The decline in economic activity and income in the Syrian coastal region has forced young people to go towards recruitment with the military, joining pro-government militias, or smuggling. These jobs offer better income than traditional ones, amid the regime’s lack of support for industrial and agricultural activity in the region.
Traditional occupations such as fishing, agriculture, and industry have declined dramatically in recent years as a result of fuel shortages and frequent power outages. Young men from the Syrian Coast are faced with narrow opportunities to create suitable jobs to secure their future and everyday necessities.
In return, regime militias and regime forces are constantly opening their doors to “volunteer” and fight in their ranks. Recently, recruitment to fight in Ukraine for up to $1,500 a month has become an attractive job opportunity for young people. Working with contraband and smuggling is a way for many young men today to make huge sums.
One day’s income is equivalent to a week
Mahmoud, 21, has learned from a young age the profession of carpentry and worked for nearly four years. However, the profession did not provide him with a suitable income, as he tells Syria TV. “I can no longer be patient anymore, I became dependent on my family instead of helping it. Therefore, I preferred to sell smuggled diesel because it earns a daily income equivalent to what I normally get in a week.”
Regarding the dangers of the new job, Mahmoud explained that he got to know through one of his friends a person who secures smuggled diesel. He is the one who protects them and ensures their security. Mahmoud pointed out that the person is “powerful” and the goods are considered his, and “we only sell them and get our wages.”
For his part, a media activist in Jableh, Abu Yusuf Jablawi, told Syria TV that the shrinking opportunities for workers and the decline of key interests such as agriculture and hunting have pushed the largest number of young people, especially in the pro-regime coastal countryside, to volunteer in militias at wages starting from $100 and above. This comes with security powers. They invest it in theft and smuggling.”
Jablawi added that working in the militias has become the first choice for a large number of young people in the villages of Lattakia, especially with the facilities granted by these militias in terms of working a week on the front lines and a week off.
Neglect of agriculture
On the impact of the change in business activity on the Syrian coast, economist Maamoun Busais, who lives in Turkey and hails from the Syrian coast, told Syria TV that the regime has long neglected opening factories and providing jobs for the people. This comes with the intention of motivating them to volunteer in the army –especially a group of pro-regime members in the countryside.
He added that the neglect of the agriculture sector and the destruction of fishing, which form the backbone of the economy in the region, was not something unthought but was intended. This is to push young people to take part in the Assad wars. Nowadays this has proven to be true, as they are indeed on the front row of Assad’s military operations in most areas. If the situation were different, most of the young men would have rejected this militarization.”
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.