Al Qaeda Bans Popular Drug In The Yemen Towns It Now Controls

Chewing the mild narcotic leaf is considered by many to be a national pastime, and is one of the first edicts issued by the group since seizing Hadramout

May 14, 2015 at 12:58 PM ET

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which recently took over a second port city along Yemen’s coastline, has begun issuing decrees to the residents of the towns now under its control. One of the first is the ban on Yemenis chewing qat, a mild narcotic leaf so popular there that many people think of it as a national pastime.

The ban has come down on people living in Hadramout province, residents have told Vocativ. Among their other edicts are bans on women leaving their homes without an escort. Chewing qat, which sells for around $12 a bag, is something many Yemenis do. Users on Facebook issued urgent appeals to circumvent AQAP from seizing the stashes of qat. Others posted images of AQAP setting up checkpoints and roadblocks to interdict trucks carrying qat supplies into the province. Already online there have been images posted of bales of the leaf being set on fire.

The residents in Hadramout have had a tense time since AQAP entered both port cities of Shihr and Mukalla in the last month, as other parts of the country are subjected to Saudi-led air strikes and street battles between the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and pro-government security forces. According to Reuters, Hadramout province’s ruling body, the Council of Islamic Scholars, wrapped al Qaeda into its local administration to avoid infighting.

At the same time other residents in the region celebrated the new decree, calling it the the beginning of the end of the Houthis, who they claim sold the qat to fund their operations. Chewing qat, which is banned in the U.S. and the U.K., they say, is un-Islamic.

AQ fighters seize trucks carrying qat into Mukallah

Images of AQAP members setting bales of qat on fire, the day after the ban was announced.

Translation: Yemen has had a strong history of knowledge and jihad, and should fulfil this role again. Forbidding qat is a big step towards new success.

Read More:

Al Qaeda Seen Assuming Policing Role In Eastern Yemen (Reuters)
Why Some In Yemen See Al-Qaeda As The Lesser Of Two Evils (Vocativ)