The ISIS economy: Crushing taxes and high unemployment

The Atlantic reports: Before Islamic State militants overran her hometown of Mosul in June 2014, Fahima Omar ran a hairdressing salon. But ISIS gunmen made Omar close her business—and lose her only source of income. Salons like hers encouraged “debauchery,” the militants said.

Omar is one of many business owners — male and female — who say ISIS has forced them to shut up shop and lose their livelihoods in the process. The extremist group has also prevented those who refuse to join it from finding jobs, and has imposed heavy taxes on civilians.

“ISIS controls every detail of the economy,” says Abu Mujahed, who fled with his family from ISIS-controlled Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria. “Only their people or those who swear allegiance to them have a good life.” When they took over Deir al-Zor, ISIS gunmen systematically took control of the local economy, looting factories and confiscating properties, says Mujahed. Then they moved in, taking over local business networks.

In Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital, a group of traders loyal to the gunmen have imposed a stranglehold over the local economy, locals and activists say.

Together with the ISIS-controlled Syrian provinces of Deir al-Zor and Hasakeh, Raqqa has been described as a “breadbasket” for Syria. But it is now traders loyal to ISIS who control all transportation of agricultural goods from Raqqa to other areas under Islamic State control — including places in Iraq.

And it is ISIS traders, not local merchants, who control the prices of goods in the markets, activists say. [Continue reading…]

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