Recent economic collapse accelerates Turkish-backed Syrian region’s transition to Turkish lira
Amid Coronavirus induced economic collapse and huge hikes in the prices of goods and commodities, several regions in northern Syria have reportedly been switching to using the Turkish lira notes which were already in circulation in some of the areas.
Coins are said to have started coming in from Turkey over recent days, with photos circulating on Twitter and showing coins in what was said to be a branch of the Turkish Post and Telegraph Organization’s (PTT) in the northwestern Azaz district.
“In order to protect citizens’ savings due to the rapid depreciation of the Syrian lira, we intensified our negotiations with the relevant Turkish authorities and took the first step in the process of launching small TL banknotes, which are vital in daily life, in the north of Syria,” Abdurrahman Mustafa, head of the Syrian Interim Government and the Syrian Turkmen Assembly, said on Twitter.
Formed in 2013 by the moderate opposition forces as an alternative to the Bashar Assad regime, the Syrian Interim Government recently formally approved the Turkish lira for circulation in its areas.
“Confirmed by 4 sources: Turkish-controlled areas in Syria are switching to using the Turkish lira, after coins were brought in from Turkey to allow for this move (notes were already in circulation). This will protect locals from the rapid depreciation of the Syrian lira,” Elizabeth Tsurkov, a fellow in the Middle East Program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, wrote on Twitter.
Tsurkov said the move would further reduce the value of the Syrian lira due to reduced demand for it “since about 1.8 million residents of Turkish-controlled areas stop using the currency. Idlib’s 3 million residents will likely follow suit due to the availability of coins.”
“More Turkish lira coins continue to arrive from across the border into Turkish-controlled areas of Syria as the region shifts away from the incredibly unstable Syrian lira,” she noted.
Referring to Tsurkov’s posts, Charles Lister, director of the Extremism and Counterterrorism Program at the Middle East Institute, tweeted, “#Turkey was set to do this anyway, but I’d bet #Syria’s recent economic collapse accelerated the transition to TL.”
Hüseyin Bozan, director of Turkmen Agency, confirmed that the PTT branch in Azaz started to launch coins into the market after the decision of some local councils to use the Turkish lira instead of the Syrian lira in the region, which was liberated after Turkey launched the ‘Euphrates Shield’ anti-terror operation against the Daesh terrorist group in 2016.
“After coins are launched into the market, everything in Azaz will be priced in TL,” Bozan said on Twitter.
Besides Azaz, the northern countryside of Aleppo, under the control of the Turkish-backed opposition groups, also witnessed the circulation of Turkish currency as a substitute for the Syrian lira on Tuesday, hours after the Syrian Interim Government issued its decision to circulate the lira in the local markets.
Citing unnamed sources, the report said most sectors started pricing their fees in liras, including electricity, internet, gold and even bread.
The value of the Syrian pound has plummeted at an astonishing speed in recent days on the informal market, sending prices skyrocketing, shuttering shops and sparking unprecedented protests.
Syria has grappled with an economic crisis compounded by Western sanctions, a coronavirus lockdown and a rapid devaluation of the local currency. Analysts have said the recent spike is likely due to worries ahead of the introduction of new U.S. sanctions beginning June 15.
Syria’s war has devastated the country’s economy since 2011, plunging 80% of its people into poverty, according to the United Nations. Despite relative quiet in the country’s remaining battlefields, early 2020 has only seen the situation worsen.