HIC-MENA [ Habitat International Coalition ]

Home| About Us | Contact Us

"Illegal Bldgs" Razed

What is affected
Housing Private
Type of violation Forced eviction
Date 24 October 2012
Region MENA
Country Syria
City across syria

Affected persons (number & composition)

Total 0
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Your solution
Download any important details
Download any important development

Forced eviction
Housing losses
- Number of homes
- Total value

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

Brief narrative

Displacement is nothing new in Syria, and as the civil war deepens, the number made homeless will only increase.

Forty-six per cent of Syria’s buildings are illegally constructed, according to a government study in 2007 – and this includes the homes in which more than half the population live. The problem was mostly seen around the large cities but, amid a widening gap between rich and poor, the authorities generally turned a blind eye to it.

Particularly since this summer, though, they have been bulldozing illegal buildings – but only in restive areas. In other areas, the authorities have been selective in their demolition orders. The campaign against illegal construction is thus being used to send a message: if you rebel against the regime, you will no longer enjoy the favours bestowed by it.

A further complication is that officials also accept hefty bribes from internally displaced people to allow them to use abandoned or partly demolished buildings. Additionally, the regime’s militias and rank-and-file officers are raiding houses, ransacking and then fraudulently selling or leasing them.

Besides adding to people’s suffering amid the current conflict, these practices are reshaping neighbourhoods across the country, from large cities to small villages – which is a recipe for future clashes between the old and new owners. Many will feel their properties have been usurped by other people or bought cheaply and at some point may try to retake them.

Mona, 37 years old, used to live with her five children in a flat under construction in Adra, about 24km east Damascus where low-income workers and military personnel live. Earlier this month, five intelligence officers raided her flat and asked her to leave.

Adra has been a destination for displaced people from other restive areas, like Douma, Harasta, and Dhumair. Hundreds of families have moved there, some of them sleep in the streets and others have occupied buildings under construction.

Hussain al-Ali, a 68-year-old man in Adra, was threatened by a member of the "local committees" – pro-regime groups of local residents to protect their own areas – to be evicted from his flat if he does not continuously stay in it.

Pro-government committees control many buildings in those areas, according to Mohammed Hamdan, a blogger from Damascus. They claim the flats are being used for humanitarian purposes but in reality they use them to earn money from displaced people.

Racan Alhoch, an activist from Damascus’s Midan neighbourhood, told me: "If a home was abandoned, the Assad army would enter it, ransack it, take what they find and label it the home of a traitor." Alhoch added that there were incidents of regime’s militias selling a property to more than one buyer, only for buyers to find out the property was to be demolished.

Alawite residents in Damascus are said to be selling their properties in the outskirts, including in the neighbourhoods of Mazza-86 and Tadhamun, and moving back to their old villages. These residents had originally moved from their villages in the country’s middle and western region to illegally constructed houses in Damascus after President Assad’s father took power. Buyers, however, are reluctant to purchase these houses fearing the owners will retake them if the regime does not fall.

There has been a tendency to buy properties from people escaping the violence for extremely cheap prices, according to Alhoch. "These wealthy men are going to sit on these properties until post-revolution then sell them for profit which gives us a whole slew of issues to deal with in post-revolution [Syria]," Alhoch said.

More than 800 flats have been occupied by non-owners in Damascus, according to an official. A similar scenario is playing out in Aleppo, where displaced people have illegally occupied 1,800 flats owned by the government’s housing authority. Also, many people from Aleppo’s countryside moved to the city and occupied deserted buildings.

Other complications include proving ownership when refugees outside the country return, considering that many had left in haste without carrying their belongings with them. And people currently exploiting violence to buy properties cheaply are already being labelled as war beneficiaries.

The issue of displacement in general is among the legacies that Syrians will have to deal with far into the future, from the displacement of Kurds by the regime in the 1970s to the ongoing practices that are being overlooked by the regime. As the violence continues in Syria, the issue is likely to deepen. And the consequences remain to be seen.

Original source

Costs   0


Web-based resource on land struggles
HLRN Publications

Land Times

All rights reserved to HIC-HLRN -Disclaimer