The sharp depreciation of the Syrian pound recently has impacted all areas of Syria, not simply those controlled by the Syrian government. That includes the north Aleppo countryside region stretching from Afrin to Jarabulus with an extensive Turkish troop presence and influence in the region. There have been many suggestions for the Turkish lira to be adopted as a currency instead of the Syrian pound as a solution to the currency crisis. Indeed, in Azaz for example, it is notable that the local council sets registration prices in the 'business and industries room' in Turkish liras and U.S. dollars (see document below).
But is the solution really so simple as to adopt the Turkish lira and dispose of the Syrian pound? To discuss the currency crisis further, I conducted an interview with Abu Ahmad, a merchant in the north Aleppo countryside town of Azaz. This interview was conducted on 25 January 2020. It is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: First can you talk a little about the depreciation of the value of the Syrian pound and what are the reasons for the depreciation and how it has impacted life in Azaz exactly?
A: First it is natural that a land in which there have been nine years of war should have the price of the pound like this or more. With regards to the depreciation of the pound, there have remained no internal resources for us to rely on, as most of the industries and oil have been given to foreign investment: that is, they have been sold. A land of war affected by it and there is no income and upon us is debt.
Concerning the livelihood in Azaz, the situation is difficult because of the current rise [of prices], and all are harmed, whether the poor or the one who has [money] with him.
For example, shop rent is currently $200. You would pay 100,000 Syrian pounds approximately and now you are paying for transfer 220,000. This profit of yours is [at stake] but the price difference has come out from your pocket. This applies elsewhere. Of course I gave rent as an example: an example only. These words are in very brief summary.
Q: Can you mention prices of some of the food items and how the prices have risen recently?
A: For example drinking water (health). The pack used to be 800 Syrian pounds. Today one bottle is at 150 Syrian pounds. Sugar, tea, olive oil, etc. Fuel, gas. All of them similarly affected. In sum: all are harmed by the rise.
Q: Fine. The question that suggests itself. Why do people not adopt the Turkish lira?
A: Fine. Important question. The Turkish lira also varies: there is no stability. For example, currently it is 5.95 [Turkish liras to the dollar]. Tomorrow possibly 6.00, and possibly 5.50.
Q: I saw that the local council is adopting the Turkish lira for bread prices for example [NB: see here for more].
A: Okay, also a good thing, but for example today the price of a bundle of bread may be 200 [Syrian pounds], another day 150, if the price of the bundle of bread goes by the Turkish lira. This is because the exchange price fluctuates.
Q: But also the problem is that people don't have money from the outset to exchange the Syrian pound with the Turkish lira?
A: This is the reality: there is no centre we can rely upon in this situation. Centre meaning bank. And at the same time you cannot cancel the Syrian pound, as there are employees receiving the monthly salaries in the Syrian pound.
Q: Yes, so here is no appropriate solution in these circumstances?
A: Regrettably. The best solution: the one who wants to preserve his savings (if there are any) should turn them into gold or hard currency. Of course this is an individual solution [i.e. not a collective one].