As al-Qaeda splinter ISIL (or ISIS) captures Mosul, shoots and beheads opponents, and advances on Baghdad:
Leaflets distributed around the city instructed all citizens to pray at their local mosques five times daily. Smoking and drinking were outlawed and women ordered to dress modestly and stay indoors. The rules were issued in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS), which said that rule breakers would “be killed or crucified, or have hands or feet cut from opposite sides or be exiled”.
Sounds like they don’t much like Western freedoms. Because smoking and drinking, and wearing what you like, and not having to go to your local mosque five times a day, might be more or less a definition of what Western freedom is all about.
Or was, until smoking bans started being introduced more or less everywhere in the Western world.
Our Western antismoking zealots always hail any new piece of progress in the war on smoking. So will ASH’s Deborah Arnott be issuing a press release applauding the outlawing of smoking in Iraq? And if she doesn’t, will she explain why not?
And what are we fighting for, if it’s not for the freedom to live our lives the way we want to, and not as tyrannical and murderous zealots demand?
Not that anyone is fighting for freedom. Perhaps they never were?
The convention center in the Green Zone (where the new Iraqi parliament meets) is one of the ugliest buildings I’ve ever seen, a massive concrete structure that looks like a fortress. For years after the invasion, the building was a no-smoking zone. Uptight Americans would reprimand everyone who lit up, including Iraqi political leaders. A group of Iraqi politicians and aides would gather and look guiltily around until they hit a crucial number — maybe 15 or so — then everyone would light up at once. It was a weird sight. And then some American would tell them to put it out.
But following the lead of Scotland, the rest of Britain, France, America and other western nations, Iraqi MPs are now seeking to marginalise smoking in public life, much to the annoyance of many of their constituents.
Today they are set to consider a law banning smoking in schools, universities, government offices and a wide range of private businesses, including restaurants and cafs. Hoardings advertising cigarettes, which wallpaper the business areas of Baghdad, would be outlawed. And cigarette companies would be forced to print more explicit health warnings on labels.
Since about 40% of adult male Iraqis are smokers, maybe that might begin to explain why they haven’t been fighting very hard for a freedom that they had under Saddam Hussein, but maybe no longer have. Why fight for a freedom you no longer have?
Anyway, antismoking US president Obama seems quite happy for antismoking ISIL to take over the country, and butcher thousands. The only people who seem to have reacted rapidly are the Iranians.
Iran is coming to the aid of its historic nemesis, sending elite fighters to Iraq in the wake of a Sunni insurgency that has claimed two key northern cities and now threatens Baghdad, Fox News has learned.
Some 150 fighters from the Revolutionary Guards elite Quds force have already been dispatched by Tehran, and the division’s powerful commander, Qassem Suleimani, met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Thursday and pledged to send two notorious Iranian brigades to aid in the defense of Baghdad. That could amount to as many as 10,000 soldiers sent to fight the Sunni group known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
Maliki is believed to be considering the offer, especially in light of reported decisions by the U.S. to reject his request for American airstrikes against the Al Qaeda-affiliated militants who have recently overrun Mosul and Tikrit and appear to be preparing for a march on the capital. The two brigades that Suleimani offered are Asaab Ahel Haq, a Shi’ite paramilitary unit, and the Shi’ite insurgency group Kata’ib Hezbollah.
Iran, of course, has its own smoking ban. But perhaps not quite as strict as it was.
Revoking a smoking ban may seem an unlikely way to boost election turnouts. But in Iran, authorities are hopeful that allowing the traditional hubble-bubble, or water pipes, back into tea houses could encourage reluctant voters to go to the polls.
The government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has signed into law a bill that removes tea houses from the list of places where smoking tobacco is prohibited, Iranian newspapers reported on Thursday.
The move comes only two weeks after Iran’s court of administrative justice, a judicial body independent of the government, banned the smoking of all sorts of tobacco in traditional restaurants and tea houses. Iranians were allowed only to smoke certain types – perceived to be less dangerous – in the past.
Since Ahmadinejad first took the office in 2005, water pipes have intermittently been banned from, then allowed, in tea houses.
In his early years in power, Ahmadinejad came under pressure from conservatives to curb water pipe smoking, which had become a popular pastime for the young people but was seen as culturally decadent by the regime, despite being an integral part of the Persian culture for centuries. A smoking ban was eventually passed in October 2006 but was lifted later to allow certain kinds of tobacco.
Interesting that Iran lifted restrictions on water pipes “to encourage reluctant voters to go to the polls.” I can well understand that. After all, I’m myself a reluctant voter for the exact same reason.