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Pro-Iran militias in Syria soak merchants for cash at checkpoints

The checkpoints of the Syrian regime and the pro-Iranian militias along the main road between Deir-ez-Zor and al-Bukamal are imposing royalties on merchants and local residents in their areas of control.
Members of the Syrian government forces stand guard at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Deir Ezzor on September 10, 2017, as they continue to press forward with Russian air cover in the offensive against Islamic State group jihadists across Deir Ezzor province. / AFP PHOTO / George OURFALIAN        (Photo credit should read GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The checkpoints  deployed by the Syrian regime forces and pro-Iranian militias along the main road between the cities of Deir ez-Zor and al-Bukamal — which were liberated from the Islamic State (IS) in November 2017 — are among the main sources of huge sums of money for Syrian officers and Iranian officials in charge of these checkpoints. They do not allow civilians and traders to cross with their merchandise except after having paid significant royalties. This has pushed many traders to escape to areas under the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the cities of Raqqa, Hasakah, Tabqa and others.

Ammar Mohsen, a sheep trader from the city of Deir ez-Zor, told Al-Monitor, “The [Syrian army’s] Fourth Armored Division that is loyal to Maher al-Assad, the brother of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, controls most crossings and checkpoints in Deir ez-Zor and reaps the biggest share of financial returns, royalties and taxes imposed on the citizens of the area and its local traders.”

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