As much of the rest of Syria continues to worsen economically, the city of Afrin, located near the country’s northwest border with Turkey, is witnessing an uptick in economic activity.
The city boasts a large Kurdish presence and has more than 360 villages attached to it administratively. Most of its residents work farming olive trees, although recently several new trade and industrial projects have emerged. These industries, which include textiles, ready-made clothing, and foodstuffs produced from local harvests, emerged after the arrival of capital from both opposition and regime areas. This capital, in addition to the stable security situation in Afrin— the city is only very rarely subject to bombardment—made for a suitable business climate in Afrin.
“The city is witnessing clear growth, especially if you look at the variety of municipal projects, including gardens and recreational areas, paving roads, and building business and shopping centers. There has also been construction: apartment complexes have been built, some by independent businessman who intend to sell them later, and some by the Self Administration,” Hayfal Harbji, an Afrin resident, told the Syrian Voice.
As reported by the official Afrin Canton website, the Self Administration’s Joint Executive Council met on Tuesday with the city’s Development Committee to discuss ongoing construction projects, projects which were prepared for with studies and planning so that they would affect rural, urban, and industrial growth.
Work opportunities in Afrin have increased as well given the economic revival. As such, the Afrin Worker’s Union opened up a center for workers in response to their request for such a facility. Workers are considered the nerve center of the economy and the essential driving factor for the city’s growth and development.
In a related development, more taxes and customs fees are being imposed by the Self Administration. The city’s Internal Authority announced a decision on Sunday that imposes fees on vehicles crossing to and from liberated areas through its territory, or any commercial vehicle operating inside the city. The exact fee varies depending on the make and model of the vehicle, ranging from $100-$800 for a 2013 model.
Abu Mohammed al-Halabi, a commercial truck driver explained the system to the Syrian Voice.
“The Self Administration is imposing large fees, depending on what exactly is being transported, on drivers who transport goods across the Bab al-Hawai border crossing with Turkey, in Idlib, to regime-controlled areas in eastern Syria. The fee also applies to trucks carrying goods from the Bab al-Salama crossing, in northern Aleppo, that travel through Afrin to ‘liberated” areas in the north and west of Syria.”
The fees collected amount to 15% of the value of the transported goods, in addition to a $1500 fee to accompany the vehicle.
Spare parts are subject to fees worth more than their original cost, which has caused many owners of these parts to send them back to their source or sell them in a place that doesn’t require crossing through Afrin.
According to al-Halabi, about 100 vehicles transporting goods cross through Afrin daily.
Fuel is subject to its own special set of fees, explained Faris al-Hasan, who drives a fuel tanker from regime controlled areas to Idlib and Hama.
“The Kurdish units take 300 SP ($1.40) for every barrel, which forces fuel traders to raise their prices on the civilians who buy it in the end.”
He continued, saying “I estimate that every day, probably more than 10,000 barrels of fuel cross through Afrin, so that is 30,000,000 SP or $58,825. The fees are paid in US dollars only, given in exchange for a receipt they get at special checkpoints.”
Civilians too are subject to taxes and fees. The Self Administration has imposed a fee of 2000 SP ($9.30) on any traveler of 14 crossing through Afrin, paid at a specified office.
According to what Kurdish sources told the Syrian Voice, these revenues are dispensed in several ways. Sixty percent go to the Syrian Democratic Forces, in order to arm them and pay fighters’ salaries, while another portion pays administration employees, of which there are about 5,500, and another part goes to general municipal services.