Mon 21 Sep 2020

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Al-Raqqa’s destroyed houses… Who compensates their owners

Two children standing in front of a destroyed building in al-Raqqa city - 26 July 2020 (Enab Baladi / Abdul Aziz al-Saleh)

Two children standing in front of a destroyed building in al-Raqqa city - 26 July 2020 (Enab Baladi / Abdul Aziz al-Saleh)

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Enab Baladi – Zeynep Masri

Ruqayyah al-Hassan, a resident of al-Raqqa city, and three of her five children “miraculously” survived an air raid by the International Coalition Forces’ (ICF) aircraft on her family’s house, located in Masaken al-Sahha area opposite to the “National Hospital” in al-Raqqa city, northern Syria in August 2017. Al-Hassan lost her husband and two of her children, as well as her house, which was completely destroyed by the airstrike.

Al-Hassan moved to live in a house she rented for 25 thousand Syrian Pounds (SYP = 11 USD) monthly, in al-Tawasuiyah neighborhood in the north-western of al-Raqqa city.

Al-Hassan told Enab Baladi that she asked for compensation from relevant parties after submitting “dozens” of complaints to relief organizations without receiving any reparation, except for some modest aids.

Compensation claims

A number of people who have completely or partially lost their houses and shops have resorted to the authorities in control of the al-Raqqa city for compensation of the damages caused by sides that are “alien” to the al-Raqqa residents, according to what Mustafa al-Rahmo, one of the city residents said to Enab Baladi.

Al-Rahmo told Enab Baladi that he turned to several sides to demand compensation; however, his appeals were “useless.”

He added, one commander of the “Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)” in the “al-Raqqa Civil Council” told him in response to his compensation claims “you lost your house and shop, but we saved you from the Islamic State organization (IS).”

No official promises

In an interview with Enab Baladi, media worker Osama al-Khalaf, who works in the “al-Raqqa Civil Council,” said that the compensation matter for the war-affected homeowners was raised several times during the council meetings with the countries of the ICF, nevertheless, no official statement was released for that matter.

Al-Khalaf added that some organizations, namely “ACTED,” “People In Need,” and “Mercy Corps,” have restored houses in the villages of al-Raqqa countryside and neighborhoods, through their assessment committees in coordination with the “Civic Council.”

According to al-Khalaf, these organizations have assigned the affected people with amounts of money depending on the cost and scale of destruction of the residents’ houses.

Al-Khalaf pointed out that the compensation’s value differs according to the criteria of the joint “Engineering Evaluation Committee” of the “Civil Council” and the sponsoring organization.

He continued saying that the financial compensation starts at 600 US dollars (USD) and may reach up to 3000 or 4000 USD, depending on the size of the damage.

Al-Khalaf noted that, during 2019, and through the “Labour and Social Affairs Committee,” the “Civil Council” counted all the damaged houses during the battles that took place in the al-Raqqa city, depending on a database, engineers, and specialized supervisors.

Accordingly, a specialized committee was formed to visit the neighborhoods selected for evaluation and restoration, most prominent of which, the Train neighborhood, the Behind the Railway neighborhood, and the Rumaila neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the Head of the al-Raqqa city Municipality, Ahmed Ibrahim, told Enab Baladi that the restoration promises are “empty” and that the construction done to the damaged houses is a partial restoration that includes “the interior plastering of the house, painting, fixing the windows and doors, and other similar stuff.”

Ibrahim added, “the restoration works did not include the completely destroyed buildings.”

He said this restoration was limited to some parts of the city.

The ceiling of financial support ranges between 800 and 1000 USD, according to Ibrahim.

He added the support could be in cash payments to the affected people or to organizations assigned to implement the restoration works using this financial support.

The destruction in the al-Raqqa’s buildings

In March 2019, the “United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)” published the “Syrian Cities Damage Atlas,” report that showed the extent of destruction that befell the areas previously controlled by the IS organization and bombed by the ICF.

The report indicated that there are 12,781 damaged buildings in the al-Raqqa province, of which 3,326 buildings are entirely destroyed, while 3,962 buildings are severely damaged, and 5,493 buildings are partially destroyed.

The report also showed the distribution of destruction in al-Raqqa’s cities and villages.

According to the report, the total number of damaged buildings in the al-Tabqa city reached 487 buildings, of which 207 buildings were completely destroyed, 128 buildings were severely destroyed, and 152 buildings were partially damaged.

Another report by the Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) organization released in December 2019, estimated that the ICF fired 30 thousand artillery shells on the al-Raqqa city.

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