Displaced Daraya people bid farewell to their homes amid regime’s demolition plans
With great effort, the sixty-something-year-old Saeed Abu Mohammad was able to identify the building that houses his apartment near Sharedi/Freedom Square in Daraya city, one of the most famous western suburbs of Damascus, after the building suffered the collapse of one of its parts and the burning of its front facade.
What Abu Mohammad, displaced from Daraya and residing in the countryside of Idlib, saw was through a photo published by the Executive Office of the Municipality of Daraya on Facebook, notifying the owners of the decision to remove the building because it is about to fall, and this is the method used by the office to inform the people about their property in the city.
The man told Enab Baladi that when he left Daraya, he left the building in better condition than the published picture, confirming that in addition to the bombing, the building had been subjected to deliberate acts of sabotage.
The regime forces removed the iron from the ceilings of the apartments and most of their furnishings, including slabs, marble, doors, and windows, and then burned the building, says Abu Mohammad’s neighbor, who was able to enter the city after the displacement campaign.
Abu Mohammad’s house is one of dozens of houses that were demolished, according to warning notices published by the Executive Office of the Daraya Municipal Council.
The building is photographed, and its pictures are published on Facebook before its demolition begins and the municipal council attributes the reason for the demolition to the advice of local engineers or the complaint of residents in that area.
Daraya, Memories under rubble
Despite the passage of seven years since the people of Daraya were displaced to northern Syria, and the rest of its people were allowed to return to it again in batches under strict security monitoring, the features of destruction, remnants of shelling, and stones remained the dominant feature of the city, and the city’s images remained stuck in the minds and imaginations of the displaced.
Abu Mohammad said that he had lost contact with his neighbors in the building since the regime forces displaced the people of Daraya to northern Syria in 2016, and it was difficult for him to share with them about the report that he saw on Facebook and which was confirmed to him by one of his neighbors returning to the city.
The IDP was sure that his house did not need to be demolished before the regime forces returned to continue their “looting” after displacing the people, as they took the roof iron and bathroom ceramic slabs.
For his part, Rateb Khariati, 28, who is displaced from Daraya and lives in Turkey, said that he was able to take a final farewell look at the building that houses his family home and in which he lived the best years of his life after the Executive Office of the Municipality of Daraya published its picture.
Khariati stated that he could not initially distinguish the details of the building, which seemed to be blocks of rubble piled on top of each other, but by listing the address attached to the photo, he was able to verify it.
“I stared at the picture for many minutes, and a tape of memories from when I lived in this house came back to my mind, and I was unable to think that after a few days, it would no longer exist,” he added.
The destruction movement that the regime forces started since the military campaign against the city in late 2012 did not subside, using various types of weapons such as aircraft, cannons, and explosive barrels, until the destruction machines returned using government bulldozers since the first day of the return of the people.
The municipality of Daraya has begun demolishing old buildings and others that are likely to collapse or violate conditions, according to what was announced by the executive office of the municipality, which is the body that organized the return to the city and supervises its management at the present time, and which describes itself as the Daraya City Council.
Demolition without compensation, Mining committees
Daraya City Council issues warnings and demolition notices by photographing the building and publishing it on Facebook. The reason is due to advice from local engineers or complaints from residents in that area.
The demolition notices did not come in accordance with an official decision, and the matter was limited to the Council publishing a picture of the building to be demolished, notifying its owners to identify it and communicate with it to complete the removal process.
The building owners did not receive any compensation except a free license to rebuild it again. The demolition and rubble removal process was carried out at the building owners’ own expense in exchange for extracting iron and other remains from the building that could be used.
When the owners of the building do not respond to the notice, or if they are displaced from the city, or they do not receive the notice at all, the executive office carries out the demolition process, turning the building into a mass of rubble placed on the outskirts of the road, local sources confirmed to Enab Baladi.
Since the displacement of the people from the city, workshops known as mining committees have been active, working to remove iron, scrap, and cement blocks from the destroyed buildings.
The Daraya Council is accused of continuing to destroy buildings to benefit from their remains, especially since the former mayor, Marwan Obaid, is the same person who was supervising the mining committees, according to civil sources.
The council worked on instructions from the governor of Rif Dimashq governorate, as shown through its Facebook posts, to use the remains of the demolition, which are private property, to restore public sidewalks.
Regime’s urban plans
During the period of military campaigns it was waging against the cities and towns of the Damascus countryside, the regime’s government proceeded to issue a package of legislative decisions and decrees, which allowed it to continue the destruction of buildings, including Legislative Decree No. 40 of 2012.
The decree stipulated the removal of the violating buildings, regardless of their type, location, investment capacity, or use, by demolition and the removal of the rubble at the expense of everyone in whose interest the violation was.
Resolution No. 10 in 2018 represented a greater threat to the property of residents, especially displaced people, and expatriates who fear the oppression of the regime if they return to areas under its control.
It stipulated allowing the establishment of regulatory zones in all Syrian regions and informing the original owners to confirm their ownership of the property within only one year. Otherwise, the state would acquire this property, and its owner would not be compensated in any way.
The implementation of these decisions witnessed an unprecedented emphasis on the demolition of violating buildings in the context of creating new regulatory plans that would bring about a demographic change that includes many areas in the Damascus countryside, especially those that were subjected to systematic bombing throughout the years of the revolution that began in 2011.
The tightening implementation of Law No. 40 coincided with a clear desire by the regime to obstruct the return of more people to the devastated areas of the Rif Dimashq governorate.
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