Syrians in the UAE have been left stranded after Visa and Mastercard blocked all credit cards issued by Syrian banks.
The ban, which was put in place last week, is the result of severe US sanctions imposed on Syria in the face violence against protestors in cities across the country.
Syrian visitors to the UAE were shocked to find that their credit cards were not working at Dubai airport.
“When all the ATM machines in Dubai airport refused to process any of my credit card transaction, SMS message was automatically sent to me from MasterCard informing me that I could no longer use this card,” a visitor told Gulf News
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When contacted by Gulf News, both Visa and Mastercard confirmed that Syrian-issued cards are no longer valid and all transactions have been blocked.
Another Syrian businessman said that an international bank had sent him message informing that they have closed his account.
“Since I can’t use my credit cards or my bank account in Syria or abroad I have opened a new account for my business in Lebanon to process the financial transactions,” he said.
“I am here in Dubai to process my financial transaction manually.Even the local banks in Dubai they don’t proceed any transaction to the Syria based banks,” he added. “We have (been) obliged to deal (in) cash.”
On August 18, the United States government issued an executive order prohibiting, “the exportation, re-exportation, sale, or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States, or by a United States person, wherever located, of any services to Syria.”
The ban on using the cards is part of the recent expanded sanction which aim to put more pressure on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad andisolate the nation in the hope that an economic squeeze will force the Damascus government cease its crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners.
Meanwhile, the governor of the central bank of Syria, Adib Mayala, announced that Syria has stopped dealing with the US dollar and switched to the euro, effective August 23.
However, Mayala remarked that most businesses continue to conduct business using the dollar.
MasterCard told Gulf News that it began blocking all transactions originating in Syria on 20 August 2011 and would remain blocked until further notice.
“MasterCard Worldwide, in response to an executive order from the United States Treasury Department, has instituted a block of all transactions originating in Syria and has instituted a block of all MasterCard transactions on accounts issued in Syria”, said Shaun Rashid, area head, North Africa and Levant, MasterCard Worldwide.
Visa has also suspended its payment card activity in Syria under the recently expanded US sanctions.
“Visa is required by law to comply with the US Department of the Treasury financial sanctions against Syria,” the company said.
“As a result, Visa has suspended its payment card activity in Syria under the recently expanded sanctions. Visa cardholders should contact their issuing financial institution for further information regarding the use of their payment cards. Visa will continue to cooperate with the appropriate government officials to comply with applicable sanctions.”