The outlawing of two banknotes - the 500 and 1000 pound notes - issued by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government by Isis (Daesh) is being seen by Levant-watchers as Isis getting one step closer to issuing its own currency in territories controlled by it.
Isis has earlier leaked some videos and photographs of gold coins being minted by it for use as currency but these coins have not appeared as yet as common currency for people living in Isis-controlled territories.
Raqqa, considered the Isis capital and which has been under severe Russian air bombardment, has now outlawed the Syrian pound notes issued in 2013. For the present, these notes are to be replaced with older, smaller banknotes.
Syria Deeply recently acquired an Isis memorandum on the matter which said: 'Announcement to all Exchange Shops: We have decided ... to ban the use of the newly issued currency by the Alawite regime (the 1,000 bill and the 5,00 bill) in our territory, starting the date of the announcement, September 27. Exchange shops should not use it or exchange it. They should only take it out of the Islamic State areas. And anyone who opposes this law will be punished, starting from November 14.'
Members of Raqqa's Hisbah office — Isis' religious police — told Syria Deeply that "We prohibited their circulation in order to protect Muslims from financial losses. There are other bills that people can use. We want them to exchange these newly-issued bills with other ones, so that they do not lose any money, especially if they want to use them outside Syria."
An Isis member claimed that the terrorist outfit would soon issue its own currency — a gold, silver and copper coinage rumoured to be prohibitively expensive — which will be the only currency accepted in areas under the group's control, accordin to Syria Deeply.
The move affects businessmen, storeowners and employees who put all their savings into the high value notes. Raqqa inhabitants also claim the move is to enable Isis currency traders to gain profits in illegal exchange trade. Whichever way the dice rolls, Raqqa businessmen feel they are in for major losses, whether using Syrian currency or Isis alternatives.
"All my cash savings are in the newly issued 500 and 1,000 pound bills," said Abu Bassil, a 45-year-old man from Raqqa. "According to the new law, I have to exchange them as soon as possible. I can hand them over and receive smaller or older issue bills. But I'm afraid [Daesh] will issue its own currency soon, and in that case, I might lose all my savings."