A large number of IDPs from the East Ghouta village of Al-Bahariyeh have been unable to return home after learning that their houses no longer exist, and that much of the village itself has been levelled to the ground.
Al-Bahariyeh was home to about 700 families before 2011. The village did not have its own municipality at the time; rather, it was included within the administration of the nearby village of Al-Jarba. The village is bordered by a number of strategic locations including military bases and the Equestrian Club that senior officials often go to. The historic section of the village contains Al-Bahariyeh Hill, which dates back to the 6th millennium BCE, according to the Directorate of Antiquities and Museums, and is one of the oldest inhabited parts of the area. Among the historic sites within the village are the mosque and a series of tunnels linking the village to Al-Bahariyeh Hill.
Regime forces recaptured Al-Bahariyeh from the opposition in mid-2013. By the following year, they had demolished most of Al-Bahariyeh’s homes, leaving behind only a strip of buildings in the north and west of the village. Regime forces used this remaining strip of buildings as cover from rebel bombing. As a result, those remaining buildings suffered great damage.
According to a correspondent for The Syria Report in the area, the entire levelled area is a circle with a diameter of one kilometre that includes almost the entire village. The buildings have been demolished and their rubble removed from a large part of that circle, causing a massive loss to real estate in the village.
Since 2018, only 30 families have returned to Al-Bahariyeh. Their homes within the village’s sole remaining strip of buildings are still inhabitable. These families were allowed to repair their homes, albeit with only simple materials, as cement and iron were prohibited. They were not even permitted to reuse materials left behind in the town’s rubble.
Despite the demolition of most of Al-Bahariyeh’s homes, the Terrorism Court issued a decision to confiscate the properties of all pro-opposition residents. Lists of those residents’ names were subsequently leaked, and included dozens of village residents, including those who no longer lived in Al-Bahariyeh or had died.
The Baath Party division in Al-Bahariyeh holds most authority in the village, though its district headquarters is in the neighbouring town of Al-Nashabiyeh, as Al-Bahariyeh currently lacks a suitable site. The party has prevented Al-Bahariyeh residents from searching the village’s rubble for materials that can be reused to repair their homes. However, the party allows people to invest in their farmlands, with the exception of land in the eastern part of the village, which borders the Equestrian Club and 22nd Brigade, and has been classified as a military zone.
The party has also prohibited residents from drawing the boundaries of their homes, citing security regulations and a lack of landmarks, as well as pointing out that their homes are not listed in the real estate registry. Before the war, most of the village was considered to be an informal settlement, as it was built on publicly owned land. Though this problem was widespread in Syria before 2011, no zoning plan was issued for Al-Bahariyeh that would have offered a solution to the informal settlement. Usually, state properties would be transferred to the local administrative unit, after issuance of zoning plans. Then the local administrative unit would sell such property to the real estate owners.
Currently, there are no public services in Al-Bahariyeh, including electricity, drinking water, sewage and landlines. Residents buy their necessities in Al-Nashabiyeh, the closest town.
Source: The Syria Report