When Ramadan started, the Islamists tried to establish strict rules. They tried, for example, to forbid restaurant owners from preparing meals during the day so that those who were fasting would not have to see food. But after a few days, the merchants, who already have a hard time making ends meet, refused. Some were saying, “Give us something to live on and we’ll stop doing business”. A butcher in my neighbourhood even came to blows with an Islamist. One afternoon, while he was grilling meat, an Islamist armed with a Kalashnikov arrived and started throwing his products on the floor. The butcher objected and they started fighting. They ended up at the Islamic police office where the butcher was eventually acquitted!
A kilo of meat in Gao costs 2,000 CFA francs (around 3 Euros).
In a similar case, at prayer time, the Islamists wanted everyone to recite long suras [chapters] from the holy Koran at the mosque. But the imams got together and decided to do it the normal way [they usually choose to recite short verses so that everyone, including the sick and elderly, can come and pray]. Seeing that they refused to give in, the Islamists let them do it their way.
Ever since Timbuktu’s mausoleums were destroyed
- which really shocked everyone here - the people have decided to resist against the Islamists’ excesses. So the Islamists, on their side, have made some concessions.