'Smoking Equals Freedom' to Iraqis Liberated From ISIS

Villagers defied ISIS by smoking cigarettes

A man smokes his first cigarette after fleeing Mosul, Iraq / Getty Images
April 20, 2017

Iraqis living under oppression from the Islamic State defied the barbaric terrorist group by smoking cigarettes.

To residents of Badoosh, a village in northern Iraq that was liberated just over a week ago, "smoking equals freedom."

New York Times correspondent Rukmini Callimachi encountered many residents who said they would conceal their cigarette smoking from ISIS terrorists, which would cut off fingers for violating the group's smoking ban.

Callimachi shared on Twitter the story of a cow herder in Badoosh who is celebrating the freedom to smoke again since the village was liberated.

"Yesterday, my team made it to the furthest point I've gone northwest of Mosul to the locality of Badoosh, where we interviewed residents," Callimachi said. "I noticed that everywhere we went in Badoosh, residents were 'wearing' packs of cigarettes, like this gentleman. His name is Mohamed Ahmed Saleh, and he's a cow herder, and he asked my colleague to light his cigarette when we got out of the car."

"His village near Badoosh was liberated 10 days ago [and] he launched into a diatribe about IS [and] how happy he is to be able to smoke again," she said.

Callimachi said that although she is a "California girl through and through" who hates secondhand smoke, she said it was "obvious that smoking for this man [equals] freedom."

"That's when Mohamed began describing the lengths he took to find cigarettes under ISIS [and] the thrill it gave him to break their rules," she said.

The Iraqis were smoking Akhtamar Classics, which sport a logo similar to the Statue of Liberty. Callimachi reported that the Armenian cigarette brand cost 63 cents before ISIS spiked the cost to $17.

"He couldn't afford $17," she said. "So he [and four] friends pooled money to buy [one] pack of 20 cigarettes."

The Iraqis broke the cigarettes into pieces to make them last longer and went to great lengths to hide their smoking from ISIS.

"He said he and his buddies used to go out with their cows into the fields and smoke covering their faces like this to reduce the smoke," Callimachi said. "Then they used to brush their teeth [and] spritz each other with perfume before heading back. At a checkpoint he said an ISIS guy sniffed him."

Callimachi said Mohamed chain-smoked four packs the day ISIS left and now "proudly wears his smokes."

"I just like to walk around holding it in my hand [because] I can," Mohamed said.

"I'm addicted," said another villager. "But I also wanted to do it to show resistance."

Published under: ISIS