More than a year into a popular uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria that has killed more than 9,000 people, international sanctions and domestic unrest are taking a toll on the country’s economy.
Syria’s pound has fallen from 47 per U.S. dollar before the revolt began to about 62 per dollar today, and the cost of staples, like coffee and cheese, is soaring. Syrian banks, which hold a lot of foreign currency, initially profited from the Syrian pound’s depreciation but are now struggling as customers smuggle their savings to neighbouring countries. Deposits fell by an average of 35 per cent last year at three Syrian banks.
Syria is a religiously fragmented country made up of Christians, Sunni and Alawite Muslims, among others. Assad is Alawite. Those fighting him are mostly Sunni. Until now the country’s Sunni business class has stayed loyal to Assad. But blows to Syria’s economy have punished businessmen. Their support for the regime may begin to crumble.
So far, though, damage to Syria’s economy hasn’t blunted the brutality of the government’s response to the rebellion against it. Security forces and pro-regime gunmen attacked student protesters in Aleppo earlier this month, killing at least four and injuring many more.