“Grueling” journey to find house in Idlib

Families displaced from Ariha and Jabal al-Zawiya to the Syrian-Turkish border-28 January 2020 (Enab Baladi)

Families displaced from Ariha and Jabal al-Zawiya to the Syrian-Turkish border-28 January 2020 (Enab Baladi)


The destination is unknown just like their fate; internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the cities and towns of Idlib countryside are desperately looking for houses to shelter them from the cold and wet weather in areas that are relatively safe in northwestern Syria.

After the Russian-backed Syrian regime launched a military campaign on the towns and cities of Idlib in mid-January, around 350,000 civilians were forced to forsake their homes and start searching for a haven, according to the Syrian Response Coordination Group (SRCG).

Searching for a secure shelter in northwestern Syria turns out to be an arduous task for IDPs for many reasons, including intensified regime shelling, massive military operations, and low temperatures.

Ahmad Rya, a displaced person from the village of Maarat Hirmah in the southern countryside of Idlib province, fled al-Assad regime’s bombardment on his village for the unknown. Rya and his family eventually found themselves a house in the town of Sarmin after a weary journey.

However, after the Syrian regime took control over the city of Maarat al-Numan, south of Idlib province, he was forced again to leave to the dark fate. Thus, Ahmad headed to Idlib and resorted to real estate offices in the city seeking a house.

Despite the absence of safety, and after a long search, Rya was able to find a house with a rent of 25 thousand Syrian pounds (SYP- 24 USD) per month. The real estate office asked him to pay the rent along with its insurance and commission (the commission is equal to the rent). Consequently, Rya changed his mind on the idea of ​​renting the house and returned to one of his relatives’ homes in Salqin city.

However, Rya told Enab Baladi that the narrow space of his relative’s house made him leave again to the city of Idlib, and there he does not know where to go.

On the other hand, Ahmad al-Shayib, a resident of Kafr Nubul town, shares the same unknown fate of Ahmad Rya. Al-Shayib was also displaced to al-Dana town after the heavy bombardment, and he is currently facing many difficulties finding a house for his family.

Al-Shayib described to Enab Baladi the arduous journey he went through searching for a house. The rents are high, starting at 100 USD (around 100,000 SYP), and owners ask for a six-month payment in advance, amid the lack of heating supplies and high fuel costs.

Then, al-Shayib added that houses are no longer available, especially in the areas of al-Dana, Izaz, and Afrin. There are not even empty places to set up tents. He pointed out that despite the critical situation in the city of Idlib and the state of fear and insecurity prevailing among its residents, many families refuse to leave it in the hope of a solution to end the military operations in the area.

Maher al-Abdullah, the owner of a real estate office from Hizano Village, confirmed to Enab Baladi that the rents are too high. Al-Abdullah said that rents sometimes reach 500 USD (around 500,000 SYP) for a home consisting of one bedroom and a living room, in addition to the real estate office commission.

Al-Abdullah added that there are houses only because families chose to live together to provide empty houses for the newly displaced people.

According to the United Nations Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Mark Cutts, in a statement released on 7 February, the displaced people are unable to find suitable shelters, and 80,000 of them are living in buildings unfit for human habitation.

Cutts explained that 144,000 persons were displaced to Afrin, Izaz, and al-Bab in rural Aleppo. At the same time, the majority of Idlib’s residents headed to al-Dana, Maarat Misrin, Idlib districts, and Salqin, and those areas had received most of the IDPs during 2019.

According to the UN official, people gathered in small areas, which worsened the conditions in the region and the camps, stressing that 100 percent of the displaced people need help, 79 percent need shelter, and 57 percent need food and financial assistance.




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