SOHR exclusive | Crossings’ tax and stockpiling, reasons behind increase in materials used for heating in Idlib • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

SOHR exclusive | Crossings’ tax and stockpiling, reasons behind increase in materials used for heating in Idlib

The recent spell of harsh weather in north Syria region has further exacerbated the living situations of the inhabitants of refugee camps in different areas in light of the prohibitively high prices of fuel and alternative materials used for heating, which have reached levels unaffordable by many displaced families.


Some merchants in Idlib have exploited the freezing temperatures and the residents’ urgent need of fuel and alternative materials used for heating used in north Syria region. These merchants, mostly from Kafr Takharim, Salqin and Armanaz towns, have raised the prices of pyrene and fire logs, as the prices of these two types of materials used for heating varied from a store to another.


Speaking to SOHR, a displaced man known by his initials as M. A. living in Kafr Takharim town said, “with the beginning of the low-pressure weather front in the area, prices of fuel and inflammable materials increased greatly. However, some merchants increased the prices of their goods further, taking advantage of the blocked roads due to the heavy snowfall, as inhabitants could not travel to other towns to buy these materials at lower prices. Pyrene is sold in the areas of Al-Dana, Deir Hassan and Kafr Lusin for 175 USD a ton, while it sold in Kafr Takharim and Armanaz towns for 180 USD a ton. Also, the price of coal varies, as some merchants sell a ton for 120 USD, while others sell a ton of coal for 110 USD. The price of hazelnut shells is almost the same at all stores, as a ton is sold for 220 to 240 USD according to the shells’ quality. I had bought a small quantity of pyrene, hoping I would buy it from another place at lower price. However, the ongoing low-pressure weather front forced me to buy another amount for the price which is too much higher than its price in other areas. Authorities responsible for monitoring the markets are mainly blamed for the random increase of essential products, particularly materials used for heating.”


In another camp in Armanaz area, a displaced civilian known as A. R. from west Hama countryside tells SOHR “there are many stores selling materials used for heating. However, the difference in prices from a store to another is clear, and these materials are sold for lower prices in other areas. The five or ten dollars the merchants add to the real price greatly affect the displaced families’ budgets. I use fire logs whose price starts from 150 USD a ton for the poorest quality, where logs are stored before being dried; this, in turn, makes them take longer time in wood-burner stoves and produce too much smoke. While the high-quality logs are sold for 190 USD, although they are sold for lower prices in nearby areas. These different prices are attributed to greedy merchants who exploit the sufferings of civilians.”


“Prices are not consistent and materials used for heating are stockpiled in large amounts by merchants. One example, among many, was a merchant who stockpiled over 130 tons of fire logs and pyrene which he had bought in the beginning of the low-pressure weather front. The merchant insists on selling his products for the price he has set and waits for increased demand,” added the man.


It is worth noting that the prices of all materials used for heating have increased greatly in the past few days in Idlib city and countryside. The large amounts purchased by humanitarian organisations and charitable associations with the aim to distribute them to the needy in refugee camps is a major factor for the increase in such materials, as many merchants have exploited the catastrophic situation and raised prices of their products.


Another reason behind the increase in materials used for heating is the taxes imposed by Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham on border crossings and merchants importing these materials. In addition, these materials are bought from Turkey for high prices due to the ongoing freefall of the Turkish Lira and the fees of transportation.


Thousands of displaced families are struggling with dire living conditions in refugee camps in light of the extreme cold which has been battering the north Syrian region, as many families are not able to secure basic needs of fuel or alternative materials.

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