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News Link • Sanctions

Sanctions in Syria: An EXCLUSIVE Look at How Everyday People Are Paying the Price

• The Organic Prepper By Brandon Turbeville

In 2017, I visited Syria. I sat in Damascus and listened to the sounds of mortars, missiles, and gunfire ring out 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At night, I would walk to the roof of the hotel and watch the firefight raging in Jobar. Damascus residents – innocent civilians – lived in constant fear of terrorist mortars that would rain down on them randomly, sometimes destroying their homes, sometimes killing their neighbors or family members. Sometimes, if they were lucky, they would only land in the street, scaring the shop owners and their customers and sending the street cats for the nearest hiding place. Sometimes, however, it would be the last thing they would hear. Sometimes, it would be the last thing their children would hear.

In that context, I walked through Damascus and talked to the people who lived there. They were resolute, courageous, and strong. Every single one of them had experienced some horrific loss, generally of someone close to them but also friends and neighbors as well as homes and businesses. Yet, despite all that, they maintained this love for life that few of us in the West have ever experienced. "For us," one girl said to me "life is about living. We are surrounded by death so, for us, living is enough."

It was easy to get the sense that the Syrian people were willing to fight to the last breath and drop of blood in their body for their ability to live free of foreign terrorism and for the dignity and sovereignty of their country. I got this sense not just in Damascus but also in Aleppo, Homs, Tartous and everywhere else I visited. A few times I was even told that, if America had the guts to invade Syria, then Syria was ready. And Syria would not be Iraq.

Once, in discussion with a Syrian man, the question was asked how Syrians seem to be able to get back up on their feet and start living again, sending their children to school, working, rebuilding even as the war continues two miles away. The answer was simple: "This is Syria." When it was suggested that the Western powers do not understand the Syrian connection to their country and their unmatched resolve to continue living and rebuilding what was lost, he agreed. "That's right," he said. "They don't understand us. And that is why they lost."

In late October 2019, I returned to Syria.

I walked through the Old City of Damascus to the sound of car horns and bars, conversations and music. The mortars and artillery shells were silent. Sitting on the roof of my hotel, I could see the outer edges of the city, the mountains, and the constant traffic. At night, stars and city lights. Jobar was finally quiet, albeit dark.

In Damascus and, most notably, Homs, I noticed that a number of new shops had opened along with a new bar and several new restaurants. In Homs, where around half the city was utterly destroyed, life was returning to the part that remained held by the Syrian government throughout the war. Every city I visited, I saw an attempt of life to push through the last eight years of death and destruction.

But what I also noticed was that, despite these positive developments, there was an element of despair and sadness in the air that was not present two years ago.

While the military situation in Syria has improved dramatically over the past 24 months – the Syrian government has retaken 3/4 of the country, pockets of terrorism in the major cities have been eliminated, the battle for Idlib is beginning, and the Kurdish terrorists in the Northeast are being forced to accept the fact that they will have to negotiate with the Syrian government – the economic situation has not.

In fact, due to the ravages of war but overwhelmingly due to Western sanctions, Syria's economy is perhaps at the worst point yet. Although Syrian business owners are doing their best to rebuild, the most important aspect of business is lacking – customers. With so much of the country destroyed by the war, exports essentially eliminated by sanctions, and the inability of Syrians to use most international financial institutions and technologies, the country's economy is at a standstill. A factory owner whose operations were destroyed can reopen his factory, but he will have to invest the money to rebuild his facility, buy new machines, and hire new workers. But who is he going to sell his goods to? He can't export them. The Syrian market is small and the population is so financially strapped, no luxury product will sell enough to make a decent profit and even the necessities are falling short of being a lucrative market. Restaurants re-open, but who can afford to go out? Same with hotels and bars.

People simply can't afford to buy products, whether they need them or not.

Of course, this isn't to say that no one is buying anything or that there is no life returning to Syria. In the areas that have started rebuilding efforts, you can indeed see people flocking to restaurants and bars. But Syria needs more than food and alcohol to survive.

For many, particularly younger people, if one is lucky enough to have a job, it takes three of them simply to make ends meet.

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