Turkish lira turning into preferred currency in northern Syria - report

Turkey’s lira is becoming the currency of choice for the people of northern Syria, according to a report in Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah.

Several regions in the country’s north are reportedly switching to the lira because of large losses for the Syrian pound and big price rises, said Daily Sabah, which has close ties to the Turkish government.

The newspaper said Turkish lira notes were already in circulation in some areas that were “liberated” by the Turkish military and Syrian opposition groups. Coins have also started coming in from Turkey, it said, citing photos of the currency allegedly taken at a branch of the Turkish post office (PTT) in northern Syria and posted on Twitter.

“In order to protect citizens' savings due to the rapid depreciation of the Syrian pound, we intensified our negotiations with the relevant Turkish authorities and took the first step in the process of launching small TL banknotes, which are vital in daily life, in the north of Syria,” said Abdurrahman Mustafa, head of the Syrian Interim Government and the Syrian Turkmen Assembly, according to Sabah.

Elizabeth Tsurkov, a fellow of the Middle East Program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said the development would further reduce the value of the Syrian pound “since about 1.8 million residents of Turkish-controlled areas stopped using the currency”.

She said the 3 million residents of Idlib, the last rebel-held enclave of northern Syria and which Turkey partially controls, will likely follow suit due to the availability of coins.

Charles Lister, director of the Extremism and Counterterrorism Program at the Middle East Institute, tweeted, “Turkey was set to do this anyway, but I'd bet Syria's recent economic collapse accelerated the transition”.

Hüseyin Bozan, director of the Turkmen Agency, said that the PTT branch, located in Azaz, started to distribute coins in line with a decision by some local councils.

“After coins are launched into the market, everything in Azaz will be priced in TL,” Bozan said.