KABUL, Afghanistan – The Taliban announced Sunday that opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has been banned, a move that will have dire consequences for the many farmers who have turned to illicit cultivation amid a brutal drought and economic crisis. seized the country.
Mawlawi Abdul Salam Hanafi, the Prime Minister’s administrative assistant, read the official decree to local and international media during a press conference at the Interior Ministry. Senior Taliban figures, including acting interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, were present.
“All compatriots are informed from the date of publication of this decree, the cultivation of poppy is absolutely prohibited throughout the country and no one can try to cultivate the plant,” says the decree, issued by the leader of the Taliban, Haibatullah Akhundzada. “If anyone violates this, their culture will be destroyed and the offender will be dealt with according to Islamic law.”
The Taliban’s decision to ban the opium poppy in Afghanistan, which accounts for around 80% of the world’s opium supply, comes as the group comes under increasing international pressure after a series of decrees targeting women, including their ability to attend secondary school.
The decree issued on Sunday also prohibits the use, sale, transfer, purchase, import and export of wine, heroin and other drugs.
After the Taliban overthrew the Western-backed government in August, the insurgent-turned-leaders indicated their desire to ban opium production, but said soon after that there were no plans to stop or eradicate the crop, recognizing that Afghans were in the midst of an economic crisis.
Many farmers had planned for some sort of ban after the Taliban returned to power and knew that growing the crop – which can be stored for some time after harvest – would be a good investment as supply dwindled and prices were increasing. The Taliban’s announcement on Sunday came during the poppy harvest.
In Kandahar province, fields of white-flowered poppy lined Highway 1, which runs through the region. The harvest is mixed with wheat and grapes. Harvesting is underway, with teams of workers slicing the bulbs and scraping off the milky resin that will eventually be the opium. Almost all the farmers seem to have dedicated part of their plots to cultivation.
Poppy growers in the region, considered the birthplace of the Taliban, said on Sunday they were unaware of any ban.
The Taliban have had a complicated relationship with the harvest. During their first stint in power, the group made several half-hearted attempts to restrict opium before banning its cultivation on religious grounds in the late 1990s and 2000s. But after being overthrown following the invasion American in 2001, the Taliban turned to culture for funding, using the profits to fuel their war machine for two decades.
Safiullah Padshah reported from Kabul, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kharkov, Ukraine. Bryan Denton and Yacoob Akbary contributed reporting from Kandahar, Afghanistan.