The Wall Street Journal reports: Months before the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, Aleppo entrepreneur Abdul-Latif Kudsi opened a state-of-the-art denim factory in his native city in partnership with an Italian businessman.
They sunk the equivalent of $5 million into the venture and production was exclusively for leading European designers, says the 69-year-old Mr. Kudsi, a member of a prominent Aleppan family that counts Ottoman pashas in its lineage.
At the time Aleppo, Syria’s largest city with about three million people and its economic hub, was undergoing rapid transformation and a true coming of age. Several industrial zones housing mainly garment and textile factories had sprung up all around this northern Syrian city, located a mere 40 miles from the Turkish border. In the eyes of the European Union, it was a gateway for greater economic cooperation with Syria.
But those hopes—along with a boom that brought a face-lift to Aleppo’s historic center as well as some new luxury boutique hotels—have gradually turned into a nightmare. The initial shift was when the impoverished and less developed countryside, which supplied much of the labor for the factories, rose up in solidarity with other parts of Syria against Mr. Assad. Peaceful protests, including in some working class sections of the city and at universities, were brutally suppressed by hired thugs on the payroll of some businessmen, say residents.
The descent into the abyss for many Aleppans, including Mr. Kudsi, came when rebels mainly from the countryside mounted a coordinated assault in July 2012 on military and security positions across the city in an attempt to capture Aleppo. At the time, some Western supporters thought that taking the city could allow the Syrian opposition to establish a northern safe haven akin to the one set up in eastern Libya around Benghazi before the fall of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in the summer of 2011.
But 21 months since the July campaign, that initial goal is as elusive as ever for the fractious rebels. Once a vibrant mercantile and cultural center, Aleppo today is a city physically partitioned and traumatized by war. It stands as exhibit A in what Syria’s civil war has become: A ghastly, grinding stalemate in which noncombatants are paying the highest price. [Continue reading…]