Somali truckers taxed by the ‘ashir

May 3, 2010

Somali truckers are living under a revived version of the medieval Islamic taxman—the ‘ashir.  Now they can relate to Afghan truckers.

Traders in khat, a Somali stimulant, are being stopped on public roads by the ‘ashirs of Hizbul Islam, a militant Islamist group.  Then they’re shaken down for customs duties which are a sub-category of zakat under traditional Islamic tax law.

From Radio Garowe on Apr. 18:

Hizbul Islam insurgents impose tax on khat trade

Somalia’s Islamist insurgent group Hizbul Islam has imposed tax on traders selling khat, a narcotic drug consumed widely in Somalia for its mild stimulant leaves, Radio Garowe reports.

The group ordered the vehicles carrying the commodity from rebel-held KM50 airstrip to the Mogadishu to pay 300,000 Somali shilling.

However, the traders have refused to adhere to the new order, saying the 100,000 Somali shilling fee they are current paying is even colossal.

“It is a plan meant to oppress the Khat traders, we cant pay the fee imposed by Hizbul Islam because we are in loss,” said Fartun Ahmed, one of the traders.

Several vehicles, which used to transport Khat from the airstrip, located south of Mogadishu and held by Al-Shabaab have been parked in protest in Afgoye town, where they used to be charged.

“We parked our vehicles, because we can’t pay the charges. We will continue with our strike until the new tax charges is lifted,” said Mohammed Hassan, whos is among the drivers.

A Hizbul Islam official said the money from the new tax charges would be used to renovate the dilapidated roads in the region, adding that the group would back down from the fee.

The consumption of the stimulant leaves is high in government-held areas in Mogadishu, however, according to a Garowe Online reporter, lack of the commodity in the streets and markets was felt all over the restive capital.

Unlike Hizbul Islam, the radical Al-Shabaab, which rules with strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia Law, has banned the commodity from most of the areas under its control.

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