Recent reports of Syrian refugees returning to their home country after several years of civil war raise important issues, one of which being the status of their properties in the country. A recently enacted law called Law No. 10 of 2018 – ostensibly part of benign reconstruction legislation – has proven to be problematic for the millions of Syrians who are refugees, internally displaced or living abroad. This is happening on a scale that affects conflict settlement and the emerging post-war social order, as it shapes the framework for reconstruction and reintegration into the economy and social life. Although several articles have addressed the potential problems raised by this law, there are no analyses that explicitly tackle Law no. 10 from a rule-of-law perspective.
The Circassians are an ethnic group originally native to the Northwest Caucasus region until they were driven out of their land by Russian conquest in the late 19th century, after which the Circassians resettled in agricultural communities in parts of the Ottoman Empire. In Syria, their communities were concentrated in the Golan Heights in the south-western parts of Syria, including Quneitra city and several surrounding villages. For many decades, the Circassians revived their heritage and lifestyle and became the largest ethnic minority group in southern Syria. In 1967, following the Six-Day War, the Circassians were yet again forcibly expelled from their homes; the Israeli Army bulldozed many villages and Quneitra city was never rebuilt, even after its return to Syrian control following the October 1973 war. Circassians became internally displaced people in Damascus or left abroad mainly to the United States following an offer by the United States government to move them to Paterson, New Jersey throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
Aleppo city has fallen. The Assad Regime has re-imposed its authority over eastern Aleppo. However, the relevancy of the Aleppo Governorate is no less diminished. As the war enters its eighth year, the majority of fighting has shifted north where the many actors have gathered to determine the fate of their claimed territories. Under the control of various militaries, both foreign and domestic, the nearly six million inhabitants of the region are left with little control over who governs them and how.
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.
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, 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.
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. 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.