Friday , September 30 2022

After the IS, residents from the suburbs of Damascus blocked home leave


Damascus Abu Mohammed thought he might return home after the Jihadists were banished from the suburb of Damascus, but said the Syrian authorities had blocked their return by incorrectly classifying his home as being unable to live.

In May, regime forces flourished the Islamic state group in a piece of the southern district of Tadamun capital with a campaign of air strikes and bombings.

For the first time in six years, this meant that the entire government control was restored across the area, bringing with it a calm that sparked hopes of returning home.

But instead, Abu Mohammed and others from Tadamun complain, the authorities considered many inappropriate residences and blocking owners from returning to a controversial rehabilitation plan.

Five months after the IS was forced, the regime's barrier hinders access to the former jihadist fortress, now under strict safety, and an AFP team could not enter.

At the last checkpoint, the debris blocked the road. The floors of a nearby building leaned over one another, and a mosque mine was thrown into a hole.

Abu Mohammed said he had managed to see his home before state inspectors arrived – and insisted that it was okay to live despite the official decision.

"It was not even a bullet hole. It was just a prey," he said, giving a pseudonym to avoid reprisals.

"It is so unfair to citizens who have waited for years (to return) and have always been state."

Another repatriated Othman al-Ayssami, aged 55, was indignant.

"Why can not I go home and thousands of people?" the lawyer asked.

"After the military operations have ended, we entered the neighborhood waiting for huge damage," he said.

But in his four-story house, "only the windows were broken," Ayssami said without specifying whether his residence was considered inappropriate.

– "The right to go home" –

The Tadamun district has long been in a gray area.

With the orchards, people from the Golan Heights occupied by the Israelites or flooded in Damascus from the countryside have often been populated since the late 1960s, often without official permission to build there.

But today, his fate seems particularly uncertain after the provincial authorities announced last month that they would be affected by a controversial law on development.

The law, known as Decree 10, allows the government to take advantage of private property to create zonal developments, compensating owners with new project actions.

If their land is selected, landlords inevitably lose their property and must ask for shares in return.

The construction is not scheduled to begin in Tadamun for many years, but officials have already been sent to inspect their homes.

A provincial commission was charged with assessing damages and assessing whether about 25,000 residential units are suitable for human habitation.

Even if their homes are declared to standards, no resident can move back to a new notification.

When they realized that a large number of inappropriate houses had not actually been damaged in the battle, community members had several meetings with the committee.

To get rid of their frustration, they created a Facebook page called "The Tadamun Exile".

"It is our right to go home," wrote a displaced resident.

– Red wax –

The Commission divided the neighborhood into three sectors, the latter covering the area that is controlled once.

Commission chief Faisal Srour told AFP that in the first two sectors inspectors "have so far visited 10,000 homes, of which 2,500 are suitable for living and 1000 are not."

The rest were still classified, he said, but most of the units in the former jihadist sector would probably have been assessed as inappropriate.

"This is where the fighting took place," he said.

Tadamun was overtaken by rebels in 2012, then part of it fell three years later to jihadi IS.

Over the years, most residents have been forced to leave their homes and only 65,000 people live today, compared to 250,000 before the 2011 war broke out.

Dwellings that are declared suitable for housing receive a serial number and are sealed with red wax, and officials insist owners can easily recover them.

A resident may "receive their home normally after he has proven his property," said Mayor Tadamun, Ahmed Iskandar, AFP, speaking of a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad in military uniform and sunglasses.

But because Tadamun is an informal neighborhood, only 10% of the houses have officially registered property – even if they were not lost during the war.

Most of the others in the area have only semi-official documents showing their residence.

Even for those who manage to return, breathing seems temporary.

Finally, the reconstruction, scheduled to begin in four to five years, should see the whole area resounding to the ground.

Then, no more than one-tenth of the suburban population will ever be able to submit property documents to take action in the reconstruction project.

However, the head of the inspection commission, Srour, said those who could not prove ownership – probably at least 90% of the people – would not be made homeless.

"We will not throw people in the street, but we will offer them compensations or alternative housing," he said.

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