Ain al-Fijah and Basimah, Erased Identity and Kicked off Inhabitants
On the allegations of water security and combating terrorism, the villages of Basimah and Ain al-Fijah, Wadi Barada, were erased from existence, for the people are kicked out and the houses are leveled to the ground; thus, annihilating the features of a key tourist place in Rural Damascus after the people where banished away from their properties and memories.
The village of Ain al-Fijah and its neighbor Basimah in the Wadi Barada area are of the most important touristic destinations in Damascus and its countryside, one of the area’s major summer resorts, with their distinct natural landscape, where the famous Barada river passes. Being one of the tourists’ favorite destinations, the Ain al-Fijah village used to have about 80 restaurants at the two banks of the river and around its spring.
Early in January, 2017, the Assad’s forces captured this area after it was controlled by the opposition through a massive military campaign accompanied by air forces. Due to this, the people were displaced fearing the shelling and violations or according to the agreement that was applied at the end of the month, leading to the evacuation of the area of fighters and those who refused the agreement.
One year after, Bashar al-Assad, Head of the Syrian regime, issued decree no.1 for 2018, on January 18, according to which he defined the “direct and indirect campuses of the spring,” in addition to defining the two campuses of the water tunnel, passing through these villages, reaching Damascus, due to which the people’s return to the their houses, confiscated by the government, became impossible.
The decree provided for confiscation of the properties and parts of properties located within the direct campus, according to the schemes attached to the law in return for a fiscal compensation equal to the properties’ real value.
Who Is Preventing People’s Return?
Since the beginning of 2017, the Assad’s forces have closed all the gates to the villages completely, announcing them a “Military Zone,” thus, preventing any of the area’s people entry for whatever reasons.
Through this period, several officials of the government of the Syrian regime promised the people of Ein al-Fijah and Basimah of the soon return and the beginning of the rehabilitation of the neighborhoods and infrastructure, but these promises were repeated over and over again without implementation.
“Muneer K.”, one of the area’s residents told Enab Baladi that “they have informed us tens of times that the return, the houses restoration and people’s compensation will start soon, but there are no indications of the return and the villages are completely destroyed.”
“The government has bombarded the majority of the Ain al-Fijah neighborhoods on the allegation of expanding the spring’s campus, so where to are we returning after the houses disappeared?” he added.
The size of destruction of the two villages of Ain al-Fijah and Basimah does not promise a soon return, especially that the Damascus Water Foundation is yet completing its expansion at the disadvantage of the residential neighborhoods and the administrative entities in the villages.
For his part, Alaa Ibrahim, Rural Damascus’ Mayor, has officially promised that the people will return in a few months since April 2014; the promises were repeated in the past tow years, but Muneer and several people from the area, whom Enab Baladi has interviewed described this with “a mere anesthetic,” for there are not official actions to reopen the roads and remove the debris.
Now that two years have passed since the land’s confiscation decree and the expansion of the direct campus of the al-Fijah Spring, the efforts never progressed, and the Spring’s project was not implemented, not to mention the rubble that requires months to be cleared off.
Ausama Mohammad, a man in his fifties from Ain al-Fijah, told Enab Baladi that hidden forces are obstructing the people’s return to their houses, which people concluded after the many promises offered by the governorate that ended with no results or justifications.
Ausama also mentioned the real-estate brokers who are offered properties, not covered by Decree “No.1,” which are being displayed for sale by local merchants, pointing out to the warnings against the sell process that the brokers are spreading quoting government official of the areas people, who are describing the situation with the “area being swallowed.”
Elections on Behalf of Villages that No More Exist
With losing hope of the revival of the towns villages of Ain al-Fijah and Basimah, the local councils elections, organized by the government last September, were conducted, and despite the “administrative openness” which the Syrian regime promoted through this elections, the “Baathist traits” were apparent in the area, for the party has given a push to its nominees, who were elected for the two groups “A” and “B,” becoming the members of the local councils at the tow villages of the Ain al-Fijah and Basimah.
The step triggered the areas’ people’s both contempt and mockery; Ausama added that “what job do the members of the Municipality Council’s have since there are not villages, neighborhoods or people, or their job is to provide services to villages that exist on the map while erased from being?”
The fifty years old man believes that the danger lies in the ideas that a gang of merchants connected with officers were the ones behind the military campaign that targeted the area as to implement their own agendas, represented by controlling it under the claims of water security and the risks posed by the population to the spring.
“For the many past years, we have been populating the surrounding of the spring and the river, and the water flowed to Damascus naturally and never got polluted,” the man concludes wondering, “what did happen that they confiscated a whole village on the claim of water security?”
Under the Decree No.10, which defined the confiscation map of the two campuses of the spring and the water tunnel passing through the villages, the area remaining for people is estimated with half of the tow villages’ original area. Even if the people were allowed to return, the terms of the decree prohibit them from reconstructing or reopening touristic foundations, in addition to agriculture and industry under the penalty of confiscation or fine.