(Photo credit: UNICEF/Omar Albam)
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda which governs the Idlib region of Syria, is reportedly using the global fuel and wheat crisis to hike the price of daily necessities.
An 18 March report from Al Monitor suggests that HTS abuses its monopoly on the import of goods from Turkey in order to gain more profits from the citizens of Idlib.
The import of sugar is limited to three traders close to HTS, enabling them to increase the price per ton by $200 above the market value.
The report states that sugar becomes even more scarce due to illicit smuggling to areas controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
According to Fadel Abdul-Ghani, the director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the link between the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the rise in retail prices for wheat and other foodstuffs is not possible, as it takes time for the rise in the price of commodities to reach the consumer.
Rather, HTS is exploiting the crisis to artificially raise consumer prices in advance, which they have done since the first day of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine.
Another factor is the inflation of the Turkish lira, which since 2020 has become the de facto currency of Idlib as well as other rebel-held areas with friendly ties to Turkey.
While the citizens face a dual crisis of depreciating currency and rising consumer prices, HTS leadership has been stealing humanitarian aid intended for the people and investing it into real estate in Turkey to generate profits.
Petroleum, gas, and diesel are also monopolized by HTS, which blocks importations by other companies and prices goods in US dollars. These essential commodities have also seen a rise in price for the average consumer.