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IDPs revive war-battered village of Kafr Aruq in Syria’s Idlib

Shops in the village of Kafr Aruq, northwest of Idlib (Enab Baladi)

Shops in the village of Kafr Aruq, northwest of Idlib (Enab Baladi)

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Idlib – Eyad Abd al-Jawad 

Northern Syria has received the largest waves of displacement throughout the nine-year war in Syria, which resulted in unprecedented economic movement and large-scale reconstruction in several cities and villages. Small villages, such as Kafr Aruq, became crammed with shops, restaurants, and other service shops.  

Kafr Arouq, located in the heart of Mount Barisha, north-west of the city of Idlib, is one of the villages that saw economic growth with the arrival of vast numbers of displaced people, who constitute the most significant factor in revitalizing economic activities into the area. 

Encouraging displaced numbers 

Samer Aboud, a displaced person from the village of Maar Shamshah, east of the city of Maarat al-Numan, opened a restaurant in the village of Kafr Aruq eight months ago despite its smallness, motivated by the large number of IDPs who settled there.

Aboud said that customer turnout at his restaurant is considered acceptable, highlighting that when he was forcibly displaced from his village, he brought with him nothing but his previous restaurant equipment. 

Aboud is faced with serious challenges, including “ the prohibitively high food costs,”  price difference due to the volatility of the SYP- US dollar exchange rate, which led to instability in prices of everything in the Syrian markets. 

Numerous people were forcibly displaced from their homes and come to Kafr Aruq. Mohammad Qattash had to flee his village in Aleppo Countryside towards Idlib, leaving everything behind, including his sweets shop, due to the military campaign carried out by the Syrian regime forces.

Qattash had not worked for two months after his arrival to Kafr Aruq, and when he recognized the large numbers of displaced people in the village and the surrounding camps, he was encouraged to open a new dessert shop. 

In an interview with Enab Baladi, Qattash said that most of the displaced people in the village live below the poverty line as a result of displacement, unemployment, and humanitarian organizations’ lack of interest in the displaced. He pointed out that the demand for desserts is linked to the distribution of relief aid among the displaced by the organizations, with each distribution, there is an increase in commercial movement in the markets. 

According to last year’s figures released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an estimated 83 percent of Syrians live below the poverty line. 

Attracting population diversity

Many displaced people in Kafr Aruq have taken the lead to start commercial activities and other services to serve the people. Ward al-Din al-Hamwi, a displaced person in the village, told Enab Baladi that when he first arrived in Kafr Aruq, he realized a gap between the needs and requirements of the residents of the village and the services that existed in the area. Al-Hamwi indicated that each area or city has its own customs, traditions, and a diversity of consumer food and goods. 

Al-Hamwi added that addressing the area’s changing needs is something that the residents of the area itself need to do, noting that the diversity that exists in Kafr Aruq did better business and attracted many to start their own projects and led to their success in various service and living areas. 

Al-Hamwi concluded by saying that this applies not only to Kafr Aruq village but to all the markets of any of the “liberated north” towns. 

For his part, Mohammad Zaitoun, a resident of Kafr Aruq village, emphasized to Enab Baladi that the trade movement was fragile and virtually not existent in the village before the consecutive batches of displaced people arrived in Kafr Aruq village and the surrounding villages. He attributed the lack of trade movement in the past in the village due to its small population, and most of them worked in agriculture and construction. 

Kafr Aruq’s population has doubled due to the increasing number of displaced people and the internal displacement camps surrounding the village, which led to relatively economic growth boosted by the displaced. 

The residents of the village began to notice the opening of new restaurants, shops, pharmacies, medical clinics, stores offering different services and commodities. Kafr Aruq also saw an increase in population, rental housing costs, and a “good” reconstruction movement.

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