Is Marota City the Type of Reconstruction Syrians Need?

by Edwar Hanna and Nour Harastani on May 14, 2019


Marota City is a new construction project that was launched by the Syrian government in Damascus in 2012. This project is presented as part of a more modern, aspirational ‘master plan’ for urban development to move away from the traditional patterns of informality in housing that had developed over generations. This paper elaborates on the issue of Housing, Land and Property rights (HLP) in the conflict and post conflict periods in Syria, particularly concerning reconstruction and informal settlements. As reconstruction policies tend to ignore informal ownership systems and are based on proving ownership through documentary evidence only, millions of people are losing their rights to a just, sustainable and inclusive reconstruction process.

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Edwar Hanna and Nour HarastaniIs Marota City the Type of Reconstruction Syrians Need?
Courtesy of Mohamed Kahil

Burial and Reburial: Aleppo’s Dead between Documentation and Disappearance

by The Aleppo Project on May 10, 2019

Interview with Dr. Mohamed (Abu Jafar) Kahil, founder and chief medical examiner of the Forensic Authority in Eastern Aleppo.

Aleppo Municipality in regime-held areas has opened and moved cemeteries of victims killed by the regime since the bombardment of Eastern Aleppo districts, four and half years ago. From July 2012 until December 2016, the regime displaced the entirety of eastern Aleppo’s population, estimated by one million and a half. After more than two years, not more than a fifth of the displaced have managed to return.

As part of a research by The Aleppo Project[1], we interview Dr. Mohamed Kahil on the (re)burial of those who have been killed and the conditions in which the Forensic Authority in Aleppo was established. Being an expert in forensics and founder and chief medical examiner of the Forensic Authority, he talked to us about the challenges of documentation during burial and the procedures for dealing with unidentified bodies. We discussed regime’s attempts to rebuild some public parks while moving the relics without media coverage in order to conceal their crimes, and the difficulty this poses for the displaced to recognize the bodies of their families. We drifted to discuss the efforts to commemorate the anniversary of some massacres done by the regime.

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The Aleppo ProjectBurial and Reburial: Aleppo’s Dead between Documentation and Disappearance
Shatila Palestinian refugee camp near Beirut, where many Syrians moved after the onset of the conflict. Photo by Yahya al-Abdullah.

Syrian Students in Lebanon: Challenges to Return

by Yahya Al-Abdullah on May 3, 2019


The question of refugees’ return is one of the major issues addressed in conflict resolution literature. People usually flee to the nearest safe location at the time of conflict because when refugees abandon their homes, they hope to return as soon as possible. That is why the question of refugees’ return is inextricably linked to geographical proximity. For this reason, countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan are hosting the majority of Syrian refugees.[1] in the Middle East, while countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda are hosting large numbers of African refugees. This blog will focus on the case of young Syrian students who arrived in Lebanon after the uprising in 2011 and still live there. Specifically, it will address challenges and barriers that prevent these refugees from returning home and will examine the Lebanese reaction to the presence of these Syrian refugees.

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Yahya Al-AbdullahSyrian Students in Lebanon: Challenges to Return

Should Syria’s Displaced Return?

by Nura Ibold on April 14, 2019

An opinion piece 

The Arab Spring protests reached Syria in March 2011, the pro-democracy uprising, initially demanding reforms, soon turned into a civil war and violence escalated as a result of the government forces utilizing brutality to suppress the civil movement. More than seven years of conflict lead to the deaths of over 400,000 Syrians; millions were forcibly displaced, and the country is devastated economically. Since the beginning of the conflict, more than four million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and an estimated  6.1 million people have been  displaced within Syria, bringing the total  number of expelled Syrians to a staggering 11.5 million (UNHCR 2017).

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Nura IboldShould Syria’s Displaced Return?

Redesigning Saadalah Al-Jabri Square in Aleppo

by The Aleppo Project on February 22, 2019

Abdulrahman Bakr’s thesis on the redesign of the Saadalah Al-Jabri Square in Aleppo bears mentioning. Bakr graduated from Szent Istvan University’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism with a Master of Arts in Landscape Architecture (MLA). In particular, his discussion of the square’s historical importance for Aleppo, which included compelling photographs and maps from the 1920s, was especially informative. It would have been ideal, however, to have placed the current condition of the square in an equally detailed context, particularly when mentioning the 2012 bombing. Nonetheless, we wanted to highlight Bakr’s creative envisioning of a revitalized square through a two-phase design process.  The first phase focuses on providing temporary solutions and structures for the square, including the construction of gathering areas, an outdoor exhibition, and mobile tree planters comprised of recycled materials.  Significantly, Bakr’s proposal encourages civic participation in the square’s design process, which would afford the local community an opportunity to create their own urban furniture. The second phase of his innovative renewal design proposal features a creative new design approach, which seeks to connect the public park to the square through the construction of a water rill that connects to the Quweiq River.

See Abdulrahman Bakr’s thesis here

See more of Bakr’s designs here

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The Aleppo ProjectRedesigning Saadalah Al-Jabri Square in Aleppo

Stateless in Exile, Unrecognized at Home: Barriers to Registering Syrian Newborns in Lebanon

by Nora Palandjian on November 21, 2018


Offspring of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are at a heightened risk of statelessness due to barriers they face in the process of birth registration. A series of 2015 changes in residency renewal requirements and the discontinuation of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) registration directly led to this increased risk among Syrian refugee children. While already part of a generation with protracted refugee status, children who do not get registered will face a lifetime of challenges accessing basic human rights, protections, and services.

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Nora PalandjianStateless in Exile, Unrecognized at Home: Barriers to Registering Syrian Newborns in Lebanon
Post-war city of Aleppo as imagined by Mohamed Qutaish, a 14 years old Aleppian. Aleppo, 2015. Reuters.

New Property Law in Syria: For Reconstruction or Eviction?

by Abduhalim Albakkor on November 12, 2018

The Syrian crisis is about to enter a new phase with the increasing tension among the conflicting parties shaping the future of the country. The northern province of Idlib awaits a bleak fate, despite the deal that Russia and Turkey brokered; the city will inevitably be destroyed unless the international community stops Assad’s military. Although the armed conflict occupies the spotlight in the media, the war economy and managing the investments in Syria is equally important. Consequently, the relevance of the law to the recent events and changes on the international stage shows Russia’s intention to put an end to the war and to cooperate with neighboring countries to send refugees back to Syria and find a way to solve the situation in Idlib with minimum media coverage. Then Putin declares the end of the Syrian crises, the beginning of the reconstruction of cities and resettlement of Syrians not only from Idlib and neighboring countries but also from the EU.

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Abduhalim AlbakkorNew Property Law in Syria: For Reconstruction or Eviction?


by AlHakam Shaar on November 12, 2018


Interview with Edwar Hanna

In April 2018 Syria issued Law 10, which sets guidelines for the creation of development zones over existing urban areas. The law stipulates the re-allotment of property, within set timeframes, in preparation for reconstruction. Experts are warning that Law 10 discounts the majority of the residents of areas destroyed during the war, who have been forcibly separated from their homes.

I interviewed Edwar Hanna of Syrbanism about a survey the group has launched which aims to understand the typology of property in Syria and the different ways owners of each type will be impacted by the new law. Syrbanism is an urban initiative founded in 2017 by Hanna and fellow Syrian architect Nour Harastani, „to support oppressed Syrian residents against urban injustices.”

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Getting the Message Out: Coordinating International and Regional Communication in the Syrian Conflict

by The Aleppo Project on September 14, 2018

Nora Palandjian, a former research intern for the Shattuck CCNR, worked with Bellingcat on this policy report as part of her Applied Policy Project at the School of Public Policy at Central European University. As a completion of her studies, she was required to design and carry out a policy project for an organization with two other graduate students. This team was also supervised by Cameran Ashraf and Marius Dragomir, two professors at the School of Public Policy. Her Applied Policy Project team collaborated with Bellingcat, a well-known investigative journalist organization that has previously written extensively about Syria. The center is pleased to announce Nora and her team’s hard work on the coordination of networks that surround the Syrian conflict.

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The Aleppo ProjectGetting the Message Out: Coordinating International and Regional Communication in the Syrian Conflict

From Rebel to Regime: Barriers of Return to Aleppo For Internally Displaced People (IDPs)

by The Aleppo Project on August 20, 2018

This paper was presented at the fourth Lemkin Reunion, held in February 2018 and organized by the Shattuck Center at the School of Public Policy, Central European University in Budapest. The paper is based on research carried out by the authors in 2017 at the Shattuck Center’s Aleppo Project.

As of March 2018, 384,425 Aleppians remain internally displaced inside Syria with 62,970 residing in Idlib governorate. This portion in Idlib represents 16.3 percent of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) from Aleppo. The approximately other 83 percent that was displaced by the conflict relocated inside of Aleppo governorate (70 percent) or Ar-Raqqa (13 percent). [1] This report focuses on the residents of Aleppo that are displaced within rebel-held areas, specifically Idlib governorate. These IDPs face the most difficult barriers to return to their homes in eastern Aleppo, a regime-held area. Their current conditions are insecure with continued violence in the region and little economic security. They live in dire conditions with makeshift and rented houses. They have limited access to healthcare and education facilities for their children. Despite being on Syrian territory only a few kilometers from their home they are not able to return.

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The Aleppo ProjectFrom Rebel to Regime: Barriers of Return to Aleppo For Internally Displaced People (IDPs)