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The Eradication of Buildings in Damascus’ Surrounding as to Impose New Organizational Structures

Destruction in Jubar neighborhood, Damascus – April 24, 2015 (Enab Baladi)

Destruction in Jubar neighborhood, Damascus – April 24, 2015 (Enab Baladi)

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Since its control over neighborhoods in the surrounding of Damascus and its Ghouta’s eastern and western parts, the government of the Syrian regime has been bombing new buildings and removing the ruble and deporting it, announcing the allocation of hundreds of millions for the implementation of this process, calling it the preparatory phase of reconstruction, without declaring the principal reason for those bombings, at a time where Russia adopts the reconstruction process in Syria, while Iran alluded to its possible participation. 

Areas Being Eradicated

The capital Damascus is living with the echoes of the explosions in its surrounding, and not a day is passing without the government reporting new explosions at the al- Qaboun neighborhood, in the north-eastern part of Damascus, which the official narrative reports as explosions resulting of landmines and the remnants of the “armed groups.” However, crossed information confirmed to Enab Baladi that Assad’s forces are intentionally bombing buildings at the length of Almotahalik Aljanobi (the Southern Highway) which separates the city of  Ein Tarma from the western part of the highway in Jubar neighborhood.

The government of the regime is speaking of cleaning the entrance to Jubar from the direction of eastern Ghouta, which is not a literal cleaning, but rather an inspection process of tunnels with the officers’, supervising the area’s checkpoints, promises of reopening the roads, according to Mahmoud Idris, a resident of Jubar neighborhood.

Idris also told Enab Baladi that the government is currently working to eradicate the al-Bashaaer Compound,” near the Southern Highway, through bombing and dredging the buildings, pointing to the discussions conducted by the neighborhood’s people, the majority of whom were displaced to Ein Tarma, that the Provincial Department is speaking of the construction of apartment towers instead of the compound.

Prior to 2011, the government started to notify the owners of industrial shops, in the small part of the industrial city that is affiliated with the al-Qaboun, with the need to evacuate and transferring them to the industrial city in Adra, eastern rural Damascus. The dredging processes in the area started early in 2012, with which the Damascus Provincial Department attempted to move the large industrial facilities in al-Qaboun.

However, the area’s industrialists refused the decision in a meeting with the Damascus Provincial Department’s officials on Friday, September 28, according to the governmental “al-Thawra” newspaper.

The Provincial Department alleges that the industrial area in al-Qaboun has been destroyed by 80%, while industrialists say that the damage’s percentage does not go beyond 10% resorting to the evaluation of the Engineers Syndicate and the Syrian Ministry of Justice.

This has been confirmed by a media source from the neighborhood, pointing out that the industrial area was not part of the war that the area witnessed, except for a few workshops, during the battles fought by the opposition near the Abbasid Garages as to control it, knowing that it is located near the industrial area.

The area’s industrialists reply to the Provincial Department is that their facilities are located in an organized industrial area, which is not irregular, under a legal decree. The industrialists have been working there since 1947 and pledged to do restoration processes if the Provincial Department accepts their stay.

To the west of Damascus, the situation is not that different in the city of Darayya. At a time where the city’s municipal council has declared allowing the return of a limited number of people to visit the city, announcements of new explosions continue.

The last of these announcements was on September 27, when the official Syrian News Channel has quoted a military source as saying that engineering units will bomb explosive devices and munitions left by those he referred to as “terrorist groups” in Darayya.

These bombings s come two years after Darayya has been totally evacuated of troops and civilians, after a reconciliation agreement was conducted with the Syrian regime, providing for moving them to Northern Syria.

New Regulatory Plans

At the beginning of July, the Council of Ministers in Syria commissioned the Ministry of Public Works to develop organizational plans for several areas around the city of Damascus. The mandate came during the Council’s session which was conducted on July 1 and requested the development of organizational plans for each of the neighborhoods of Jubar and al-Qabou, Barzeh al-Balad and the Yarmouk Camp.

The Council also requested that the privacy of each region be considered in accordance with its urban, industrial and professional components within the plan, before the page of the “Presidency of the Council of Ministers” on “Facebook” published a recording of the Minister of Local Administration, Hussein Makhlouf, in which he stressed that the government is working on the need to accelerate the re-vision of modern architecture and modernization of the organizational charts of the areas in Damascus’ surrounding.

“These areas would be given a new organizational structure according a modern developmental and urban vision that suit them,” he added.

In March, Damascus Provincial Department announced a new organizational plan called Basilia.City, to the south of the Southern Highway, extending to the neighborhoods of Al-Qadam, al-Asali and the al-Thalatheen Street with an area of 900 hectares (nine million square meters), with four thousand real estates there.

The Prime Minister Imad Khamis has in March announced that “the government is working on implementing a new urban plan for Ghouta that achieves urban development, in order to compensate those whose homes have been damaged.”

The Purpose of Demolition and Deportation

The architect and engineering consultant Mazhar Sharabji, who was the head of the Engineering Department in rural Damascus, said that the superficial dimensions of the issue are a government that is trying to remove the rubble. But what has not been declared concerning al-Qaboun, Darayya and Sayyidah Zaynab falls within the context of demographic change, telling Enab Baladi that “Assad is trying to wipe out his crimes.”

The areas that witnessed battles in Darayya and al-Qaboun (the neighborhood) are heavily destroyed and there is a clear change in their landmarks. However, in areas where there has been no hot fighting or less shelling, the regime seeks to obliterate some of the partially damaged buildings by bombing, so if the international bodies specialized in reconstruction entered these areas to inspect the damage, they will be forced to adopt the new organizational schemes, according to Sharbaji.

He explained that buildings in areas that are not subject to new organizational plans, their organizational identity will be preserved by the regime. As for those subject to new schemes, it tries to erase there identity completely, which allows it to address them according to its vision and plans and without the citizens’ ability to prove their ownership.

Sharabji said that what is happening is creating new organizational schemes within the former organized area, which in turn leads to the citizens’ loss of the right to their property because they will not be able to prove it because of the loss of its organizational identity. For each building, there is an organizational identity and its own license, and no one knows to whom this new organizational scheme belongs or how the area would organizationally look like.

As for the industrial area of al-Qaboun, according to Sharbaji, there will be a “cancellation of commonage,” which means the demolition of the area and organizing it anew. This area could turn into government compounds or public parks. Accordingly, the owners of factories in the industrial zone will lose their licenses, and facilities will lose their identity if they are already organized, but if they used to be random facilities, their owners would not receive a compensation.

Sayyidah Zaynab as a Model

Sharbaji gave what happened in the neighborhood of the Sayyidah Zaynab as an example, for the government has turned it from a village council to a city, raising the number of members working in the Council to 25, equal to the number of the Duma Council’s members’ number, indicating that this meant proposing a new organization for the city. He expressed his fear of the idea of the area settling at the hands of Iranian businessmen, especially as there are irregular buildings around the shrine, which will belong to new citizens within the urban planning under the Decree No. 10 after the demolition of the area.

The Council of Ministers issued Resolution No. 15221, dated 26 September 2011, including the creation of a group of cities, on the proposal of the Minister of Local Administration, including the village of Sayyidah Zaynab, according to the government “al-Thawra” newspaper.

Within the framework of the resolution, the government affiliated the following areas, Haouch Chaïr, Najha, Khirbat al-Ward, al-Bahdaliah, and Ashaaer, to the “city” of Sayyidah Zaynab. Thus, the village has turned into a city by the virtue of the resolution. It also witnessed local elections on this basis, but the results have not yet come up.

In 2012, the newspaper quoted the deputy head of the executive office in the province of Damascus, Rateb Abu Adass, that as a part of the plan for the development of the local administration, the city of Sayyidah Zaynab was created instead of the village council. The resolution, according to Abu Adass, aims to “provide broader services to the citizens.”

These administrative changes and explosions are in the interest of Decree No. 10, issued on April 2, which provides for “the creation of one or more regulatory areas within the overall organizational chart of the administrative units,” which allows the Ministry of Local Administration to impose new organizational schemes in any area of Syria.

Law No. 10 supplements the “Decree No.66,” but it covers Syria as a whole, which provides for the creation of one or more regulatory areas within the general organizational chart of the administrative units commissioned by the Ministry of Local Administration, which may choose any area it likes to impose a new scheme of organization, without referring to its local councils.

One of the critiques that targeted the new law is that it was passed at a time when more than half of the Syrian people were displaced from their homes, according to UN statistics, which means that the government may utilize their absence and loss of ownership papers to confiscate their properties in ways it considers “legal.”

The citizens fear that the law enforcement mechanisms will not take into account their circumstances, in terms of notifying them of the new regulations, and the short time available to document their ownership of their properties, or if they would be able to document them or not as hundreds of thousands of them are included on the Syrian regime’s wanted people’s lists, and the resultant deprivation of their ability to conduct transactions in the government’s establishments.

The new organizations are expected to target areas beyond the control of the Syrian regime, which have suffered extensive destruction, forcing residents to flee. The Council of Ministers has hinted at the adoption of a “comprehensive plan” for the reconstruction of the eastern Ghouta, coinciding with the evacuation of its population last March.

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