The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
8 years and 6 months of the Syrian revolution, turned into a brutal war that burned everything and left behind only destruction, displacement, poverty, and poor human and living conditions, although there are no definitive estimates of the catastrophic economic impact on Syria which was brought by this war; the World Bank issued an initial assessment in mid-2017 estimating the economic losses of the war at $226 billion USD, in its report titled: “War Losses: the economic and social consequences of the conflict in Syria,” the World Bank said that the conflict has caused huge damage to Syria’s physical capital balance, where 7% of houses have been destroyed and 20% of them have been damaged, also the economic activity in general has been weakened and disabled, which caused losses estimated at nearly 4 times Syria’s GDP in 2010, also the economic regulatory turmoil sharply weakened investment and declined to nearly 80% of the total before the crisis.
Although the past few months have witnessed a relative calm in the pace of battles and the stability has begun to return to some areas; the economic implications over these events continue to put the Syrian citizen between the hammer of difficult humanitarian conditions and the anvil of economic conditions, which make many of them unable to provide their daily living, with the average income in regime forces’-controlled areas is around 30,000 Syrian pounds, while the average income in areas of control of Autonomous Administration north and east Syria is 65000 Syrian pounds, while the minimum income of workers working with international organizations and entities is about $400 USD, and through reliable sources, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is trying to shed light on the economic situation which is ravaging the Syrian people in the four areas of control: regime forces’-controlled areas, Turkey-loyal factions’ controlled areas, the Syria Democratic Forces’ controlled areas, in addition to areas of control of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham.
Lack of gas and living supplies, the difficult economic situation is ravaging regime’s-controlled areas.
Over the past few years, with the help of Russia and Iran, the Syrian regime has succeeded in regaining control of nearly 60% of the Syrian territory, but this return of control was accompanied by very poor living conditions from which the Syrians suffered in these areas, which the regime tried to hide through its media, and reliable sources in regime forces’-controlled areas monitored the worsening of economic conditions there, where the length of queues in order to get services increases day by day, so much that lives of the Syrian citizens became just long queues for various services, such as the lines of bread, gas, and milk and baby supplies and there even queues for basic necessities of living, amid attempts by regime’s authorities to leave their responsibility and throw them on the greed of traders, and over the past months, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored rapid growing of popular discontent in regime forces’-controlled areas, due to the economic suffering of the citizens in these areas, starting with the difficulty of obtaining a living and the basic necessities of life, passing through the sharp shortage of various supplies and services such as electricity and water, in addition to the high prices.
According to various economic reports, the value of the Syrian pound against the US dollar on the black market fell to its lowest level since the beginning of the crisis, where the exchange rate of the US dollar reached 650 Syrian pounds per 1$ USD, the thing which the French agency “AFP” considered as an evidence for the exhausted economy in light of the shrinking of incomes and revenues; and the decline of foreign exchange reserves, as well as the U.S. and European economic sanctions that cause more economic losses paid for by the Syrian citizen and no one else, and according to reliable sources, the popular discontent escalated amid demands for better living conditions and a breakthrough in lives of the population, and demands for the resignation of regime’s government led by Imad Khamis, because of his failure to resolve the successive economic crises which are ravaging the situation of the Syrian citizen.
The poor economic conditions in regime forces’-controlled areas were also reflected on the humanitarian situation, where the Syrian Observatory documented the death of a child in Aleppo city due to the deterioration of her health condition due to the lack of food, heating materials, and the harsh humanitarian conditions, after another child died as a result of the same circumstances. And for the same reasons, on January 15 this year, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented an attempt by an elderly man to commit suicide in Hama city by throwing himself in Assi River in “Om al-Hasan” area, as he was not able to secure his livelihood.
Amid the difficult economic conditions and poor services and the lack of other in regime forces’-controlled areas, well-informed sources revealed to the Syrian Observatory that the average income of the Syrian citizen in regime forces’-controlled areas is 30 thousand Syrian pounds which is the equivalent of 46.1$ USD, a very small amount that is not enough to meet the most basic needs of living for the citizens, especially in light of the huge fuel crisis in all the provinces that are controlled by the regime at the beginning of the summer, where the price of one liter of gasoline reached about 400 Syrian pounds, and the price of diesel fuel reached 230 Syrian pounds for one liter, while the price of a gas cylinder is about 5200 Syrian pounds, amid complete deficit on the part of regime’s authorities and their inability to contain the crisis of fuel scarcity, as it throws the responsibility on the shoulders of those whom it described as “crisis traders”. And the regime reduced the fuel allowance of citizens’ cars which was reflected on the roads in the major provinces, which become free of cars as a result of the crisis, in addition to the massive overcrowding in front of gas stations and the spread of queues of hundreds of citizens for gas and diesel.
On August 22, Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, stressed that the situation in Idlib countryside is so tragic that the rent per room is as high as 150,000 Syrian pounds, not to mention the advances demanded by the war traders who are the homeowners. Abdulrahman said that “between 700000 and 750000 displaced people live with minimal living conditions, amid complete reliance on what is provided to them from their relatives in neighboring countries and abroad, at a time when the regime forces began looting and stealing homes of displaced civilians in Khan Shaykhun city,” noting that many people have been forced to flee to the southern countryside of Idlib, fleeing high-prices house rents north of Idlib.
The rise in exchange price of the US Dollar raises the prices of living necessities in areas of control of the Ankara-loyal factions
The economic crisis that the Syrians are living does not stop at the borders of regime’s areas, where the areas that are under the control of Turkish forces and the armed factions loyal to them in what are known as the areas of “Euphrates Shield” and “Olive Branch” areas; are also suffering from difficult living conditions, where sources of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored an increase in exchange rate of the dollar compared to the Syrian banks, which led to a rise in prices of vegetables and fruits. And according to information of the Syrian Observatory: the main living conditions are witnessing a dramatic rise in prices, from which all inhabitants of these areas are suffering, despite the somewhat stable humanitarian situation. Sources told the Syrian Observatory that some Afrin families who have displaced to other areas within areas of control of the Turkey-loyal factions are suffering from high prices of house rental.
Unemployment, high prices, and class disparities… Stagnation in areas of control of “Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham”
Despite the poor living conditions in the areas that are controlled by the Turkish factions as well as regime forces’-controlled areas; the situation in areas of control of Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham sees a swing between stable and bad, where house prices vary from area to area due to several considerations, the most important of which is who much the area is near the Turkish border, and reliable sources confirmed to the Syrian Observatory that house prices generally range between $50 to $300. And according to informed sources, the exchange rate of dollar against the Syrian pound has increased in areas of control of “Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham”, where the exchange rate of one dollar reached 650 Syrian pounds, while the prices of vegetables rose to the following in Syrian pounds (SYP): cucumber 240 SYP, tomatoes 170 SYP, eggplant 70 SYP, potatoes 200 SYP, peppers 240 SYP, onions 110 SYP, beans 450 SYP, beans 450 SYP, peaches 350 SYP, bread bag 250, liter of vegan oil 600 SYP.
With the dramatic rise in food prices, area of control of “Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham” in the Syrian north are witnessing the spread of unemployment for several reasons, including the population density, lack of employment and opportunities, and the administrative corruption in many civil institutions, as well as the inaction of organizations and the concerned parties in carrying out youth employment projects, and according to reliable sources, one family includes 1 to 3 unemployed person(s).
According to informed sources who told the Syrian Observatory; the salaries of employees in the civil institutions and bodies vary, ranging between 50 to 1000 USD, where factory workers receive the lowest wages and salaries, while humanitarian employees, doctors, and ministers in the Rescue Government and heads of joints in the government have the highest salaries, while the average salaries are the shar of the civil defense officials and the local councils.
In general, sources of income for civilians vary in these areas, where the majority of cities rely on incomes of the public trade, while areas of the countryside depend on the agricultural sector and the livestock, and in areas of control of “Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham” the civilians bear other burdens such as taxes, transportation, treatment costs, not to mention the costs of fixing the houses that were bombed and destroyed, in addition to the rise in fuel prices during the past few days due to the rise in exchange rate of the US dollar, where the price of a liter of gasoline in areas of the northern and western countryside of Idlib reached 550 SYP, while the price of one liter of gasoline ranges from 200 to 400 SYP, and the price of changing a gas cylinder is 6000 Syrian pounds.
According to informed sources who told the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: the electricity in areas of control of “Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham” comes from two basic sources: the first one is the houses that rely on solar panels which cost between 50 and 200 dollars for the power board and the energy storing battery, and the second is the generators that run on gasoline and its power amps are distributed to the residential neighborhoods, where the price of one amp ranges between 1500 to 3000 SYP. Also, the Syrians in Idlib are suffering from the unemployment, where job opportunities do not exist in a community most of its people are displaced people, where they now make more than two-thirds of the number of the original population, with insufficient level of income for the stable families, amid widespread of poverty and rise in population density. According to reliable sources: most of the consumables are available in Idlib and its residents do not complain about a shortage of materials, but the main complaint is the prices which are high in a way that does not fit with the incomes, where the rent of a house is about $200 USD and the basic cost of living and provision of goods is about $200 USD per month, which means that the Syrian citizen in area of control of “Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham” needs $400 USD per month to meet the basic needs.
According to information obtained by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the rise in prices and cost of living led to a state of economic stagnation in the markets of “Idlib” in general, at a time when humanitarian organizations and the continuous war have created social classes with high abilities, where some people have been benefiting from the current situation and from the commercial monopolies, which made most of the imported grains, vegetables, fruits, fish, and meat available in towns of Idlib, but their prices are mostly high. And regarding the bread, reliable sources confirmed to the Syrian Observatory that the bread is sometimes available with partial support from the organizations, making its prices somehow acceptable compared to the unsupported bread, and at the same time, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights learned that the relief materials’ distribution level has declined in Idlib, where the humanitarian organizations have reduced their work in the area in favor of expanding in areas controlled by the Ankara-loyal factions.
Relative stability, high prices, and socialist system in areas of control of the Autonomous Administration
As battles against the “Islamic State” Organization ended in the Syria Democratic Forces’ controlled areas; the situation began to be relatively calm on the security level, but the economic situation continues to fluctuate due to rising prices, decline of incomes, and the fluctuating of the exchange rates of the American USD versus the Syrian pound. And according to reliable sources, most of the citizens in areas of the Autonomous Administration north and east Syria work in a form similar to the socialist system; as military personnel and fighters of the Syria Democratic Forces and the internal security forces, while a small percentage of citizens have their own business in ranging from reconstruction work, shops, barber shops, car shops, as well as other commercial activities, and some citizens in these areas work on motorcycles as an alternative to taxis.
According to informed sources, the average income in the Autonomous Administration areas is about 65000 Syrian pounds, equivalent to about 101.50$ USD, where the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar in the current days has reached about 640 Syrian pounds per 1 dollar, making the prices of goods and food items somewhat unstable, given the fact that their prices are affected by the dollar’s exchange rate. And according to sources of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the citizen in these areas bears other burdens such as the prices of electricity, which is about 1000 Syrian pounds per month, plus 500 Syrian pounds per month for water consumption, and according to reliable information, the Autonomous Administration receives customs and taxes on all items and materials that enter areas of north and east Syria through border crossings.