In Afghanistan, new clashes linked to the eradication of the poppy

New clashes broke out on Monday, May 13, between Taliban troops responsible for destroying poppy fields and farmers in the mountainous province of Badakhshan, in northeastern Afghanistan, residents told Agence France- Press (AFP)

In Afghanistan, new clashes linked to the eradication of the poppy

New clashes broke out on Monday, May 13, between Taliban troops responsible for destroying poppy fields and farmers in the mountainous province of Badakhshan, in northeastern Afghanistan, residents told Agence France- Press (AFP). Poppy seeds contain opium molecules.

Jamaluddin (not his real name), from Barlas Shahmar village in Argo district, said poppy farmers threw stones at anti-narcotics units and begged them not to destroy their crops. In response, the Taliban opened fire to disperse the villagers, he added. A caregiver at Argo said, also on condition of anonymity, that his clinic had received “two dead and nine injured” from the Barlas area. At the beginning of the month, similar clashes broke out, leaving two dead in the province, including one in Argo, according to police.

Afghanistan was the world's largest poppy producer before the Taliban's supreme leader banned cultivation in 2022. Since then, the country has seen its opium production fall by 95%, according to the UN. A spectacular result hailed by the international community, but a disaster for farmers, whose income fell by 92%.

“Our hopes for survival rest on the poppy”

According to Jamaluddin, residents of Barlas were hiding in their homes on Monday evening and the Taliban were cordoning off the area. Noorullah Nazari, spokesperson for the Taliban military unit in Badakhshan, reported demonstrations against the destruction of poppy fields in Argo while assuring that “the situation had returned to normal”. His press release does not mention victims. “Agitators who incited people have been arrested and the destruction of fields continues,” added Mahboobullah Hamed, a senior officer quoted in the same statement.

A Taliban official from the units sent to Argo said residents resisted and injured Taliban soldiers. “They didn’t want to talk to us, they picked up stones, and took sticks and shovels to stop us,” he said. An Agence France-Presse journalist in the provincial capital, Faizabad, saw three helicopters flying towards Argo and a road block preventing anyone from reaching the district.

The authorities have encouraged poppy farmers to turn to alternative crops but these are not as financially attractive. “We are poor, all our hopes of survival rest on the poppy,” Jamaluddin said.