Gold does brisk business in Syria war — but at a risk



Agence France Presse

Published — Wednesday 3 April 2013

Last update 2 April 2013 12:37 pm

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

Abu Salem used to sell lunchtime sandwiches to office workers in Syria’s commercial capital. Since a rebel offensive turned Aleppo into a warzone last July, he has been buying up their heirlooms.
In Syria’s northern metropolis, as across the Middle East, those who can afford to have traditionally invested in jewelry for their womenfolk, especially gold, to ward against a rainy day.
As daily clashes between troops and rebels fighting to oust President Bashar Assad have brought a devastating halt to all normal economic activity, the trade in precious metals has boomed as people struggle to make ends meet.
It was the loss of electricity to power his refrigerators that was the last straw for Abu Salem’s sandwich stall.
The 40-year-old turned to the most lucrative alternative business available, braving the daily threat of robbery by the myriad of armed groups active in the many Aleppo neighborhoods beyond the control of Assad’s security forces.
“Many jewellers have fled the fighting. They had enough money to flee the country,” he told AFP.
“I buy and sell gold in order to feed my five children.
A few steps away, another gold dealer has set up his scales.
“Every day, people come and sell me 10 or 20 grams (310 or 620 troy ounces) of gold,” Abu Ahmed told AFP.
“Once, a customer came to sell me earrings and bracelets that weighed 200 grams. He was selling off his wife’s jewels.”
Umm Mohammed, 50, is among those looking to sell off their portable wealth.
“I have a gold necklace to sell. How much would you pay for it?” the mother of four asks.
For five grams of gold, Abu Salem offers 24,000 Syrian pounds ($ 240).
Umm Mohammed goes to his shop every day to weigh her family’s jewellery and check his prices.
“I’ve only got one necklace left now. It’s my son’s gold chain. It won’t be long before I sell it, because we need to buy food and clothes for the children,” she said.
Umm Mohammed’s husband used to work in a factory, but lost his job several months ago when the power supply was cut. Her family has only been able to get by thanks to the jewellery they owned.
Buyers are not hard to come by. Two years of devastating conflict have sent the Syrian pound into freefall and, for those with any money, gold is a popular refuge to maintain the value of their savings.
Before the uprising against Assad’s rule broke out in March 2011, a gram of gold sold for 3,200 Syrian pounds, and the Syrian pound traded at 65 to the dollar.
Today, one gram of gold sells for 4,900 pounds, and the pound trades at 113 to the dollar.
“Those who want to safeguard their wealth are converting their cash into gold,” Abu Ahmed said.
But there are big risks, fellow gold trader Abu Khaldoun underlines.
“Armed men come to steal from us. Some of them are members of the (mainstream rebel) Free Syrian Army,” the 49-year-old said.
“Nowhere is safe, and we are real targets for thieves. Some people are hiding their gold and money in holes in the ground.”
Abu Ibrahim, 45, has been in the jewellery trade nearly all his working life. He says he refuses to take sides in this conflict as his business frequently requires him to cross the frontlines.
He tells of a fellow trader who lost all his stock to an armed robbery.
“He had 12 kilos of gold in his shop. He lost 60 million Syrian pounds last week when armed men broke into his shop and stole the lot.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

KUWAIT: Kuwait has detained 26 people suspected of involvement in a suicide bombing on a Shiite mosque last month that killed 27 people, a local daily reported on Monday, quoting the public prosecutor.The June 26 attack by Daesh jolted Kuwait, raisin...
JEDDAH: A small fire broke out on the roof of the Grand Mosque on Monday morning, causing minor injuries to five people, including members of the Civil Defense, one security officer and three workers. The fire broke out at about 2 a.m. and covered an...
RIYADH: Mosques across the Kingdom will conduct midnight prayers (Qiyam Al-Layl) at 1.a.m beginning Tuesday to mark the beginning of the last 10 days of Ramadan.“The special prayers are conducted during the last 10 days of the holy month from 1 a.m.,...
JEDDAH: The director general of the Saudi Industrial Property Authority, Saleh Rasheed, has said that Sadeer Industrial City, which is regarded as one of the largest industrial cities in the Kingdom, possesses great capabilities that sets it apart as...
DAMMAM: Cheap and out of date cosmetics are causing serious health problems in the Kingdom, including skin diseases, hair loss and cancer, local doctors say.These products are often manufactured incorrectly or contain harmful fats, the doctors were q...
JEDDAH: Several young Saudis have started filming Jeddah’s historic district using cameras mounted on drones to gather professional 3D footage that can be used to build models and create virtual tours.Bandar Al-Mutlaq, owner of the Arab Foundation, w...
RIYADH: The Saudi capital is fully geared for this year’s Eid Al-Fitr celebrations that include an exciting bouquet of entertainment, heritage, sports, artistic and theatrical events.The annual Muslim festivities being organized here by the Riyadh mu...
JEDDAH: As part of its growing supervisory and investigative status, Riyadh Health Department’s forensics center examined 632 cases over the past eight months involving suspected murder, rape and abuse of women and children.Khaled bin Muhammad Hassan...
RIYADH: The Syrian Expatriates Medical Association (SEMA) expressed its thanks on Monday to Saudi organizations and individuals for donating to the campaign to help Syrians affected by the ongoing conflict.SEMA has 1,300 members in Syria and other co...
RIYADH: Inclusion of the Hail rock art in the UNESCO World Heritage List is proof of the Kingdom’s status and cultural profoundness, said the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) on Monday.Reacting to the announcement of the fou...
JEDDAH: The Yemeni community has asked the Saudi government to extend the rectification process, which ends Tuesday, claiming that there are many thousands still seeking to get proper identification documents to qualify for work visas in the Kingdom....
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs has set up 343 electoral constituencies for the Dec. 12 municipal council elections.This was done on the orders of Abdullatif Al-Sheikh, the minister and head of the General Committee for the Munici...
JEDDAH: Efforts are under way to electronically handle all Haj-related works to achieve speed and accuracy, as well as reduce costs an bring in transparency, Haj Minister Bandar Al-Hajjar has said.Speaking at a workshop in Jeddah on Sunday, Hajjar sa...
JEDDAH: The Board of Trustees of the King Abdullah International Foundation for Charity and Humanitarian Works on Sunday held its third meeting in Jeddah in the presence of Prince Khaled bin Abdullah, the board chairman, and Prince Miteb bin Abdullah...
RIYADH: The Ministry of Health has announced that six people were infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the period from June 28 to July 6.The ministry has now recorded 1,045 cases of MERS since June 2012, with 5...

Stay Connected

Facebook