Asma Al-Assad (85)


Over the past few weeks, the Aleppo business community faced a government crackdown, highlighting a combination of challenges the country’s northern city endures and consequent resentment towards the strong-arm policies of the government.


The British government has lifted its asset freeze on Tarif Al-Akhras, a prominent Syrian businessman, without providing any clear reason. Mr Akhras has close ties to the Syrian government and is the second cousin of Asma Al-Assad, the wife of Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad.


The Syrian government is increasing the compensation that wounded veterans from the National Defence Militia are receiving every month.


The announcement by South African telecommunication company MTN that it was leaving Syria is a good reminder of the high risks for foreign companies of doing business in the country.


This 1,600-word factsheet provides an overview of the Syrian smart card, which has grown in importance as the government reduces subsidies on a large number of goods, including oil and food products.

The Syrian electronic smart card, which allows Syrians in government-held areas to purchase a set quantity of subsidised goods at authorised retailers every month, has grown in importance in recent years as the economic crisis has deepened over a decade of conflict.


Syria’s largest mobile operator, Syriatel, has announced the appointment of a new chairman in a series of changes to the board that mark the end of founder Rami Makhlouf’s ownership of the company, more than a year since he lost control of its management.


The US has issued a year-long general licence for Syria that permits transactions and activities related to tackling Covid-19 amid criticism that sanctions are hampering the country’s response to the pandemic.


Two companies owned by previously unknown figures have recently emerged in Syria’s business community, joining a clique of businessmen who have profited from or found opportunity in Syria’s wartime economy.


Syrian investors close to Asma Al-Assad and other powerful business figures have established a company that is set to become the country’s third telecom operator -- the first time a new player enters the lucrative sector since 2001.


Updated April 07/2021:The combined credit portfolios of all microfinance lenders in Syria reached SYP 28.6 billion last year, while deposits reached SYP 16.9 billion, according to statistics released by the Central Bank of Syria (CBS) for the first time, highlighting the government’s growing interest in this sector.


The Syrian government has imposed a temporary ban on mobile phone imports to preserve scarce foreign currency reserves. The decision favours influential businessmen who imported large volumes before the ban.


Syria will soon receive one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the World Health Organisation has said, as the number of positive coronavirus cases continued to rise sharply.


Prominent Syrian businessman Samer Foz is set to open the country’s largest sugar refinery next month as the country struggles to secure enough of the commodity.


Update on March 23, 2021:The number of positive cases has continued to increase, with 748 new cases registered across the country this week while areas outside the government’s control have yet to begin vaccination campaigns.


Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad and his wife Asma Al-Assad tested positive for the coronavirus on February 08 according to an official statement issued by the president’s office.


Syria’s second telecom operator MTN-Syria has been placed under the judicial custody of a minority stakeholder with reported links to the country’s First Lady Asma Al-Assad, as the government seeks to exert greater control over the company.


The Russian company managing Syria's Tartous port has appointed a new manager, the fourth to serve in just two years, in another sign of the company’s struggles to calm the ongoing disputes with the company’s Syrian workers.


A previously unknown company, Saray LLC, has won the rights to broadcast Syria’s football league for three seasons, according to local media reports.


Syrian businessman Nader Qalei, a prominent member of the Sunni-Damascene business elite and regime supporter, died in Beirut last week after suffering from symptoms of Covid-19, local media reported.


Banque Bemo Saudi Fransi SA, Syria’s largest private conventional bank, has been granted a licence to launch a microfinance project with a prominent forex trader believed to be affiliated with influential Lebanese and Syrian business figures.


The United States blacklisted the Central Bank of Syria at the end of last year, adding pressure on the Syrian government as it tries to maintain its fractured economy.


Syria is planning to issue a long-awaited licence for a third telecoms operator at the beginning of next year, according to the country’s telecommunications minister.


The Syrian government has contracted a Lebanese company to supply 150,000 tons of wheat after a number of Russian companies pulled out of import contracts, a government official said. The price was set at USD 285 per ton.


Nader Qalei has been acquitted of charges that he had violated Canada’s economic sanctions against Syria, according to Canadian media.


Two private Syrian banks owned partially by foreign investors have taken steps to rebrand, in a move to reduce the risk for foreign shareholders a few months after the enactment of the Caesar Act.


The Syrian government has awarded tens of millions of dollars worth of contracts to companies to supply equipment and spare parts for its two major oil refineries, including a major contract to a company owned by the Katerji family.


ATMs are once again partially operating in Syria after new payment companies affiliated with the regime were established, about five months after the sudden withdrawal of the main ATM operator from the market.


Updated on October 21, 2020: The article, originally published on October 14, has been updated to correct a technical glitch and provide updated election results.


The United States has added more names to its sanctions list and specifically targeted prominent warlord-turned businessman Khodr Ali Taher.


The Syrian government has issued a decision forcing all importers of a large list of goods to resell five percent of their imports at cost to an entity affiliated with the Ministry of Defence.


UPDATED on September 09, 2020: A Kuwaiti-listed company is divesting from a leading Syrian bank, reportedly to the benefit of the rising Ibrahim family.


The Syrian President has appointed a new government headed by Hussein Arnous, in which the ministers holding key portfolios remained unchanged.


New sanctions imposed on Syrian individuals by the United States could disrupt the MTN Group’s divestment from the country.


MTN, a telecoms group based in South Africa, has announced that it is negotiating to sell its stake in one of the country’s two mobile phone companies, marking the exit of the last large foreign investor still present in Syria.


UPDATED on July 30, 2020: Following the closure of Rami Makhlouf’s microfinance bank, Asma Al-Assad is expanding the size and geographic presence of her financial institution.


An attempt by two Syrian businessmen to lift sanctions imposed on them by the European Union failed after their appeal was rejected by an EU court this month.


Updated on June 18, 2020: The entry into force today of the Caesar Act expands sanctions on Syria and will increase challenges for the regime and the economy alike. The U.S. administration has also expanded its list of Syrians under sanctions.


On June 11, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad appointed Hussein Arnous as prime minister after dismissing Imad Khamis, who paid the price for recent socio-economic difficulties.


Just a few days after his appointment, Syria’s new minister of domestic trade—and potential future prime minister—Talal Al-Barazi, has started to make his presence known.


The past week has seen a stunning succession of decisions, statements, appointments and resignations that illustrate the piling up of government pressure on Rami Makhlouf to silence him once and for all and restructure Syria’s telecommunications sector.


Insurance premiums in Syria increased last year despite remaining only a fraction of their pre-2011 level in real terms.


The rise of Rami Makhlouf as Syria’s most prominent businessman coincided with the ascent to power of Bashar Al-Assad in 2000. Given his long history of influence within the ruling elite, Mr Makhlouf’s recent side-lining raises many questions about the potential implications of his fall from grace.


Two extraordinary videos posted by Rami Makhlouf on his personal Facebook page have laid bare the divisions at the heart of the Syrian regime and posed a challenge for Bashar Al-Assad within the Alawite community. The Syrian president has been forced into a quick public defence of one of his most contested measures.


The Syrian government began selling subsidised bread through its smart card system on April 15 in Damascus and its countryside.


A series of articles published in Russian media criticising Bashar Al-Assad has raised speculation about the state of relations between Moscow and Damascus. For now, a desire to advance Russia’s economic interests in Syria seems to be the main driver of the campaign.


The government is distributing one additional item through its smart card system and increasing the quantity of goods sold to large families.


A strange statement by the Syrian Presidency has highlighted potential tensions within the regime’s highest circles.