Muslim refugees fleeing the Daesh-controlled Raqqa province in Syria are turning to the traditional practice of cannabis farming for survival. Not surprisingly, Daesh considers working with or around cannabis a sin, and migrant cannabis farmers from Syria face deportation or death.
Aisha is a 15-year-old cannabis migrant worker. “If the Islamic State back home knew we work with hashish, they would cut us,” Aisha told Newsweek. Aisha, like countless other Syrian refugees, fled Raqqa to the fertile valley of Bekaa. “Farmers from Raqqa have been coming to work our fields during harvest season for the past eight years, “Hind, a landowner in Bekaa, explained.
Even with drug laws in place in Lebanon, Syrian refugees can taste some level of freedom. All family members join in the harvest and the trimming process. Children as young as thirteen help sift through dried cannabis trim.
Growing cannabis is illegal in Lebanon, however, cannabis farmers can make more than 10 times more than any other cash crop. “Any job in Lebanon makes you $700 per month, but working with drugs can get you $10,000 a day,” said Sharif, a cannabis farm owner who migrated from Raqqa on foot – a journey that takes about five days. “In Raqqa I have to be covered from top to bottom, even my eyes are not allowed to show. If I went out with what I’m wearing now, I would get a few whips.”
“It was really hard to flee Raqqa,” Sharif continued. “I want my husband and son to get here, that’s all I want now.” In an unexpected turn of events, cannabis somehow finds itself amidst the struggles of Syrian migrant workers, as an opportunity of escape and way to earn a living.