The Syrian regime, its security forces, and its affiliated Iranian-backed militias have been looting large quantities of wheat from farmers in Syria’s eastern Deir Ez-Zor province before transporting them to Iraq and selling them at higher prices, a report has stated.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), security officers under the regime of Bashar Al-Assad have confiscated over 80 tonnes of wheat owned and harvested by more than ten farmers in Deir Ez-Zor due to their refusal to hand over the commodity voluntarily.
The regime’s security forces and consumer protection committees reportedly imposed fines of around 500 million Syrian pounds ($199,003) on those who refuse to hand over the grain, as well as subjecting farmers who oppose the measures to arrests and threats.
In addition to those coercive methods, SOHR reported that the Iranian militias in eastern Syria have been harvesting wheat and agricultural crops from lands that they seized over the years, often owned by Syrian families who were forced to flee the areas upon the arrival of the militias around 2017.
These militias then gather those crops to transport them to Iraq – where other Iran-backed Shia militias operate – and sell them at higher prices for exploitative profits. The militias also prevent Syrian farmers from selling their agricultural produce in the free market, in an attempt to stop the crops from spreading to other Syrian provinces so that the militias can tighten their control over sales and establish a monopoly.
The coercive and exploitative practices conducted by the regime’s security services and their allied Iranian militias come at a time when a global food crisis and severe shortages of essential commodities, such as wheat, are looming over the international markets, especially threatening impoverished and developing countries like Syria.
Despite that looming crisis and the decline in Syria’s domestic wheat supplies over the years, the Assad regime regularly receives shipments of grains and wheat from Russia – which have recently often been stolen from Ukraine during the ongoing invasion – and China.