Neat fields of white poppy flowers dot the landscape along the roads outside of the city of Afyonkarahisar in western Turkey. The city and surrounding Afyon province are both named after the opium poppy that has grown here for millennia.
“It is like bread to us,” said Recep Koç, a farmer from Ismailkoy, a village 20 miles from the provisional capital. “The most valuable thing here is the hashhash,” he added, using the local word for all things having to do with the poppy plant.
The poppies that provide farmers in this province with most of their income have a notorious reputation for the milky extract they produce: opium.
In Afyon, however, the hashhash has been synonymous with tradition and financial stability for millennia. The seeds, which contain none of the narcotic alkaloids, are sold piecemeal, and turned into oil and paste for use in cooking, exported for producing paint and fed to the livestock.
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Vladic Ravich is a freelance journalist who focuses on Turkey and the Caucasus.