A photograph being circulated online suggests Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, aka the recently rebranded Nusra Front, are banning smoking in parts of Aleppo and Idlib.
A photograph of an order announcing a ban on the “selling of tobacco or argeila” was shared by Twitter user @BBassem7, who regularly posts updates critical of rebel groups in Syria.
To all owners of establishments that sell smoking equipment and argileh; and the number of billiards places, cafes and restaurants that serve arguilla, there will be a total ban on the selling of tobacco or arguilla, or their advertisement in any store displays, or the serving of such products in restaurants or halls.
All who violate this will be subjected to Sharia code and punished with the burning of the complete quantity of the substance.
A campaign to search for the tobacco will begin in the mentioned types of places from Monday – October 3. We request and thank you for your cooperation.
The order – which was also reported by Arabic news site Hashtag Syria – could not be immediately verified by Al Bawaba. But if true, it’s a revealing move.
The group recently made an official split from Al Qaeda and rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham: a clear attempt, commentators said, to distance itself from bloodthirsty and authoritarian Jihadist groups. Many were sceptical about the change, arguing it was a cynical attempt to attract broader acceptance, and wasn’t anything but superficial.
And banning tobacco – and apparently enforcing that through searches and burning seized products – may not fit with some expectations of a softening attitude.
It’s also not the first time Jabhat Fatah al-Sham has flirted with a smoking ban. Back in 2012, a Nusra fighter from UAE’s The National described a future Syria without alcohol or smoking, and said any introduced ban would be introduced gradually.
Earlier this month, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham continued their rebrand by releasing a video of apparently displaying the virtues of its court system.
Al Bawaba has reached out to JFS and the source of the photograph for further information.
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