ALEPPO: Among the destroyed buildings of Syria’s Aleppo, a battered sign between two army checkpoints welcomes visitors to an area earmarked to become a beacon of post-war reconstruction.
“The industrial city of Aleppo thanks you for your visit,” it reads. Once the country’s powerhouse, Aleppo was devastated by Syria’s ongoing civil war before Russia-backed government forces expelled the last insurgents in late 2016 after a devastating siege.
As some of the city is slowly rebuilt, the Russian army this week showed reporters around, as Moscow seeks to highlight its role in reconstruction of the war-torn country.
Several factories have reopened in the almost three years since the fighting ended in Aleppo, large parts of which were flattened.
At Katerji Engineering and Mechanical Industries, 1,000 people are employed in metalworking jobs. About a fifth of the workers recently returned to Aleppo.
Customers will return. I’m sure of it. We just need to wait a bit.
Abdel Rahman Mahmud, Trader
“We started work again a year ago and today we have four operational warehouses,” said Salah Mitar, the engineer in charge. “We hope to expand to 11 by 2020,” he said, as employees bustled around him in one huge warehouse. But Mitar said international sanctions against President Bashar Assad’s regime and associated businessmen meant the factory cannot import sophisticated machinery. The two main shareholders of Katerji Engineering and Mechanical Industries — Hussam and Baraa Katerji — are targeted by EU and US sanctions respectively.
The factory was under rebel control until Aleppo’s recapture and production ground to a halt during fighting. For the past eight months since the factory reopened, employee Khaled said he had received a good salary. But “very high prices in town” still make life difficult for him and his family, said the 38-year-old father of five.