Syrians accuse extremist group HTS of causing food crisis in Idlib

Syrians accuse extremist group HTS of causing food crisis in Idlib
Extremist Islamist group Hayaat Tahrir al-Sham has been accused of causing a food crisis in Idlib after raising taxes leading to the price of flour doubling in northwest Syria.
2 min read
30 March, 2022
HTS controls Idlib province while the affiliated Syrian Salvation Government governs civilian matters [Getty]

Syrian extremist group Hayaat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has been accused of causing a food crisis in Idlib province, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister service Al-Araby Al-Jadeed has reported.

The armed group, which effectively governs much of northwest Syria via the Syrian Salvation Government, raised customs clearance taxes on imports which led to essential ingredients doubling in price with flour now $500 per tonne, according to Idlib-based wholesalers.

Despite a global trend in inflation, vegetable oil, ghee (liquified butter), and sugar are reportedly available at much lower prices in other parts of Syria outside regime control, such as territories controlled by the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA).

This has led civilians in Idlib to hold HTS responsible for the issue.

The HTS-affiliated Salvation Government handles civilian matters in Idlib and a rise in taxes has led to a decrease in imports, a source told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Economic researcher Abdullah Al-Ali told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the food crisis is due to HTS' monopoly on trade and import processes in the region.

Taxes were imposed to discourage merchants from competing with merchants affiliated with the group, he added.

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Al-Ali acknowledged the Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused an increase in prices of essential items across the globe but stated this is not the reason for the rises in Idlib.

An abundance of essential goods at reasonable prices in other areas of Syria is evidence of this, he added.

Al-Ali also highlighted that areas under the HTS control - which also monopolises the telecommunications and fuel industries in northwest Syria - and the SNA depend on goods that enter Syria via Turkey.

However, HTS also generates revenues by imposing fees on all incoming goods from surrounding Syrian regime-held areas.

The Syrian Response Coordinators team said that food prices rose in northern Syria by 400 percent, fuel prices by 350 percent, and bread by 300 percent during the last three months of 2021.

Poverty rates reached 90 percent, amid signs of economic collapse in the last opposition stronghold.