Textiles, fertilizers, cement, food, chemicals – Syria has had a fairly wide industrial production but lack of capital, complicated laws and unreliable electricity supply are some of the factors that already hampered the country’s industrial development even before the civil war.
Following an upswing immediately after independence, the industrial sector, including mining and construction, grew steadily. In 1971, for the first time, industry’s share of gross domestic product (GDP) was equal to that of agriculture. Industrial production also increased in the early 1980s, especially in the mining industry, but in the early 1990s production stagnated, partly as a result of the government having to curtail imports of spare parts and raw materials. Corruption and mismanagement in the state industries also adversely affected production.
A new investment law in 1991, which provided tax relief and increased opportunities for private companies, led to a gradual increase in production. New reforms in 2000 aimed to further increase private investment, but corruption and lack of capital hampered further expansion.
Syrian industry was still dominated by large-scale state-owned companies, but private companies played an increasingly important role in the manufacture of textiles, glass, food and composition of tractors and cars, refrigerators and TV sets, for example. The main focus of industrial policy has been on developing industries based on the country’s own natural resources and raw materials. At the city of Homs there are industries that produce phosphate fertilizers. Syria also has sugar refineries, cement industries and steel mills.
However, the civil war that erupted in 2011 has led to widespread destruction in the industrial sector and the imposition of trade sanctions from the US, the EU and the Arab world. Many factories have therefore been forced to close due to falling demand, difficulties in obtaining raw materials, or because they were bombed, looted or taken over by one of the warring parties.
- COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of Syria. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.
Presidential family employed from several directions
17th of June
The Central Bank of Syria devalues the country’s currency by 44 percent on the same day as the US extends its sanctions on the state leadership. For the first time, sanctions are being directed against President Bashar al-Assad’s wife Asma, along with 38 other people. The new law, The Caesar Act, has been named after the code name of a person who revealed abuses in Syria and is primarily aimed at people who trade in fuel and building products. In France, an 82-year-old uncle, and former power rival, will receive the president at the same time a four-year prison sentence for money laundering. He is convicted of using money embezzled from the Syrian Treasury to acquire properties in France. Uncle Rifaat al-Assad lives in exile after making himself unlucky with the family through too far-reaching power ambitions for his own part, but he has been called ” Hamas butcher” since a revolt against the regime was brutally fought in Hama in 1982.
Agreement between Kurdish organizations
An agreement on cooperation is concluded by two rival Kurdish organizations: the Kurdish National Council, which includes a Syrian opposition alliance supported by Turkey, and PYD, which dominates the Kurdish areas of northern Syria politically and militarily. Smaller Kurdish parties had their offices closed by PYD 2017 and have accused PYD of opposing their critics. The offices have recently been reopened and negotiations between the groupings have been under pressure from the US. Washington, which has supported Kurdish efforts to expel the Islamic State (IS), wants to see Kurdish unity in order to reduce its own presence in Syria. For PYD, a gain with the agreement could be to participate in UN-led talks on the future of Syria.
Currency exchange in rebel areas
In light of the Syrian currency’s race, the administration created by jihadist groups in northwestern Syria has switched to using Turkey’s currency, says a local representative for the AFP news agency. Already in May, rebel groups began to pay wages in Turkish money, and price lists that can be seen in rebel-controlled societies have also changed currency. The UN has reported that a large value transport of Turkish money was brought into Idlib province on June 11.
The Prime Minister is replaced
Prime Minister Imad Khamis gets fired by President Bashar al-Assad, after four years. Acting on the post will now be Hussein Arnous, who had the ministerial post as responsible for water resources. Khamis receives criticism for how the government has managed Syria’s economy, which is faltering in the tenth year of the civil war.
Protests in Drusian city
For three days, demonstrations have been reported from the city of al-Suwaida in southern Syria. The population there is predominantly Druse and requires better living conditions. The protesters have, according to SOHR, conducted protests with the same slogan that were used throughout the Arab world during the protest spring 2011: “The people want the regime’s fall”. Over nine years of civil war, the Syrian pound has plummeted in value and food prices have risen.
Air strikes resume in the northwest
Russian fighter aircraft attacks rebel targets in northwestern Syria, where there have otherwise been several months of delays in air strikes (see March 6 and May 10). Also Lebanese Hezbollahand the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are said to have strengthened their forces in the northwest. The Assad regime and its allies are believed to intend to increase the pressure on rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which along with other rebels still controls about half of Idlib province and smaller land areas in neighboring provinces. But Turkey has also strengthened its presence, with artillery units. According to analysts, the purpose may be to take control of land lost by Assad opponents, and to expand or at least strengthen the Turkish “security zone” in Syrian territory. In May, the number of civilian casualties was 71, the lowest since the Syrian civil war broke out over nine years ago, but a regional escalation of the war seems to stand at the door.
Travel ban for the president’s cousin
Rami Makhlouf, businessman and cousin of President Bashar al-Assad, is charged with travel bans by the Justice Department. Syrian authorities claim that his telecom company Syriatel owes the state the equivalent of SEK 1.8 billion for licenses. The conflict between Makhlouf and the regime (see December 24, 2019) has been the latest one with ever more open charges.
Sharpened rationing of fuel
Cars with high-powered engines will no longer have to be refueled at a subsidized price, and neither companies nor individuals will receive subsidized fuel for more than one car. The subsidies are also reduced on the fuel allowed. The price for an extra can (20 liters) increases by 80 percent, from 5,000 to 9,000 Syrian pounds. During the Civil War, the regime has tried to reduce consumption of both domestic gas and fuel in several stages (see April 15, 2019). Before the war, Syria produced 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Now the recovery is down to 24,000 barrels, the oil minister says, and it covers only one-sixth of the domestic need. A significant part of Syria’s oil field lies in a region controlled by Kurdish-dominated forces since the Islamic State was driven away from oil wells and cities in the Northeast.
Flaming battles in the northwest
Since Presidents Putin and Erdoğan, who support each side in the Syrian civil war, made a ceasefire (see March 6, 2020), fewer bloody war events have taken place in the Northwest. But now almost 50 people (government soldiers and rebels) are losing their lives in a violent outbreak in Sahl al-Ghab, where a rebel group is said to be linked to al-Qaeda. Syrian and Russian fighter jets are rarely seen (as a result of the ceasefire), but the accusations have not been silent on the government side attacking civilian targets during offenses against Idlib 2019 and 2020. Amnesty International claims to have documented 18 attacks in the past year that should be classed as war crimes, as they were targeted at schools and healthcare institutions (see also April 6, 2020).
Elections are moved to July
The Syrian parliamentary election has yet to change its date (see March 14). The goal is now that the election will be possible on July 19. Deaths from covid-19 viral disease have been reported both from areas controlled by the regime and from northwestern Syria, which is under Kurdish-dominated rule. The parliamentary elections will only be conducted in areas controlled by the Assad government. It will be the third time since the Civil War broke out in 2011.
Israel: Iran target for attack in Syria
According to SOHR, both Iraqis and Iranians are among the 14 killed when a location in the desert outside the city of Mayadin is attacked. Shortly before, Syrian air defense managed to stop attacks from Israel in northern Syria. During the Syrian civil war, Israel carried out numerous attacks against targets in Syria, often targeting the Assad regime’s allies from other countries, such as Lebanese Hezbollah. Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett says (without confirming the individual incident) that the attacks will continue until Iran leaves Syria.
IS-woman in court in Germany
In Hamburg, a trial is opened against a German-Tunisian woman, who lived in the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Syria and is suspected of, among other things, crimes against humanity, slave trade and terrorist membership. The woman returned to Germany with her children after being married twice in the IS community. Her second husband, a German-Ghanaian rapper who appeared in IS’s bloody propaganda films, was killed in an air raid in 2018. The woman was arrested in the fall of 2019 after a revelation by a Lebanese journalist. In Germany, the case is now being tried as one of several where Yazidic girls were forced into slavery at IS (see April 24).
Officers are murdered in Daraa
Nine police officers are kidnapped and killed in a raid on a government building in southern Syria. It happened in Daraa, where the rebellion against the Assad regime broke out in 2011. Whoever carried out the attack is unclear, but the suspicions take two directions: either domestic rebels, who remained in the neighborhood when the government took back Daraa 2018, or supporters of IS, who are believed to be hiding places in the desert since the “caliphate” of the movement was crushed.
HRW: IS used the gorge as a mass grave
In a rift in the landscape north of the city of al-Raqqa, there may be remnants of people murdered by the Islamic State (IS), the human rights organization claims. A video reported to be recorded in 2014 shows jihadists throwing corpses down to the depth. HRW representatives have filmed the scene with drones after Kurdish forces drove away IS. HRW now requires that the gap at least 50 meters deep be secured, that evidence is collected and that remains are identified. Since last year, Syrian rebels working with Turkey have been controlling the area. More than 20 mass graves have been found in former IS areas. Regarding the gap, HRW believes that people may have been dumped there even after the IS case.
Tanker truck blows up in Afrin
In the city of Afrin, controlled by rebel forces cooperating with the Turkish military, a tanker truck detonates and nearly 50 people lose their lives. It happens in a market where people make purchases for the evening meals during the ongoing fasting month of Ramadan. The incident is one of the most serious in Afrin since the Turkish army and its allied Syrian rebels took the city in March 2018 after a land offensive in Syrian territory. Afrin had previously been under the control of Kurdish forces. Turkey blames the Kurdish YPG militia driven out of the city with surroundings during the 2018 offensive. Instead, in mid-May, the UN suspects both IS cells and other terrorist groups accused of taking advantage of the corona pandemic and staging, among other things, bombing in different directions.
Corona measures shorten the academic year
26th of April
The school year is over for more than four million students in government-controlled parts of Syria. The schools were closed in mid-March in response to the threat of the spread of corona infection, and distance education via the internet can hardly be carried out in a war-torn country. Now only high school and high school students will be allowed to finish the semester with degree writing as usual. Younger students will be moved straight up in the next grade, the government announces.
IS crimes are being tried in Germany
A man with a background in the Islamic State (IS) is facing trial in Frankfurt, Germany charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes and slave trade. The man is Iraqi and is believed to have held leading positions in IS in both Iraq and Syria. He and his German wife, who is also suspected of murder, allegedly bought a Yazid woman and his daughter as slaves in 2015. Mother and child, kidnapped from their home town of Sinjar in Iraq, were sold several times on IS slave markets. When they ended up in the Iraqi-German couple’s violence, they were taken to al-Falluja, where the child died of thirst. The trial of the woman began in Germany in April 2019. The man was arrested in Greece the following month and released to Germany. The Yazidian mother has testified about how she and her daughter were treated.
Jail Chief Justice
A trial is being opened in Koblenz, Germany, against two Syrians, among them a man identified as responsible for murder, torture and rape against opposers in the infamous al-Khatib prison in Syria during the first year of the civil war. It is the first time a representative of the Assad regime has been tried for crimes against humanity. The man sought asylum in Germany, but happened to end up in a place where the regime’s longtime critic Anwar al-Bunni, who had also fled the country, recognized him. The trial is expected to last for several months and the designated prison chief risks life.
Coronasmitta in Kurdish area
The first death in covid-19 is reported from the Kurdish region of northeastern Syria. The death must have happened in Qamishli as early as April 2 and been known by UN representatives, but the Kurdish administration claims that the information was not passed on. The first deaths in March were reported on regime-controlled land.
OPCW points out Assad forces
Investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) explicitly point out the Assad regime as responsible for three attacks with nuclear weapons in 2017, when the poisons sarin and chlorine gas were used against the al-Latamina community. The designation is the result of OPCW having been given increased authority; in the past, inspectors were only entitled to conclude that nuclear weapons had come into use, not who was guilty (see November 28, 2019). The new investigative team has examined, among other things, waste, symptoms and eyewitness accounts from the affected sites. The Syrian government dismisses OPCW’s conclusions as false and misleading.
Russia avoids UN criticism
A UN commission that has since the autumn investigated attacks on civilian targets such as health care facilities (see August 1, 2019) does not explicitly point out the Russian forces fighting on the part of the Assad regime. This is evidenced by a summary submitted to the countries of the UN Security Council, although the report itself is secret. UN investigators have not been able to visit the sites because the Syrian regime has thwarted the investigation. Coordinates of sites that had been attacked had been handed over by the UN to warring parties precisely to protect civilian targets from attack. A number of countries and organizations demand that attacks on civilian targets be considered war crimes.
Fighting is replaced by unresolved murders
In March, 103 civilians lost their lives in the civil war, says SOHR. It is the lowest civilian death toll since the war broke out in 2011, exactly nine years ago. According to SOHR, about half should have been killed in air or artillery attacks carried out by the Assad regime. In addition, civilians were killed, among other things, by leaving ammunition. A ceasefire concluded at the beginning of the month between the government side and jihadist groups (see March 6) has reduced the fighting in the troubled Idlib province, but at the same time unexplained events are described by SOHR as mysterious murders.
Assad takes action against pandemic
The Assad regime faces a nightly curfew in Damascus to counter the corona pandemic. Shops, markets and public transport are closed. The first death in the covid-19 viral disease is only confirmed a few days later, but it is believed to have occurred significantly more, especially given that the regime has a major exchange with Iran, which is one of the worst affected countries.
Small opportunities to fight coronary infection
Syria’s first death in covid-19 disease is confirmed. The fears of the spread of the new corona virus are greatest in wars: in Idlib province. The World Health Organization (WHO) has initiated sampling, but resources for intensive care are lacking. Even in the Kurdish-controlled areas of the north, where tens of thousands of people connected to the Islamic State (IS) are in camps, the hospitals lack equipment.
Tenth Year of Civil War
The Syrian civil war is entering its tenth year. Nine years of war have claimed at least 384,000 lives, according to estimates by the London-based opposition group SOHR. More than 116,000 of the victims were civilians. The UN Children’s Fund Unicef (which began collecting data in 2014) estimates that 4.8 million children have been born into a war, and about 9,000 have been killed or injured, while a million Syrian children have been born as refugees. Bashar al-Assad’s regime, with the help of its foreign allies (mainly Russia and the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah), has taken back so much land that the government is estimated to control 70 percent of the country’s area. But cities and villages, schools and health care facilities are in ruins and agriculture and other activities in large areas have been eliminated.
Virus threat moves choice
14th of March
The parliamentary elections are postponed to May 20, citing the risk of spreading coronary infection, the President’s Office announces (see March 3). Syria has not reported any case of the covid-19 viral disease, but collective prayers at mosques in government-controlled areas have been canceled, including lunch prayers on Fridays. Schools will be closed until the beginning of April. In rebel-held Idlib, local authorities have closed schools, but only for a week. In Kurdish-controlled areas, schools are closed until further notice.
Agreement between Erdoğan and Putin on ceasefire
An armistice comes into force in northwestern Syria between Turkish forces on the one hand and Russian-backed Syrian government forces on the other. Presidents Erdoğan and Putin have agreed that the fronts should be frozen, a security corridor to be set up along the M4 highway in Idlib province and aid broadcasts for civilians to be released. On March 15, Turkish and Russian forces will start patrolling along the highway. There have been several ceasefires in Idlib in the past, but this time two government armies have fought each other, and Turkey has lost so many soldiers in recent weeks that the fighting has caused dissatisfaction with the Turkish public.
Severe havoc in Idlib
4th of March
Months of war events in northwestern Syria have led to very devastation. The government side, supported by Russian fighter aircraft, has previously been accused of attacking health care institutions and schools (see August 1, 2019). Now, one-third of all buildings in Idlib Province are ruined or badly accessed, judging by satellite imagery on communities and camps that have been analyzed by researchers affiliated with the Harvard Humanitarian Inititive in collaboration with Save the Children and World Vision organizations. A report by the United Nations Human Rights Council, published on March 2, shows that the Assad regime deliberately directed war actions against civilian targets to scare the population into flight and facilitate a re-capture of areas held by rebels.
Elections in April
Parliamentary elections will be held in government-controlled areas on April 13, the Assad regime announces. This is the third time in almost nine years of civil war that such a choice is being held. In 2016, the ruling Baath Party and its allies took home most of the 250 seats, but the election did not win international recognition as free and fair.
Turkey goes for new attacks in Syria
Turkey shoots down two Syrian fighter aircraft and launches a drone strike against a column of Syrian military vehicles in Idlib province. 19 Syrian soldiers lose their lives, according to data obtained by SOHR. For their part, Syrian forces have been able to shoot down three Turkish drones and the Assad government’s Russian allies say they cannot guarantee the security of Turkish flights over Syria. Turkey emphasizes that one is not looking for a military confrontation with Russia in Syria, but that is exactly what the outside world (not least the EU) fears.
Stepping up between Syrian and Turkish forces
Syrian government forces attack Turkish soldiers in Syrian Idlib province. At least 33 turkeys lose their lives. Turkey responds by shelling the positions of the Assad forces, with an unknown number of dead as a result. Russian forces on the Assad side say they have not been involved. Including the events, more than 50 Turkish soldiers have lost their lives in the last month in fighting on the Syrian side of the border. The Assad government is on its way to recapture the Idlib province from jihadist militia, but is also at odds with rebel forces supported by Turkey.
Aleppo Airport opens
The Assad regime is making a propaganda number by reopening the major city of Aleppo Airport. It is broadcast live on TV from the first civilian flight to the city from the capital Damascus in eight years.
UN: Alarming refugee numbers
Since the beginning of December, 900,000 people have been moving to escape fighting in northwestern Syria, according to Mark Lowcock, who leads the UN humanitarian efforts. The influx of refugees is increasing dramatically, while the Russian army supported by Russian flights is attacking rebels and jihadist groups. The winter weather in the area south of the border with Turkey causes severe hardship for civilians. Children of vulnerable refugees have been frozen to death. A spokesman for the UN Secretary-General has previously stated that 72 medical facilities in Idlib and Aleppo have ceased to function. According to SOHR, the recent fighting has led to the Assad regime now dominating all smaller cities and villages around Aleppo, for the first time since 2012.
Tapered location between Syria and Turkey
The situation is pointed between the Assad regime and Turkey in northern Syria. Five Turkish soldiers lose their lives in Idlib as a result of artillery fire from Syrian government forces. That causes Turkey to attack a number of Syrian positions and claim that more than 100 government soldiers have been neutralized, while at the same time some combat vehicles have been eliminated. The intensified conflict also heightens tensions between Turkey and Russia, which act in the area on the side of the Assad regime (see February 3). The UN organization Ocha writes up the total number of refugees recently, from both provinces Idlib and Aleppo, to about 690,000.
Struggles in both south and north
6th of February
Israel is conducting air raids on several targets south of Damascus, stating that there is an Iranian presence. The raids require 23 lives, “Syrian and foreign combatants” according to SOHR. Israel makes repeated attacks on sites in Syria, where Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah have forces to assist the Assad regime (see September 4, 2018 and November 20, 2019). In northern Syria, the Assad forces are simultaneously making new victories in their offensive against rebels in Idlib. The government army is about to occupy the strategically located city of Saraqib. At the same time, Turkey is calling on Russia to put an end to the Assad regime’s offensive, which is generating refugee flows towards the Turkish border.
Over half a million flee from Idlib
The Assad regime’s offensive against the last rebel strongholds, in Idlib province, has (as of December 1) led to 520,000 people fleeing. The calculation is made by the UN organization Ocha, which also states that 80 percent of the refugees are women and children. The refugee wave, which takes place during winter temperatures, is one of the largest during the almost nine war years. In total, more than half of Syria’s population of 20 million before the war has become refugees, either in the country or in other countries.
Turkey and Syria in battle
Syria’s government army attacks Turkish troops in Idlib province in northern Syria and eight Turks lose their lives. Turkey has twelve observation posts in the area as a result of a settlement with Russia, and a short while ago a large column of Turkish military vehicles should have been seen in the area. Turkey responds with rockets and at least 13 Syrian soldiers die, according to SOHR. With over 20 dead, the fighting is believed to be the deadliest between countries since Turkey joined forces in Syria in 2016. Turkey and Russia (Assyrian Allies) disagree on whether Turkey has provided information in advance on the troops’ move. The day before, Syrian and Russian forces jointly attacked rebels in Idlib, according to SOHR with 14 civilian casualties as a result.
The regime regains strategic city
The forces of the Assad regime occupy the strategically located city of Maarrat al-Numan, which lies along the highway between Damascus and Aleppo. The city of Idlib Province has been in the hands of Assad opponents since 2012. Rebels and jihadists who have failed to hold their ground are now leaving the city, whose civilian population is already on the run after months of bombing.
Turkey is building a house in Syria
Turkey has begun to build housing in Syrian territory for Syrians fleeing inland, says President Erdoğan. It should not be tent camps but real houses and they will be erected near the Turkish border, he says, who has previously made it clear that Turkey does not want to receive more refugees. According to the Turkish aid organization IHH, which has counted for 450,000 people who have moved to the Turkish border in the last five months, 10,000 homes are being built in a village in Idlib. The main reason for the wave of refugees is that in the Idlib province, there are still rebel pockets that are being attacked by the Assad regime’s forces with Russian allies (see October 18 and December 17, 2019).
Shadow diplomacy in Berlin
Representatives of several Syrian people groups have met in Berlin to discuss ways to peace. Sunni Muslim clan leaders (some of whom have their own militias) and Alawites with ties to the Assad regime have been in attendance as have Drusians, Christians and Kurds, including a Yazid leader. Some live in exile, others have traveled in directly from Damascus, noting the British BBC describing the participants as representatives of “the silent majority who want peace”. The meetings are organized by exile Syrians in Germany, who are seen as a relatively neutral country in the Syrian conflict, with the support of other EU countries. Inspired by a similar document from the time of World War I, the 2017 initiators gathered behind a document they called “Guidelines for Syrian Coexistence”:
High mortality in IS camps
In 2019, more than 500 people died in the overcrowded al-Hol camp, which is the largest gathering place for people connected to the Islamic State. Relief workers in the Kurdish Red Crescent count to 517 deceased, of whom 371 are children. About 68,000 people are in the camp in northeastern Syria where life is characterized by malnutrition, cold and poor sanitary conditions. Most are Syrian or Iraqi citizens, but there are still people from many countries. Small children born while families have lived with IS generally do not have passports, but the UN calls on parents’ home countries to at least rescue the children.
Attack on Idlib despite ceasefire
Government forces attack sites in Idlib, despite a ceasefire proclaimed a few days earlier by Russian and Turkish mediators. The air strikes, which Russian fighter aircraft are also reported to be participating in, are aimed at, among other things, a market and an industrial area. They are followed by ground fighting and the day after, SOHR states that at least 18 people lost their lives. A day later, it is reported that nearly 40 warriors have been put to death south of Maarrat al-Numan. Almost as many government soldiers as rebels should have been killed.
Total death toll of the war: 380,000
The civil war, which broke out in southern Syria in March 2011, has been raging for almost nine years. According to reports to the SOHR, the war has now claimed a total of more than 380,000 people’s lives, of which over 115,000 civilians. About 22,000 children and 13,000 women have been killed. The death toll includes, as far as SOHR knows, 67,000 jihadists ; This information mainly includes IS supporters and members of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group. The statistics do not include people who have disappeared after being kidnapped by one of the warring parties, nor are people believed to have died from torture in the Assad regime prisons (according to SOHR’s estimate, about 88,000 people in total). 13 million Syrians are on the run, either domestically or abroad.