As rockets and gunfire crackle in Homs, hardline loyalists from president Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect steal goods from shattered Sunni neighbourhoods.
Grocers and bargain shops become part of the black market. “Maybe I’ll nab a bargain,” says a 50-year-old woman wandering through a supermarket that now trades in looted furniture. “I found a nice kitchen table set made of gorgeous old wood. But he wants $200 (£127) for it!”
Furniture usually goes for around $50 or less. Clothes and shoes: $5-$20. Everything is open to negotiation.
The woman haggles with the shopkeeper. “These are the spoils of war. It’s our right to take them,” she says.
“This isn’t stealing, it is our right. Those people support terrorism and we have to finish them off,” says Ayman, a 25-year-old wearing pointed black shoes and a studded belt. Outside the shop, he helps young men with slicked back hair and tight jeans unload television sets from vans.
“The other day our boss sent us to a place near the cultural centre. It was an electronics store – TVs, fridges, stuff like that,” he said. “We worked it for three hours, taking stuff. We got 10,000 lira [$147], plus a TV. So why not?”
Not everyone is impressed, says Mahmoud, an vegetable seller outside the loot store, his wrinkled face set in a frown.
“They are the dregs of society. Now, Alawites will be seen as thieves,” he said.
But with the conflict ravaging Syria’s economy, some Alawite traders seem happy to find a way to make some cash.
“Last week a businessman came from Tartous and bought 3 million lira of stolen goods, happy for the deal,” said dealer Hasan. “At the end of the day, I’m a businessman, and people are buying.”