On April 3, the Taliban announced that they would ban the cultivation of opium poppies. A spokesman from the Taliban warned that farmers might be “jailed and their crops burned if they harvested poppy,” DW reported.
Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s supreme leader, said, “all Afghans are informed, from now on, cultivation or farming of poppy or opium is strictly forbidden across the country.”
“If anyone breaks the decree, we will destroy the farm immediately and treat the lawbreaker according to Sharia law,” he added.
The announcement made on Sunday also prohibits the trade of alcohol, hashish, and heroin.
The Taliban’s announcement comes amidst a crippling economic condition brought in part by Western sanctions. Farmers who have been for years dependent on opium poppy cultivation are severely affected by the new rule.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghanistan has become a significant supplier in the global opiate market. “Afghan opiates supply 8 out of 10 opiate users worldwide,” a 2021 UNODC report said.
“The opium harvest in Afghanistan increased by eight percent in 2021 compared to last year, to 6,800 tons,” the report added.
According to experts, after years of war, drought, and financial sanctions, many farmers in Afghanistan were forced to swap legal crops for opium plants.
The Taliban has been pressured by regional states, including neighboring countries, to stop the production and trafficking of drugs.
According to Al Jazeera, the Taliban’s move to ban the cultivation of opium poppy and outlaw the selling of heroin is a bid for international recognition.
“Drug control has been one major demand of the international community to the Taliban,” Al Jazeera added.
Following the announcement, Abdul Salam Hanafi, the acting Deputy Prime Minister, asked the international community to cooperate with Afghanistan to treat drug addicts. Hanafi also requested international support in helping Afghan farmers, reliant on opium production, diversify their crops.