Following reports of armies of smugglers on horseback smuggling diesel fuel into Turkey and clashing with Turkish soldiers on the border, as well as news that Syria was the main source of $4.8 billion that entered Turkey without any records in July, a new claim is on the agenda. Turkish businessmen in the southeast say factories in northern Syria that have ceased operations because of the war are being dismantled piece by piece and smuggled into Turkey.
The businessmen say 15 giant plants have been dismantled and brought across the border to Turkey, in addition to many other smaller factories. Some of these factories were re-assembled in Turkey and are already operational, while others were sold as second-hand machinery. Some of the material was even sold as scrap in Istanbul and other western provinces.
One businessman said, “Factories for olive oil, yarn, shoes, ... whatever you want. In particular, Jabhat al-Nusra militants are dismantling and selling them. All the border crossings, except the ports of Tartus and Latakia, are under the control of Jabhat al-Nusra, the Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish Popular Protection Units. Truckloads of dismantled machinery easily cross through the gates controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra.”
Another businessman noted that Aleppo was the economic center of Syria under Bashar al-Assad, and said, “These factories have stopped operations because of the war. In Hatay and other Turkish cities you can find machinery and equipment brought over from the Aleppo region. The machines are in working order, and they are cheap.” The same businessman said that Jabhat al-Nusra has been looting Syrian factories, thus contributing to increasing poverty in the neighboring country.
Ibrahim Bugur, the chairman of the Turkish Federation of Shoe Manufacturers, confirmed the existence of factories brought over from Syria and reassembled in Turkey. Bugur, who last week made the news when he said Turkish shoe manufacturers were losing business as a result of this illegal Syrian shoemaking, said, “Whatever you want comes over the border. Some of it is production equipment and machinery. A solution must be found to this illegal activity.”