Qamishli’s Znoud neighborhood turns a black market for lost products

Members of the Asayish Internal Security Forces and the Syrian regime forces guard a checkpoint at the northern entrance to the Znoud neighborhood in Qamishli - 27 April 2021 (AFP)

Members of the Asayish Internal Security Forces and the Syrian regime forces guard a checkpoint at the northern entrance to the Znoud neighborhood in Qamishli - 27 April 2021 (AFP)

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Al-Hasakah – Majd al-Salem

In view of the recurrent crises of fuels and basic food commodities such as sugar, oil, and bread in various areas of (Syrian Democratic Forces) SDF-held al-Hasakah governorate, all these commodities are available in the Znoud neighborhood, south of Qamishli (south of the railway track), which is under the control of the Syrian regime forces. This neighborhood is the largest black market for lost goods, which are sold at the most expensive prices.

Stands are everywhere in the neighborhood

As observed by Enab Baladi, stands on the sidewalks of the main street in the Znoud neighborhood are abundant, selling most of the materials whose trade is monopolized by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES); there are sellers of fuels of all kinds (diesel, oil, gasoline), in addition to domestic gas, bread, and even rare agricultural fertilizers and fodder.

One resident of the Znoud neighborhood, who had declined to reveal his name for security reasons, told Enab Baladi that the entry of these materials is “completely easy” as long as there were “bribes” for the checkpoints belonging to the Syrian regime on the one hand, and others affiliated with the SDF. Each of the two parties has three checkpoints distributed at the entrances to the neighborhood, “all of which take bribes and royalties from smugglers.”

The young man describes the Znoud neighborhood as “the best place to dispose of monopolized and lost materials” amid the lack of regime authority over the shops inside the neighborhood. Meanwhile, AANES monopolizes the sale of such materials in its regions, and their trade is restricted to certain people “affiliated with it,” as he put it.

Prices are doubled

The owner of a stand for selling fuel, who declined to be named for security reasons, told Enab Baladi that he sells all kinds of fuels demanded on the market, such as gasoline, which he sells at the price of 2,000 SYP per liter, while it is sold at AANES gas stations in two categories, the first at the cost of 210 SYP per liter, while the second costs 720 SYP per liter.

Diesel is sold at 1500 SYP per liter, while AANES sets the price of a regular liter at 410 SYP. The gas cylinder is also sold at the price of 40,000 SYP, while AANES had set its regular price at 2500 SYP, i.e., it is sold in the Znoud neighborhood for about 16 times the regular price.

The stand owner added that these prices are also subject to increase as the materials crisis worsens in AANES-controlled areas. Despite the “significant” price discrepancies, most profits go to checkpoints and traders cooperating with AANES, while the stand owner only gets the crumbs, as he put it.

According to Enab Baladi’s monitoring of the prices of a number of materials in the Znoud neighborhood, a kilogram of sugar costs 4000 SYP, while AANES had set its price in private sales halls at 2700 SYP. A bundle of bread is sold for 1500 SYP, while its regular price is 400 SYP.

Although flour is completely prohibited from being transported or traded in the SDF-controlled areas, the price of a bag of flour (50 kilograms) amounted to about 75,000 SYP in the aforementioned neighborhood.

What is the source of these materials?

According to information from cross-sources obtained by Enab Baladi, there are “lots” of ways and people contributing to the “revival of the black market” of various foodstuffs and fuels in the Znoud neighborhood.

Owners of bakeries who have special licenses get flour and fuel at subsidized prices from the AANES, and they consume part of it. But the bulk is sold in the neighborhood at double the price, as well as fuels; “owners of bakeries have become traders of flour and fuel.”

Gas station owners collaborate with certain people from within the neighborhood to sell a part of the station’s allocations at high prices. In addition, station workers themselves “are stealing fuel from the stations” at a rate of 30 to 50 liters per day and are sold for their own profit in the neighborhood.

With regard to domestic gas, one of the gas agents authorized to sell gas in the neighborhoods of Qamishli (refused to be named for security reasons) told Enab Baladi that certain influential SDF members have licenses that authorize them to sell gas, under which they receive hundreds of cylinders at the price of 2500 SYP. But they do not sell it to the people but rather on the black market inside the neighborhood and even to other areas, at prices ranging between 30,000 and 40,000 SYP per cylinder.

There are also some civilians who try to take advantage of the large price difference as a source of income, standing in the lines of bread, gas, sugar, and oil, and then taking the entire quantity obtained to the Znoud neighborhood to sell it there at high prices.

According to Enab Baladi’s monitoring, AANES’ monopoly on the trade of most food commodities, the lack of oversight, the frequent fuel crises at gas stations, the irregular schedules for distributing domestic gas cylinders to neighborhoods, and the lack of distributed quantities led to the revival of the black market for such commodities within the Znoud neighborhood, the only regime-controlled neighborhood in Qamishli after losing the former al-Tai neighborhood.

 

 

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