Media reporting on muhajireen ('migrants'- i.e. foreigners who have come to the insurgent-held territories of Syria during the war) has tended to focus on the military aspect of their presence and the women who joined Islamic State. However, many muhajireen currently in the northwest province of Idlib are also involved in running businesses in a bid to generate money for themselves and/or engage in local fundraising efforts. One such business is called The German Bakery, which produces cakes and breads. I interviewed the admin of The German Bakery on 28 January 2020 regarding the business and the current situation. It is slightly edited for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: This is the first time I heard of a German bakery in Idlib.
A: It's in my house. We still don't have our own shop. We make our bread and cakes in our kitchen yane [I mean].
Q: When did you start this business? And how is it going generally?
A: I start it like 1 year ago maybe. It's a good tijara [business] Alhamdulillah [praise be to God/thankfully] we can live some from this money Alhamdulillah. The cheesecake is the cake of Syria. They all love it.
The bakery has produced cheesecakes for sale in local Idlib markets.
Q: But have things been impacted badly because of the depreciation of Syrian pound?
A: Of course it's some heavier now to buy the ingredients but we made the price always higher cuz [because of] the problem with the Syrian lira [pound]. But the people still buy it.
Q: Do you buy ingredients in U.S. dollar?
Q: Also some people talked about using Turkish lira instead of Syrian pound?
A: They talk yes.
Q: Has that happened and do you think it's viable solution?
A: But nothing like this has happened yet. I think it would be better here to use the Turkish lira, but Allahu alam [God knows] if this will happen.
Q: Allahu alam. How is the humanitarian situation in Idlib where you are based? I mean electricity for example, and water, and public services.
A: If you have solar panels it's good, but in winter you always need also to buy 2 AP [amperes] of electric from a big generator who work with diesel. It's okay, not perfect like in Europe, of course. Alhamdulillah. Like 1 time the week come the water, if you have a water-pump you can get it. If not, then you call the water-car and he pump water in your for example 1000 litre tank.
Q: I heard they reduced electricity generation hours because diesel is expensive now.
A: Yep. Also now more expensive. 7000 lira for 2 AP. Also you need for the water-pump much electric.
Q: Yeah so you have to be careful about water use.
A: Yes. Like how I was in Europe I cannot use it like this anymore. I mean it's crazy. We never appreciate it. Now we are really thankful of having water. You get used to it to be careful with everything: water, gas, diesel, benzin [petrol/gasoline].
Q: Exactly. How are municipal services like garbage disposal and road repairs?
A: I don't now it exactly but the streets are very dirty and full with garbage. Also the streets are much destroyed. Sometimes they repair but you don't see it so much. The garbage I think like 1 time in week, but for example in Idlib city are much full with refugees, so much people here who fled from their villages and cities.
Q: Yes it's a huge displacement going on right now.
Q: And it seems a lot of villages and towns are falling to Syrian regime.
A: They bombing non-stop Saraqeb right now. The people flee from there.
Q: Yes exactly.
A: There are big rumours that the Kuffar [disbelievers: i.e. Syrian government and allies] will take it soon.
Q: I expect it will happen.
A: We all. But Allah is al-kareem [most generous]. The kuffar plan and Allah is the best planner.
Q: So it seems like Turkey basically won't do anything to stop this?
A: If Turkey don't want more refugees they should do something. But it seems like they don't do anything, but our trust is of course not in Turkey.
Q: These Turkish monitoring points they set up are completely useless.
A: Yes. The mujahideen always try and repel the kuffar. We should make much duaa [prayers] for them if we cannot fight.