Shoots of recovery amid Aleppo’s rubble
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
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