Half of the total value of the United Nations’ procurement contracts in 2021 and 2022 went to private suppliers with a high - or very high - risk of being involved in human rights violations, while a third was procured to suppliers partially owned by sanctioned individuals, according to the study ‘U.N. Humanitarian Operations in Syria 2021.2022. Challenges and Policy Solutions,’ published today by the Observatory of Political and Economic Networks.
At the 33rd Arab League Summit held in Bahrein’s capital Manama on May 16, regional leaders ratified the need to continue the rapprochement process towards Damascus, a year after Syria was officially reinstated in the Arab League. Yet, besides the announcement of the resumption of direct flights between Bahrain and Syria, the summit concluded without any concrete economic or political announcement or concession towards Bashar Al-Assad’s government.
The Iraqi Federal Government stopped issuing work visas for Syrians in January and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) followed suit, halting issuing not only work but also tourist visas for Syrian nationals as of March 29. These recent decisions restricting the possibility of Syrians to visit or reside in Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan region mark a shift in the until-now ‘welcoming’ policy environment towards Syrian refugees since the onset of the Syrian conflict. This move is expected to slash the flow of remittances from Syrians working in Iraq, a country that is hosting 263,920 Syrian refugees.
The Autonomous Administration in Northeast Syria has announced advancements in the establishment of an industrial city in Manbij that will host 610 shops and workshops on 430,000 square metres. Construction works started in 2023 and the project is bound to be completed in 2025.
Two events last week highlighted the specific role the Czech Republic plays in relations between the European Union and Syria. The Czech State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs travelled to Damascus where he met with Syrian officials, becoming one of the most senior European diplomats to visit Syria since the onset of the uprising in 2011. Meanwhile, a Czech engineering company got involved in the electricity sector, which is sanctioned by the EU.
The Syrian government has issued their wheat procurement prices at SYP 5.5 million (around USD 366) per tonne, a stark increase from the SYP 2.8 million per tonne offered to local farmers in 2023 and the SYP 2 million offered in 2022.
A visit by the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Commerce to Saudi Arabia, initially scheduled for April 24, has been “postponed,” without a clear explanation, although a source close to the Syrian federation blamed elections at the Saudi Chamber of Commerce scheduled for this week.
War profiteer Khaled Zubaidi has established a Public Joint Stock company to invest in the sports sector with a capital of SYP 26 billion, equivalent to around USD 1.7 million. The company was registered in December 2023 under the name of Al-Wahda Investment and Development PJSC, according to the Official Gazette records. The name is a nod to the Al-Wahda sports club from Damascus.
Amnesty International has documented “large-scale and systematic violation of rights” in the detention system in northeast Syria. The detention network in AANES areas holds 56,000 people; 10,000 of them (mostly men) in 27 detention facilities, and 46,000 (mostly women and  children) in two detention camps: Al-Hol and Roj. The U.S. has played a prominent role in funding the vast detention network in the northeast. Since 2015 up till now, U.S. military funding to Syria has neared USD 2 billion.
On January 28, Russian company RPOST-M LLC was established in Syria to provide security services. The company was founded by Maxim Yurievich Grekhov, reportedly a former undercover officer for the Russian intelligence services. The recent establishment of the RPOST-M branch in Damascus may suggest a strategy of distributing the previous interest of Wagner among different companies, instead of a single company or leader.
The United Kingdom holds GBP 163.2 million in frozen assets of Syrian individuals and entities under U.K.’s Syria sanctions. U.K. authorities have also seized a GBP 26 million property from Rifaat Al-Assad in London, and have collected nearly GBP 200,000 in penalties for sanction violations.
The Syrian Salvation Government has started implementing several of the reforms that Abou Mohammad Al-Jolani, leader of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, promised mid March in a bid to appease the protests that have filled in recent weeks Idlib’s streets in recent weeks.