Syria open for business? We're not buying it

Syria open for business? We're not buying it
Blog: The return of the once-popular Damascus International Fair after a five-year hiatus is being peddled by regime media as proof Syria is returning to "calm and stability".
2 min read
16 Aug, 2017
The expo is being touted as a mark of 'calm and stability' in Syria [Getty]

Syria is open for business - or so the regime wants you to think.

From Thursday, companies from 23 countries will be showcasing their wares in Damascus at the return of a ten-day international trade fair, once popular in pre-war Syria and now back for the first time in five years.

Organisers say 1,500 delegates are expected, with firms from Britain, France and Germany exhibiting their goods and services.

But much like the regime's bizarre marketing strategy to attract tourists amid a bloody war, this "internationally supported" event is being peddled by state media as a sign that peace and stability is returning to the country.

"The large participation in [the fair] locally and internationally are evidence of the victory of Syria and the return of life to it," state news agency SANA  quoted Information Minister Mohammad Ramez Tourjman as saying.

Its comeback has been made possible by "the return of calm and stability in most regions" of Syria, Fares al-Kartally, the fair's general director, told AFP.

The 'stability' of Damascus is a long way from the rubble
of much of the rest of the country [AFP]

"We want this fair to signal the start of [the country's] reconstruction."

But the propaganda is, of course, far from the truth.

Barrel bombs still rain down on neighbourhoods, killing hundreds of besieged civilians, despite the introduction of so-called, Russian military-monitored "de-escalation zones".

Tens of thousands of people remain trapped in IS-held Raqqa without access to aid, and civilians fleeing for their lives are stranded at the Jordanian border.

The return of the expo, which dates back to 1954, is also a harsh reminder of how much Syria has lost since 2011, when Bashar al-Assad's forces brutally suppressed popular protests demanding democratic reforms.

Beyond death tolls and destroyed infrastructure, the World Bank estimates the conflict has cost the Arab state as much as $226 billion in losses, or four times its annual pre-war GDP.

Damascus International Fair is another of the regime's attempts to appear a legitimate government, working to revitalise Syria's ravaged economy.

Ironically, it's the regime's very presence which is pushing the country deeper into ruin.

Follow Shams Al-Shakarchi on Twitter: @shams_shakarchi