Syria’s Displaced and the Obstacles to Return

by The Aleppo Project on August 15, 2018

As part of its annual Lemkin Reunion, The Shattuck Center on Conflict, Negotiation and Recovery at CEU’s School of Public Policy hosted in Budapest the 4th Lemkin Reunion. The topic was on displaced Syrians and the obstacles to return, with a panel discussion with:

Basel Aljunaidy, Director of Orient Policy Center, Gaziantep

Senay Ozden, Cultural Anthropologist, Hamisch Syrian Cultural House, Istanbul

Ugur Ümit Üngör, Associate Professor of History at Utrecht University and the Institute of War and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam

Radwan Ziadeh, Senior Analyst at the Arab Center, Washington DC

Moderated by Martin Kahanec, Acting Dean of the CEU School of Public Policy and the Shattuck Center

We will be publishing papers from the Lemkin Reunion that can be found on the in the Papers section of the website here. This video features interviews with Senay Ozden and Basel Aljunaidy.


Learn more:

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The Aleppo ProjectSyria’s Displaced and the Obstacles to Return
Kids enjoying their first day of Eid in the city of Aleppo. Aleppo Media Center, 2016.

Aleppians at Eid: Between the Hammer of Displacement and the Anvil of Separation

by Abduhalim Albakkor on June 13, 2018

Of the traditional folklore of Aleppo, there is one song that was heard throughout the Middle East. Sung by Fairouz, a Lebanese legend, and Sabah Fakhri, an icon of Aleppo, Al-Rozana describes the atrocious years of World War I and tells the story of how the merchants of Aleppo helped those in need in Beirut, who were facing dire economic circumstances due to the war.

Today, the people of Aleppo are themselves experiencing even worse circumstances and could definitely use the help of a friend, especially during the month of Ramadan and the approaching Eid. Aleppians, evacuated from the Eastern part of the city have joined deportees from other parts of Syria and together they live in small cities in the countryside of the Aleppo.  They have an immutable resolution to thrive in their country even against all odds.

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Abduhalim AlbakkorAleppians at Eid: Between the Hammer of Displacement and the Anvil of Separation
"Souq in Aleppo" by Michał Unolt. *

“On Your Way Home, …” what would you buy? Where?

by The Aleppo Project on June 9, 2018

This is an online survey of modern areas of socio-commercial activity in the city of Aleppo before and after 2012. Aleppians know where to get things bought or done, but modern maps of the city do not account for these markets, excepting those in the Old City. However, there are a lot of different markets that supply the people of Aleppo with goods and services. The aim of the survey is to document areas of socio-economic activity Aleppians use or used to visit for their shopping before, during and after the war that split Aleppo into segregated eastern and western halves in 2012, culminating in the destruction of much of eastern Aleppo and the forced displacement of most its residents. Through this, we are hoping to create a map of these markets that preserves the memories of the residents of different parts of the city while guarding against ignoring these lived experiences and realities during the reconstruction process. The map and a report of the findings will be published on the website of the Aleppo Project and will be shared publicly with other scholars, including the Syrian Heritage Archive at the German Archaeological Institute. Anything you would like to share with us about these markets will improve our knowledge about them.

When speaking of markets, we do not only consider those areas which bear the word market as part of their name. Please also think about other commercial areas where you used to go and which you might know better as “X Street” or “Y Roundabout”.

To complete the survey in Arabic or English, please click here.

The first set of questions is about one market area you used to go to. You can fill in information about as many markets as you would like by clicking the plus (+) sign at the end of each section. At the end, you can also include information about those areas where you prefer(red) NOT to shop.

The whole questionnaire is anonymous. No data will be asked that can be used to identify the person answering the survey. The data will only be used for the purpose of the survey and will be treated confidentially.

The survey will take approximately 20 minutes. You can leave out any questions you are not comfortable answering. If at any point you do not wish to answer more questions, please do not just leave it, but still scroll down and submit the answers you already gave.

Thank you!

The Aleppo Project at CEU’s School of Public Policy


* Photo: “Souq in Aleppo” by Michał Unolt. Taken on March 29, 2010. Flickr.

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The Aleppo Project“On Your Way Home, …” what would you buy? Where?
Member of the Civil Defense with an infant he pulled out alive from under the rubble after airstrikes. Still from a field report by Moaz al-Shami. September 29, 2016, Idlib.*

To Kill a Cause: Anti-White Helmets Propaganda and Reconciliation in Aleppo

by Connor Kusilek on June 8, 2018

A lot has changed for the White Helmets since the success of an Academy Award-winning documentary that followed the volunteers through their humanitarian mission to extract residents from the airstrike induced ruins of eastern Aleppo. The city has since fallen, or been liberated depending on your source, and the political landscape has shifted heavily to favor the regime. Times are not easy for the White Helmets, a civilian organization that does not carry arms or engage in combat, and this has been made all the worse by an online campaign that has rallied against the organization with wide-ranging, and often inconsistent accusations that intend to sully the credibility of the first responders. A cursory glance over their English language Facebook page will reveal a wave of attacks and vicious accusations that have assailed many posts. Charges that civilians are forced by the White Helmets to act like airstrike victims are common, as are claims that the White Helmets are themselves an armed terrorist group. One comment referred to them as the Al Qaeda’s Medical Brigade. Reviews for the organization are similarly polarized, with some thanking the White Helmets for the work they do, while others describe them as pawns of the US, CIA, UK, Israel, Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Zionists, or even George Soros. While one may be tempted to discredit these attacks as misinformed minorities, there is much more to these accusations than lone conspiracy theories. There is a network of such ideas, being supported and encouraged by a series of individuals and news sites that claim to know the truth. These accusations come with citations and sources, but always from the same places.

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Connor KusilekTo Kill a Cause: Anti-White Helmets Propaganda and Reconciliation in Aleppo
Joseph Eid/Getty Images

Consumed by War: The End of Aleppo and Northern Syria’s Political Order

by The Aleppo Project on November 20, 2017

A recent study published by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung examines how the Syrian conflict has transformed Aleppo, by deepening previous socio-economic divisions and setting-up preconditions for a new balance of power between the North and Damascus.  Consulting with regional experts (like former Aleppo Project fellow Armenak Tokmajyan) and utilizing data collected from structured interviews conducted within Aleppo, Lebanon and Turkey, author Kheder Khaddour explores the fragile interdependence that existed between eastern and western Aleppo with the northern part of Syria.  Khaddour further analyzes how the destruction of Aleppo goes far beyond destruction of the city to reshape domestic power structures.  Ultimately, it has also changed the structure of Northern Syria, of which Aleppo was once the main economic, political and administrative hub, but now risks falling under the dominance of Damascus.

Deftly maneuvering through historical ties and allegiances, Khaddour exposes how the current ruins of Aleppo (the east depleted of the majority of its population and the west of its mechanisms by which it used to function as the administrative, economic and political hub for northern Syria) are in fact the “cleansing of an urban population unprecedented in the history of the modern Middle East”.

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The Aleppo ProjectConsumed by War: The End of Aleppo and Northern Syria’s Political Order

October- December 2016

by Riham Wahba on November 10, 2017

To download the PDF file click here. 

The Fall of Aleppo City* (October – December 2016)

Dead End for Kerry-Lavrov Negotiations

The clouds of war started gathering after the fall of Lavrov-Kerry agreement that aimed to cease hostilities in Aleppo. The fall of the

Changes in areas of control in Aleppo City from October 1st, until December 13, 2016 Red: Government. Green: Rebels. Yellow: YPG

ceasefire agreement was followed by intensified bombing on eastern Aleppo, and periodic attacks towards western Aleppo. Blames exchanged between Russia and the United States diplomats for breaking the agreement highlighted the fragmentation and fragility of this agreement and the lack of leverage over their allies on the ground. The resumption of violence caused a mass scale damage and deterioration of living conditions in Aleppo and gave a space to armed opposition forces especially Jabhat al-Nusra to carry out further attacks.

Although rebel groups managed to break the siege in eastern Aleppo earlier in August 2016, which allowed food and ammunition to come in the eastern part, the humanitarian situation deteriorated, and the level of deprivation inflicted upon inhabitants of eastern Aleppo increased till the fall of the city in December 2016.  In continuation of the regime’s strategy “Surrender or We Wipe You Out,”[1] bids for an urgent intervention to stop the annihilation of eastern Aleppo and its people went in vain.

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Riham WahbaOctober- December 2016

Return of the Displaced Essential for Successful Reconstruction of Aleppo

by The Aleppo Project on November 4, 2017

In an interview with Australian national radio, Aleppo Project fellow AlHakam Shaar said the return of resident displaced from the city is an important condition for a successful reconstruction of Aleppo.

Images showing recent severe destruction in Raqqa, following the expulsion of the Islamic state bring to memory the severe destruction Homs and Aleppo faced and still face. The defeat of the Islamic State in Raqqa brings the conflict in Syria closer to an end, but this on its own is not enough. The end of the fight in Raqqa and Deir Azzor marks the end of intense fights in these cities. Without a process of reconciliation, sustainable peace building, and inclusion, these cities would suffer from a permanent division, not only in terms of the physical structure but also in terms of its demography.

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The Aleppo ProjectReturn of the Displaced Essential for Successful Reconstruction of Aleppo
Aleppian family in Germany gather for lunch: kibbeh. Credit: the Aleppo Project Credit: the Aleppo Project

Safeguarding Memory: Aleppian Cuisine

by Michael Shamah on September 1, 2017

Aleppo has been known for centuries for its food. Like many gastronomic centers, the city was blessed with a set of circumstances: a location on key trading routes, a diverse population, a prosperous middle class, and a place amidst the most fertile farms in Syria.1 This created a diverse cuisine that blended elements from its various ethnic and religious groups. Unfortunately, war has put all of this at risk. Much agricultural land is cut off, restaurants are closed, food is in short supply, and destruction has nearly halted food production. With many of its people scattered around the world, there is a risk of the loss of knowledge and skills. Not only is there a need to preserve food ways, but Aleppian cuisine is an important aspect of identity that once bound people together and might do so again.

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Michael Shamah Safeguarding Memory: Aleppian Cuisine
Credit: Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)

Syrian communities abroad key for reconstruction

by The Aleppo Project on July 24, 2017

DIASPORA: “Emigrants and their descendants, who live outside the country of their birth or ancestry, either on a temporary or permanent basis, yet still maintain effective and material ties to their countries of origin.”[i]

Diasporas are increasingly seen as powerful agents of economic and social development, crisis first-responders and post-conflict partners. They invest in their countries of origin by sending remittances, starting businesses and providing medical and other services.

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The Aleppo ProjectSyrian communities abroad key for reconstruction

“I Applied One of the Children’s Projects in My Senior Year” — Omar AlJaloud on Architecture Classes for Syrian Children in Turkey

by The Aleppo Project on June 21, 2017

Courtesy of Omar AlJaloud

In 2015, The Aleppo Project interviewed Omar AlJaloud, who was part of a volunteer group providing Syrian children in Turkey with educational training that would provide them with novel tools of expression and expose them to different perspectives. Since this group of volunteers specializes in Architecture, they wanted to conduct their training in a simplified way to the children in order to get their perspective on the future of Syria after the war. The students were Syrians from different backgrounds in Mersin. For five months, the class met weekly to learn the basics of architecture, design and drawing. By the end of these sessions, children were required to submit designs of their own imagined buildings.

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The Aleppo Project“I Applied One of the Children’s Projects in My Senior Year” — Omar AlJaloud on Architecture Classes for Syrian Children in Turkey