Fri 30 Oct 2020

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Charity organization builds public facilities in northern Syria… What is land choosing mechanism?

The "Sajo" school in the city of Azaz, northwest of Aleppo ("Beyaz Eller" association)

The "Sajo" school in the city of Azaz, northwest of Aleppo ("Beyaz Eller" association)

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The “Beyaz Eller” (White Hands) association, operating in northwestern Syria, has been establishing public facilities in northern Syria in coordination with the Turkish authorities.

According to the association’s official website, “Beyaz Eller” is a charity organization working in all humanitarian relief sectors and is licensed to operate in Turkey.

“Beyaz Eller” established an office in Istanbul in 2013 and called it the “Beyaz Eller Yardimlaşma Derneği.” In 2014, the association obtained an office license in Antakya, southern Turkey, for project implementation and follow-up due to its proximity to the Syrian-Turkish borders.

Enab Baladi contacted the Director of the Media Office of the “Beyaz Eller” association, Ali Hadbeh, to discuss the facilities’ construction, the working mechanism, obtaining approvals, and land selection.

Coordination with the Turkish side

Hadbeh told Enab Baladi that the “Beyaz Eller” association is cooperating and coordinating with the Turkish Ministry of Education to build schools in northwestern Syria.

As for this cooperation’s nature, Hadbeh added, Turkey’s Ministry of Education has given the association special concessions because it needs help to do such work.

Since the Turkish government secured the situation in Afrin and Azaz cities, the cooperation between the association and the Turkish government became necessary. The Turkish government provides the basic school supplies after the association finishes the building process, according to Hadbeh.

Hadbeh pointed out that the cooperation between the association and the Turkish Ministry of Education was established to ensure no random building of schools and because the “Beyaz Eller” association knows the areas that need the schools the most.

The association also cooperates with the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) education directorates, operating in northwestern Syria, to discover which areas need school buildings and have no schools in them.

According to Hadbeh, schools are built with voluntary contributions from international charities and individual donations.

He indicated that the “Sajo” school in the city of Azaz, northwest of Aleppo, was built by the association with funding from individual donations.

The planning of "Sajo" school in Azaz city, northwestern Aleppo ("Beyaz Eller" association)

The planning of “Sajo” school in Azaz city, northwestern Aleppo (“Beyaz Eller” association)

Allocated spaces in regulatory plans for school construction

Regarding the mechanism for obtaining approval for building a school and the steps leading up to the construction process, Hadbeh said that the association communicates with the education office of the SIG, which holds a meeting with the Turkish Ministry of Education and the local council of the area where the school is to be located.

Such meetings discuss the details of the school building process, the selection of the location in the first place, and the available land that matches the required space, as the space allocated for the building should be large and at least 2500 square meters.

According to Hadbeh, Schools need large areas for building. They cannot be built on agricultural land far from the area, and the construction must be within a residential area.

The association signs building agreements with the SIG’s ministry of education and Turkey’s Ministry of Education, making the agreements tripartite.

Hadbeh pointed out that the local councils have regulatory plans for the northwestern Syrian regions because they were municipalities before 2011.

He added the schools’ building areas are outlined in the regulatory plans, and the lands chosen for building are state property, confirming that the “Beyaz Eller” association does not appropriate private property to construct the schools.

What about building mosques?

The association launched the “Nour al-Huda” mosque-building project after surveying several villages and remote areas in northern Syria, specifically in the countryside of Afrin city, which turned out to have no mosques.

Hadbeh told Enab Baladi that the association started constructing mosques because the selected areas of work lack the infrastructure.

He added, after the massive displacement waves to Afrin, the population increased there, raising the need for mosques because of their limited number or non-existence in the area.

Hadbeh mentioned that 150 villages in the area need mosques, 85 of which are without mosques.

He added that the lands chosen for building schools are either donated by someone from the region to establish a mosque on it, where the person transfers the land’s ownership to the endowments or the local council in the area administrated by the SIG or by the local council’s assigning of land for the mosque building.

Hadbeh denied all rumors of land appropriation or usurpation to build mosques in the region.

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