The Syrian Ministry of Economy is preparing to establish a Turkish boycott office that will blacklist all the Turkish companies accused of “harming the Syrian economy.”
Listed companies will be banned from doing business in Syria or with Syrian companies.
Syrian officials accuse the Turkish Government of contributing to the looting of hundreds of factories in Aleppo and of enabling the export of Syrian crude oil from opposition-held areas as well as of contributing to the destruction of the Syrian economy by providing support to the opposition.
The head of the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Industry, Fares Shehabi, who is based in Aleppo, has been particularly vocal in his condemnations of the Turkish government. Last year he said that the establishment of a boycott bureau targeting Turkish companies was a request from the Federation.
Mr Shehabi added then that he would like the boycott to include any Turkish company “that supports the Erdogan government or that financed his election campaign.” “Companies that smuggled products into Syria should also be blacklisted,” Mr Shehabi added.
Turkey’s Government has been among the staunchest supporters of the Syrian uprising, providing a logistical base for the opposition fighting the regime, including the Free Syrian Army, serving as a conduit for the supply of arms and equipment, but also acting as a host for hundreds of thousands of refugees and for countless opposition parties and civil society organisations.
In 2013, Turkish exports to Syria actually doubled compared to 2012, from $497 million to $1 billion, probably because of the destruction of the economy in the north of Syria and the need to import products to meet the demand of the population.
For almost two years, the Syrian Government has been threatening to establish a boycott office but in practice, enforcing a boycott is likely to prove complicated.
First of all, Turkish investments in Syria have already almost entirely stopped. Secondly, bilateral trade between the two countries is now taking place almost exclusively along Syria’s northern border, which is entirely outside the control of the Syrian authorities.
The Turkish Boycott Office may be a bit similar to the Israel Boycott Office, an institution affiliated to the Arab League, which bans foreign companies doing business with Israel from entering Arab markets.
However, while the Israel Boycott Office is justified by the occupation of Palestine and by the fact that there aren’t anyway any relations between Syria and the State of Israel, in the case of Turkey the Syrian authorities have always been keen to stress that they are in conflict with the Turkish Government and not Turkey as a country and society.
Some segments of the Turkish population continues to support the regime and the Syrian regime will need to make sure that the boycott does not hurt them.
While the looting of factories has been widespread in the region of Aleppo, in practice looting and other forms of illegal business activities have taken place across Syria. The regime, through its various militias, is accused by the opposition of having looted and destroyed countless factories but also residential homes throughout Syria. However, no boycott office targeting these militias is likely to be established any time soon.
Note: This article appeared first in April 2014 in The Syrian Observer