ARES releases Research Report 12: Digital Bazaar (online arms trade, Syria)

Armament Research Services (ARES) is excited to announce the release of Research Report No. 12, Digital Bazaar: The Online Trade of Arms & Munitions in Opposition-controlled Syria. The release of Research Report 12 marks the completion of a project which began with Research Note No. 11, ‘Analysing the Online Arms Trade in Opposition-controlled Syria’, and has continued through monthly blog posts on The Hoplite providing research updates. Over more than 18 months, ARES researchers have monitored online platforms used to trade arms and munitions in North and North-western Syria. The ongoing conflict in Syria, and the instability and insecurity it promotes, has spurred high demand for weapons from fighters and civilians alike. This has led to active online arms markets emerging in opposition-controlled Syria. Relying on a dataset comprising more than 3,700 items, Digital Bazaar provides a snapshot of this online arms market from 1 November 2020 through until 30 November 2021.

Research Report 12 assesses several important facets of the online arms trade in opposition-controlled Syria. Some topics addressed include: the history of the arms trade in Syria; countries of origin for weapons and ammunition listed for sale; type, sub-type, make, and model of those weapons; notable sales, including rare or uncommon weapons; average prices for models of SALW; and the prominence of blank-firing pistols. Also discussed is craft production and modification of weapons. The authors documented a wide range of locally made or modified firearms and accessories, from craft-produced suppressors to the modification of AK-pattern rifles into bullpup configuration. Digital Bazaar provides an important insight into the regular, small-scale individual trades conducted in much of opposition-controlled Syria.

From the report’s conclusion:

As one would expect, the nearly decade-long conflict in [Syria] has resulting in a wide range of arms and munitions circulating outside of state control. This conflict has enabled a large-scale arms trade to flourish, operating at a variety of levels. Depicted herein is perhaps the most basic: numerous small trades, primarily conducted on an individual basis, encompassing both active combatants and civilians alike. Whilst including some arms suitable almost exclusively for collectors (antique muzzle-loading firearms) and for civilian applications (break-open shotguns), the majority of the dataset is comprised of small arms suitable for warfare. Indeed, self-loading rifles—the primary infantry weapon with which the ongoing conflict in Syria is prosecuted—account for more than 50% of all small arms documented. […] Whilst this analysis looked only at the trade within opposition-held areas in north-western Syria, the majority of items documented by ARES are likely to have originated with, or passed through, Syrian government arsenals. The mechanics of battlefield capture, defection, and petty theft and corruption are likely all represented within this small snapshot of the trade.

To read the full publication, click here.

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