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Sarmada: new commercial hub at Turkish border

Local | 2017-01-16 14:37:17
Sarmada: new commercial hub at Turkish border

(Eqtsad)- The northern town of Sarmada at the Turkish border has turned a commercial hub due to the strategic position near the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.

According to the 2008 population census, Sarmada’s inhabitants numbered 15,000 persons. A large number of the town’s population worked in the Bab al-Hawa border center. The town did not have extensive economic activity, but after the revolution, it flourished economically and the town expanded rapidly.

Eqtsad met with Abed al-Hafiz Lathqani, the official spokesperson for the city council of Sarmada, and he said Sarmada’s changes began with the liberation of the Bab al-Hawa border center by the opposition factions. This was the start of extensive commercial trade with Turkey. Town residents would go and buy merchandise and their everyday necessities from Turkey in their private vehicles because they were unable to access anything from the regime areas, and Turkey facilitated the issue for them.

Lathqani clarified that the commercial trade soon expanded to include major traders who sent truck convoys to transport merchandise from Turkey. Turkish drivers feared to go deeper into Syria because of the bombing so they would unload the cargo in Sarmda. Sarmada became a merchandise collection point and a destination for traders from all other liberated areas. This was the beginning of the internal trade which turned Sarmada city into one of its principle centers.

Lathqani added that the population of Sarmada grew as people moved there for work, trade, and due to the relative safety it offered from regime bombing since it is a border region. The city began to witness strong commercial trade, especially at peak hours when many people from neighboring villages and even camp residents come to work in the city or to buy their daily needs.

In turn, Mohammad Waqas, a trader from Sarmada who has been working in the wholesale business since 1997, confirmed that his business expanded after the liberation of Bab al-Hawa border crossing. He began to bring people’s daily necessities such as primary products essential for living. According to Waqas, Sarmada flourished because it became a trading center and land port providing other areas with food products as it was the only outlet. Waqas estimated that Sarmada’s commercial trade decreased by around 60% after the opposition lost areas in northern Syria. He continued explaining that the main beneficiary of the commercial trade are big traders, who are from different parts of Syria because they have large capital that they were able to invest in commerce in Sarmada.

Due to this commercial activity, Sarmada’s job market was invigorated and between 4,000-5,000 laborers work at the border crossing point. Most of the laborers are from the camps established in the area, and they work in unloading the commercial trucks coming from Turkey of their cargo. Other laborers work in unloading the merchandise from the trucks transporting the cargo to warehouses in the town.

Waqas explained that a chamber of commerce was established in Sarmada 18 months ago. The chamber includes traders from Sarmada and others coming from different areas in Syria. It handles regulating trade records as well as coordinating with the Turkish side to facilitate the entry and exit of traders. The chamber is also responsible for examining the quality of products and dealing with the challenges traders face.

Rami Qazi, the local council’s consultant, confirmed to Eqtsad that the economic boom in Sarmada has negative effects as well as most of the people coming to Sarmada from neighboring areas are traders with big capital. They can afford to pay high rent to live in the town, and this affected the price of rent generally. In addition, some of the traders coming to Sarmada bought land and built properties on the land, and then put the properties up for sale for high prices. Sarmada’s town’s people, in contrast, rented out their houses for appropriate prices and at times allowed newcomers to stay for free.

Qazi explained that the international organizations and associations that distribute aid to the displaced people exclude Sarmada in most cases based on their assumption that the population of Sarmada is formed mostly of traders and that they are well off financially. He said this affects the poorer segments of the town’s population.

Commerce in times of war remains contingent on the military and security situation as is the case everywhere in Syria. Sarmada, however, due to its proximity to the border crossing point with Turkey flourished economically and became a haven for those fleeing the indignity of life and the threat of explosive barrels.
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