Friday, June 24, 2011

Aleppo: Syria's sleeping giant stirs

As the uprising enters its fourth month, Syria's second city is becoming increasingly unsettled.

Hugh Macleod and Annasofie Flamand

"....But talk to shopkeepers, hotel managers and traders in Aleppo's famous covered souk and one soon finds grumblings of dissent.

For in the Syrian capital of commerce, no one is making money anymore, threatening to undermine the key pillar of a long established pact between Aleppo's Sunni merchant class and the imposed stability of the Alawite-led regime.

"Where are you, Halab?" chanted thousands of protestors, using the city's Arabic name, exasperated by Aleppo's conspicuous quiet while streets in towns and cities across the country filled with demonstrators every Friday since mid-March.

The answer is an interlocking mix of political, religious and economic interests which the regime has been largely successful in co-opting and which have kept Aleppo quiet, but which appear, as the uprising enters its fourth month, to be coming increasingly unstuck, threatening what analysts describe as the regime's Achilles heel....

Massive layoffs imminent

Sitting behind his desk in a lavishly decorated office, a photograph of President Assad hanging on the wall, a 45-year-old Sunni businessman from Aleppo's Old City cautioned that the economic consequences of the crisis in Syria could soon fuel further protests.

"Today I am losing money as no one wants to buy garments and textile. Syrians are buying bread and food stuffs as they are worried about the future. I am seriously considering having to sack or give unpaid vacation to a third of my workforce," he said.

Late last month Assad had met a delegation of Aleppo business leaders, said the textile factory owner. The businessmen had urged Assad to end the crisis in Syria swiftly to avoid massive layoffs....."

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