For the first time in years, the Aleppo City Council is demolishing buildings that it says are in violation of construction codes or at risk of collapse in the city’s western neighbourhoods, which remained under regime control throughout the Syrian conflict. The demolition campaign appears to target properties owned by absentee residents, most of whom were displaced to opposition-held areas outside of Aleppo.
In early March, the Services Directorate for Aleppo’s Al-Siryan district demolished more than 20 buildings that it said were at risk of collapse in the Tajmeel Al-Khalidiyeh area. The directorate also removed buildings that it said were in violation of construction codes and that had encroached on public property, in addition to at-risk buildings in the neighbouring Bani Zeyd area. The Aleppo City Council has declined to grant licences to restore the damaged buildings in those neighbourhoods, prompting some owners to undertake restoration work without licences. The city council considers such work to be in violation of construction codes.
Tajmeel Al-Khalidiyeh and Bani Zeyd areas are part of the Al-Khalideiyh neighbourhood in west Aleppo. Much of the Tajmeel Al-Khalidiyeh area became a frontline for clashes between rebel and regime forces between 2012 and 2016. Bombardment by both sides led to widespread destruction of the area and displacement of virtually all residents.
Al-Khalidiyeh neighbourhood is a relatively new urban area of Aleppo, built on an otherwise barren plateau in the mid-20th century. Among the first residents was the teacher Al-Sheikh Mohammad Taha Anjarini, who established a school there in 1948. Anjarini had purchased the land for the school from Al-Khawaja Maurice Abaji, who at the time owned most of the land on the plateau. The area surrounding the school quickly became urbanised as Syrians from the countryside west of Aleppo moved to the neighbourhood due to its proximity to central Aleppo. The Aleppo municipality incorporated Al-Khalidiyeh in 1967. Newer neighbourhoods soon also grew around Al-Khalidiyeh, including Al-Shahbaa Al-Qadimeh, Al-Mokambo, and Al-Lirmon.
The recent demolitions targeted not only buildings at risk of collapse and those that violated construction codes, but also those that posed no risk of collapse despite having been damaged in the war, according to a local correspondent for The Syria Report. This third category of buildings are owned by opposition-affiliated people, most of whom originally came from the western countryside of Aleppo. Civil sources told The Syria Report that the demolitions were not truly aimed at protecting the structural safety of the buildings, but rather to “retaliate” against certain building owners for their political stances. The correspondent pointed out that the demolitions had extended into neighbouring Al-Lirmon with little media attention. There, the city council has demolished apartment blocks, most of whose owners have been displaced from the area.