If you think your commute is bad, just imagine crossing a war-torn border to get to work.
Armed checkpoints, long waits at crossings, the occasional sound of gunfire and streams of refugees leaving the country on foot is the reality for Syrian businessmen like Jihad Awad.
The 51 year old business owner relocated to Lebanon in early 2012 after Syria’s unrest began, but said he is determined to continue doing business in his homeland — even if it means enduring a difficult journey to check in on his operations and his dozen employees. Hoping to minimise disruption at the border, he leaves early each Monday morning from Beirut and drives to Damascus for a two-day stay.
Before unrest broke out in Syria just over three years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for people to cross the border at any time of day or night to do business. These days, with multilateral sanctions on much of the private sector, and with the security situation hindering all but the most essential of business, those who make the regular crossings have become a rarity.
“We’re one of the lucky ones,” said Awad, whose Damascus-based medical and pharmaceutical equipment company is operating at 30% capacity.
Many other businesses throughout the country have collapsed under bombardments or financial strain that have come as part of the Syrian Civil War, which began as a peaceful uprising in March 2011, and has claimed more than 230,000 lives and has virtually wiped out the private sector. The remaining businesses are largely struggling to stay afloat, business owners and news reports say.
Awad noted that some of his friends from Aleppo — Syria’s biggest city that has been largely destroyed by bombshells, and whose routes in and out are marked with kidnappings and carjackings — have no businesses or homes to return to.
“They’re stuck. They can’t go back,” he said.