount of legitimacy in their own neighborhoods. Just becasue the U.S. government says this or that, and our politicians were duly elected, that doesn't mean jackshit to them. They don't care about no stinkin' badges! I don't know that all legitimate governments start and end as a gang of thugs, but some gangs of thugs do enjoy a certain amount of legitimacy on their home turf.

    And whether they're legitimate according to you and me is beside the point. If there is no other force that could possibly fill the legitimacy void--except for fundamentalist Islam--then we have to ask ourselves what we hope to achieve by fighting them. Are we going to keep fighting them until there is no more legitimacy void?

    That won't work.

  • Cytotoxic||

    We're probably fighting against the only force that can stabilize the region

    If ISIS is all that can 'stabilize' that area then it's all the more reason to destroy it. It is not in America's interest to have 'stable' states as launch-pads for attacks on our freedom of speech.

    In any event, there is nothing stabilizing about ISIS. Kurdistan is relatively stable. ISIS-land is not.

  • Ken Shultz||

    What do you mean destroy it?

    You're going to destroy ISIS or the people who will only accept the legitimacy of a government if it's based in fundamentalist Islam?

    This is like trying to get as libertarian President in charge without taking into account whether the American voters are libertarian. We're not going to fix America's problems by changing the bus driver--not if the wheels are falling off the bus.

    It's the same thing in Iraq and Syria. If the Sunnis will only accept the legitimacy of a government that's based on fundamentalist Islam, then what difference would getting rid of ISIS make? ...assuming getting rid of ISIS is even possible.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "The record of fighting in Tikrit, 110 miles from Baghdad, suggests that the task will be daunting.* A few hundred ISIS fighters held out against a 24,000-strong government force for two months. Only after the US began bombing ISIS positions from the air did government forces finally wrest control of the city. ISIS’s force in Mosul is perhaps twenty-five times larger and more readily reinforced from Turkey and Syria, where ISIS controls large swaths of the east. For now at least, the US-led coalition is only bombing ISIS at its edges, demarcating borders with its neighbors, not threatening its nerve centers. Nor will it launch an intensive bombing of Mosul to dislodge ISIS as long as over a million civilians are living there."

    ---Ibid

    http://www.nybooks.com/article.....ival-iraq/

    When you say you're going to destroy it, what do you mean exactly? ISIS? A million people in Mosul?

    What are you going to destroy, and how is that going to make the Sunnis accept the legitimacy of some government that isn't based in fundamentalist Islam?

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    Good points, Ken.

  • GamerFromJump||

    Isn't it interesting that both the guy in favor of 'sploding ISIS and the guy in favor of letting it be someone else's problem agree that there's no good alternative visible?

  • ||

    The checkpoint commander ordered his subordinates out of the room, Jamil recalled. Once they were alone, he made his offer: "I will let you go if you give me cigarettes." Jamil asked him what brand. "Anything, just give me two cartons," the commander replied.

    Too bad Eric Garner didn't live in Iraq.

  • Rich||

    "I will let you go if you give me cigarettes."

    "What brand?"

    "You *dare* attempt to bribe a *checkpoint commander*?!"

    *** cuts out tongue and confiscates all cigarettes ***

  • Hank Phillips||

    Howzzat? Wasn't Eric Garner murdered by NY police less than a year ago on the mere suspicion that he might have been selling untaxed cigarettes? So how is this Islamic State business different from government by ordinary mystical Repub-licans and looter Democ-rats?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Boom

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    Aaaand...you stole my morbid Eric Garner joke.

  • XM||

    If ISIS legalized cigs, they would control the market and the price. They'll pick and choose the seller, location, prices, etc. They'l get theirs for free.

    Debating free markets of drug legalization in a region dominated by ISIS is a moot point. If you can't get rid of ISIS, then there won't be a free markets. You'll crooked crony capitalism at best.

  • tardisisbiggerontheinside||

    Big deal.

    Over here selling ciggarettes could cost you your life, too.

  • SIV||

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    That's OK, just have the drivers go cash-free.

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    They don't accept cash. This is just stupid posturing. They are a company and it's their choice. I just don't agree with it.

  • Rhywun||

    So I guess the drivers really are employees.

  • Paul.||

    Oh, and New York goes gun AND Uber Free.

    In the battle between Uber drivers and city authorities, New York has been kicking ass and taking names, seizing 496 black and livery cars affiliated with Uber’s bases for picking up illegal street hails since April 29. It’s not the best news for a company eagerly seeking a solid — and legal — foothold in New York, especially considering the size and importance of the market.
  • Rhywun||

    It's not like NYC has a middle class that might rise up and put a stop to this sort of cronyism.

  • Paul.||

    Drivers and passengers can no longer carry guns on Uber rides, even if they have a legal permit. Uber previously allowed partners to drive with guns, as long as they "abide(d) by local, state, and federal laws."

    Nope, sorry.

    I will just continue to not announce the gun on my hip.

  • Rich||

    "I distinctly heard them say 'No gum'."

  • Agammamon||

    Hmm, I guess I'll just never use Uber then.

  • Paul.||

    I will... I'll just be the only one in the vehicle who's armed.

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    Well played, sir, well played....

  • SIV||

    The frothings of Internet commenters, of course, are apt to be regarded as low-value speech.

    Et tu, Insty?

  • SIV||

    FUCK

    wrong thread

  • Agammamon||

    "They brought in cigarettes from Syria, where you probably won't pay more than 250 dinars ($0.20) for a pack, but they were selling it here for 1,000 dinars ($0.80),"

    Somebody should tell these smugglers what cigarettes are going or in NYC.

  • Rhywun||

    ISIS haven't ramped up their horror campaign of non-stop anti-smoking PSA's yet.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    ISIS Bans Cigarettes, Cracks Down on Black Markets It Doesn't Control

    What, are they positioning themselves for Michael Bloomberg's endorsement?

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