“I spotted the living room that I had bought two years before the war at the secondhand market and bought it again. My wife was in tears at its sight. Only in Syria you pay twice for the furniture of your own house.”
Spoils on Sale at Friday Market
Regime militiamen plunder homes in regions won back from the opposition and sell the spoils openly in the government-controlled Syrian coast . Even those who did not support the uprising saw their properties looted.
div>(Latakia, Syria) Wars often lead to the degradation of values in society, as people become rather self-centered, seeking personal benefits that were once unavailable.
In Latakia, stolen goods have become the underpinning of secondhand merchandise trade, which is now dubbed at-taʿfish, a term that grew common in Syria over the past few years in reference to the plundering of houses and commercial stores in regions abandoned by their residents due to the war. Regime forces and National Defence militiamen are the main perpetrators in this trade, pillaging the regions they retrieve. The stolen goods are sold at low prices at different markets in the safe areas.
Before the war, the Friday Market in Latakia was a simple market where merchants used to sell secondhand goods – mainly European clothes, electrical devices and hardware. As for now, it has become the main square in the governorate for selling war booties.
The stolen goods are namely kitchenware (spoons, plates, utensils, glasses, cups and even cookware of all kinds), electrical devices, home furniture, new and secondhand clothes. The regime militiamen also remove doors and windows, as well as electric and sanitation installations (such as water taps, pipes and reservoirs), and steal store properties. According to local residents, food aid is also being publicly sold.
War traders and regime agents seized this crisis to exploit the needs of the poorest in light of the increased prices, for these residents have no choice other than these cut-price secondhand products. For instance, you can buy a new Zerowatt washing machine for 50,000 SYP (nearly 120 USD in the black market), while a brand new one costs over 120,000 SYP (300 USD). You can also buy a car loaded with robbed goods for 40,000 SYP (96 USD).
As for the people, some agree to purchase these spoils, knowing their origins and thinking “if you don’t buy them, others will,” and then there are those who utterly refuse to do so. For their part, supporters of the regime underline the need to take vengeance on insurgents even if by looting their properties.
Abu Samer (1) is a 34-year-old trader of used goods, who has connections with the security forces. He crosses checkpoints every day and is remarkably well received by the officers: his car, filled with stolen goods, is allowed into the market without searches in exchange for a small sum.
“What we do here is legitimate. The local residents are all affiliated to the opposition and their properties are all war loots. This means we’re free to dispose of their things,” Abu Samer said, justifying the stealing.
Numerous areas have been looted after the return of the regime forces, Kasab is just one of them. Located in the northern countryside of the Latakia governorate, this Armenian Christian-majority city was conquered by a coalition of rebels in March 2014, but the regime won it back three months later. For his part, Abu Maher, a resident of Kasab, was never been supportive of the revolution, but this has not spared his apartment.
“When the clashes reached Kasab and the north (in late 2013), I ran away with my family. We tried to take our papers (passports or ID cards), but we didn’t even think of grabbing our clothes. We left everything behind, thinking that we’d soon come back home, but the war continued in the region and we lost everything. A while later, a relative who had managed to return to Kasab called and told me that everything in the house was stolen. Even the lights were removed and sold,” Abu Maher told Good Morning Syria.
“Militants fighting along the army robbed our houses. They were the only ones left there. They didn’t distinguish between government supporters and opponents, they just plundered every house. Were they there to defend our homes or loot them?” he asked sarcastically.
Then, Abu Maher came to the conclusion of his tragic story: “Ironically, I spotted the living room that I had bought two years before the war at the secondhand market and bought it again. My wife was in tears at its sight. Only in Syria you pay twice for the furniture of your own house.”
Although selling spoils became highly common in Latakia, and most people are aware of the thefts, the authorities never attempted to regulate the markets, leaving them open to the merchants.
Pseudonyms were used to protect the identity of the sources.