Syrian activists and economists have proposed a new initiative to use the Turkish lira as the main currency in liberated areas of Aleppo, following recent gains made by rebels in Syria’s largest city.
The initiative calls for Syrians owning more than 10,000 Syrian pounds to change the excess home currency into Turkish lira to be used in rebel-controlled areas of the city.
The Association of Syrian Economists said in a recent conference that they and Syrian activists were putting forward the plan in “order to put economic pressure on the regime of [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad in the sense that [a move such as this] would help speed up its downfall.”
Proponents of the plan say it will help ordinary people obtain access to basic goods in light of the lira’s stability against the US dollar, compared with the Syrian pound, which is now equivalent to almost 200 per dollar. Before the outbreak of the Syrian conflict the country’s currency had for a number of years stabilized at around 50 pounds per dollar.
The Association said it is putting forward the plan to the interim Syrian government and the country’s internationally recognized opposition group the Syrian National Coalition, which are both currently based in Turkey.
A source from the Syrian interim government told Asharq Al-Awsat they had been informed of the proposal but that no moves had yet been made to adopt it.
“A group of activists told us of this proposal and we have informed them that it still needs to evolve and undergo evaluation,” the source said.
“The [interim] government . . . is still studying this proposal, especially since it behooves us to also discuss it with Turkish officials, because it firstly concerns them.”
Meanwhile, Ahmed Ramadan, a member of the Syrian National Coalition’s Politburo, welcomed the proposal and called on the Coalition to adopt it.
“This idea to replace the Syrian currency with Turkish lira was previously put forward by the interim government’s Finance Ministry, but it was not implemented,” Ramadan told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“Even though the Coalition has still not looked into the current proposal properly, I personally absolutely support it.”
The move has now become necessary, he said, especially since the regime continues to print money which is being exchanged on the black market for US dollars, despite the government’s foreign currency reserves dwindling rapidly.
This comes as insurgents have made significant gains in Aleppo in recent weeks, amid gains across Syria’s northern regions. Rebel groups launched an offensive in the city on Thursday, setting off some of the heaviest fighting there since 2012.
On Saturday the rebels launched an attack on the New Aleppo neighborhood “which forms an entry point into the west of the city,” according to Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the conflict on the ground through a network of on-the-ground monitors.
“This achievement counts as the most prominent strategic gain [for the rebels] in the last two years, in terms of the fight to control Aleppo,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The city has been heavily contested during the last three years and since 2012 has been divided between government-controlled and rebel-held areas.
The decimation in Syria’s once-thriving second city and financial center has led to many of the inhabitants fleeing abroad or to other parts of Syria.