Last week individuals connected to Syria’s political opposition in exile hailed the opening of a Kentucky Fried Chicken, or KFC, in Syria’s Idlib.
This came as a bit of a shock considering the site of the new purported KFC in Idlib city has since 2015 been held by the al-Qaeda branch known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly the US terror-designated Nusra Front.
This was followed by a report in Beirut-based Middle East news site Al-Masdar which said “the famous American fast food restaurant chain, has opened a new location in the jihadist stronghold of Syria’s Idlib.”
“New footage released on social media show the new location filled with men ONLY trying the delicious meals,” the report continued.
And the anti-Assad opposition media wing Baladi News Network filmed what appeared to be a sparkling new KFC restaurant inside the jihadist-held city with the company’s logo everywhere along with uniformed staff, as locals enjoyed buckets of the colonel’s classic fried chicken.
The restaurant’s opening sparked outrage as images spread on social media of what appeared to be the iconic American company doing business in a known al-Qaeda stronghold.
— Dirar Khattab (@DirarKhattab) September 30, 2019
The famous Colonel Sanders brand has actually had a long presence in the Middle East, opening its first regional franchise in Kuwait in 1974, and hundreds more in the years to follow stretching from Cairo to Saudi Arabia, where most of its stores are located.
However, the company denied that it actually opened a location in Idlib, with a KFC global spokesperson saying,
“This restaurant is not a licensed franchisee of KFC or affiliated with us in any way.”
“We are looking into the circumstance to determine what action is appropriate,” the KFC official statement continued.
Considering the ‘KFC-imitation’ restaurant is deep inside war-torn jihadist controlled Idlib, it is doubtful the American company will be able to do anything about it at all, despite Syria’s political opposition attempting to use the ‘grand opening’ to bolster its legitimacy in hopes of attracting international investment crucial to Idlib province’s survival as a ‘rebel enclave’.
— Asaad Hanna (@AsaadHannaa) July 17, 2019
The local restaurant even has its own “KFC” Facebook page, which announces it is “opening in Idlib for the first time.”
News coverage of the local “KFC” by opposition media outlet Baladi News.
Interestingly, Kentucky Fried Chicken previously had a presence in other parts of Syria, after it first gained huge popularity in gulf countries.
In 2006 it became the first American restaurant to ever open in Damascus.
In 2013, after two years of war, the Damascus branch was forced to close, citing a war-battered economy, also compounded by growing external international sanctions on the country.
Meanwhile, a joint Syrian-Russian offensive to retake Idlib has been looming for months, with Washington threatening to take action, which has thus far deterred any major ground offensive.