Shoots of re­cov­ery amid Aleppo’s rub­ble

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

ALEPPO, Syria — In a former rebel-held district of Aleppo, fac­tory owner Karam al­lows him­self a small smile as he watches his ma­chines back in ac­tion, churn­ing out plas­tic goods.

Six months after Syria’s army cap­tured the coun­try’s one­time eco­nomic pow­er­house, dozens of man­u­fac­tur­ers with small and medium-sized fac­to­ries are cau­tiously re­turn­ing to the city’s east, once a strong­hold of op­po­si­tion fight­ers.

“I had 30 ma­chines, and there are five left. I lost $1.5 mil­lion when my ware­house out­side the city was set alight,” said Karam in his of­fice in the al-Kalasseh neigh­bor­hood.

Mirac­u­lously, his fac­tory build­ing re­mains in­tact de­spite four years of bru­tal fights in Aleppo that ended last year.

Just a month later, he de­cided to restart op­er­a­tions with his re­main­ing ma­chines, which melt and mold plas­tic gran­ules into items in­clud­ing bas­kets and waste­bins.

“My losses were bear­able, while oth­ers lost ev­ery­thing,” the 40-year-old said.

The civil con­flict has rav­aged the coun­try’s econ­omy since it be­gan in March 2011 and has claimed more than 320,000 lives.

Al-Kalasseh is one of 17 in­dus­trial zones scat­tered in­side and around Aleppo, most of which fell into the hands of rebels when they en­tered the city in 2012.

Even now, the east­ern sec­tor of the city re­mains a moon­scape of ru­ins, with mounds of rub­ble on streets lined by col­lapsed build­ings with blown-out win­dows. bil­lion

The city’s Cham­ber of In­dus­try es­ti­mates Aleppo’s in­dus­trial zones lost $55 bil­lion dur­ing the war.

Of the 1,326 small and medium-sized man­u­fac­tur­ers in al-Kalasseh, around 200 have re­sumed op­er­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures, though with greatly re­duced re­sources.

“I had 70 em­ploy­ees, now I have just five. The young peo­ple have left,” Karam said.

His fac­to­ries used to run 24 hours a day, but the painfully high cost of fuel means he can only run his ma­chines for 11 hours daily.

As a re­sult, his monthly pro­duc­tion has dwin­dled from 60,000 items be­fore the con­flict to just 6,000 now.

“Be­fore the war, we ex­ported 70 per­cent of our mer­chan­dise to Iraq, Jor­dan and Kuwait. To­day, we ex­port noth­ing.”

Magd al-Naasani is an­other of these in­dus­tri­al­ist “sur­vivors”, with a tex­tile fac­tory in al-Kalasseh where au­to­mated weav­ing ma­chines spin reels of thread.

Naasani has an­other work­shop in the Khan al-Alas area in western Aleppo prov­ince, which re­mains un­der rebel con­trol. “I don’t know what has hap­pened to it,” he said.

loss of Aleppo’s in­dus­trial zones dur­ing four years of bru­tal fight­ing, the city’s Cham­ber of In­dus­try said

ZHAO DINGZHE / XIN­HUA

Per­form­ers from China’s Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion en­ter­tain an au­di­ence at the Cairo Opera House in Cairo, Egypt, on Thurs­day. The stage show is part of the “Ex­pe­ri­ence China in Egypt 2017” event.

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