Al-Haydariyeh is among the largest informal settlements in Aleppo and was declared a real estate development zone in 2011. The area saw widespread devastation during the war, forcing its residents into displacement. And though the Aleppo City Council hoped Al-Haydariyeh real estate development project could serve as a model for reconstruction in other east Aleppo neighbourhoods, the project still needs to be completed.
The Al-Haydariyeh settlement began to develop in the early 1970s to the northeast of Aleppo, outside its official zoning plan. Initially, the land at Al-Haydariyeh was private, undivided and collectively owned; it was used for pastures and agriculture, while construction was prohibited. Some landowners have ownership documents in the form of a “green agricultural tabu” (a record dating back to the Ottoman era). Others have court judgments confirming the legitimacy of their purchases of undivided shares.
Some people built unlicensed homes on these lands, and some sold their land shares to contractors who built unlicensed houses that they sold to migrants from northern and eastern Syria. Over time, various informal neighbourhoods emerged in Al-Haydariyeh, often named after the resident ethnic communities, including Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians and Arabs.
In the late 1970s, the state appropriated a large area of Al-Haydariyeh to construct social housing projects, a park, and a school. It issued its final expropriation order, No. 2280, in December 1982. However, some building contractors and members of the security forces seized parts of the confiscated land. They divided the land into smaller plots and sold them as sites prepared for unlicensed construction. As a result, some neighbourhoods emerged, named after the entities that took over the land, such as the “Intelligence Neighbourhood” and the “Theft Neighbourhood.”
The Aleppo municipality later expropriated the remaining land in Al-Haydariyeh. It allocated it for social housing programmes, which are implemented by public institutions affiliated with the Ministry of Public Works and Housing. The city council zoned this area via Decision No. 2426 in 1990. It is divided into 325 plots prepared for construction, each measuring 120 square metres. These plots were set aside for residents who had been given notices to demolish their unlicensed homes in the neighbouring Al-Masharqeh neighbourhood. Residents who were allocated these plots paid for them in instalments over 15 years. This section of land became known as the “40 Notices” district, named for the demolition notices. Most buildings here were licensed and consisted of two storeys, while a minority, which violated regulations, consisted of three. The district was provided with a water and sanitation network funded by its residents. Still, implementation was very ineffecient and poor, leaving some residents reliant on purchasing water tanks. All houses were connected to the electricity network and had usage meters, although unauthorized electricity tapping was common.
Since 2002, the Aleppo municipality began issuing eviction warnings to the “Theft Neighbourhood” residents. It promised to provide them with alternative housing (which they would be expected to pay for) as part of youth housing projects, a segment of Syria’s social housing programmes. Announcements were also made about launching these programmes in other parts of Aleppo.
In 2004, the Aleppo City Council annexed Al-Haydariyeh into the zoning plan issued that same year. The following year, the council commissioned the Faculty of Architectural Engineering engineering unit at the University of Aleppo to prepare a detailed zoning plan for the district, which, at that time, was estimated by the council to have around 32,000 inhabitants. The engineering unit completed the plan in 2006, amending the zoning plan for the “40 Notices” district and removing the park and small squares within it. However, this second plan was not ratified and remained unimplemented.
In 2010, the Aleppo Governorate Council subjected Al-Haydariyeh district to Real Estate Development and Investment Law No. 15 of 2008, marking it as the first district in Aleppo to which this law was applied. The Council of Ministers approved the decision a year later, establishing two real estate development zones in Aleppo. These zones aimed to redevelop areas containing mass unlicensed construction located in Al-Haydariyeh and nearby Tal al-Zarazir.
According to Law No. 15 of 2008 (which was later repealed by Law No. 2 of 2023, also amending Investment Law No. 18 of 2021), a real estate development zone can include properties within or outside a given zoning plan. These properties could be secured either from state assets, from assets of the administrative unit, from assets owned by development companies, or from private properties. The executive instructions for Law No. 15, issued by the Prime Minister under Decision No. 5410 in 2009, said that informal settlements could be treated as real estate development zones, regardless of their size, based on a justification memo and with approval from the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.
Announcing Al-Haydariyeh as a real estate development zone allowed the city council to seize properties and assets in the district. This gave the implementing authorities all the necessary powers and rights to take over and demolish those properties. A real estate development programme was then approved for Al-Haydariyeh, covering an area of 118 hectares. Of this, 42.12 percent was allocated for residential plots, green spaces and public areas, while 12.27 percent was allocated for public services.
This development aimed to construct 10,000 housing units through a partnership between the Aleppo City Council and real estate developers. The council divided the real estate development project in Al-Haydariyeh into three zones or phases, A, B and C, to facilitate the work for real estate development companies. The first phase spanned an area of 28.8 hectares, encompassing 2,700 residential apartments. The General Company for Engineering Studies (GCES) completed the studies and plans for the project’s general infrastructure. Meanwhile, the Military Housing Establishment (MHE) implemented significant portions of the infrastructure for the first and second phases of the project, such as the road network and the sanitation system.
Like other parts of east Aleppo, Al-Haydariyeh was under rebel control in 2012-2016. During this period, it suffered heavy bombardment and a suffocating siege by regime forces. With the Russian military intervention in 2015, the area endured aerial and artillery assaults, causing extensive damage. This pushed the opposition to surrender and accept forced displacement from the site in 2016. Since then, only a limited number of residents have returned to Al-Haydariyeh.
The Aleppo municipality started a demolition campaign in Al-Haydariyeh in 2018 in collaboration with the Ministry of Defense, citing the presence of mines in some buildings. In 2019, the city council started applying Urban Planning and Construction Law No. 23 of 2015 to Al-Haydariyeh, designating it as an area containing mass unlicensed construction. The site was then expropriated under the Expropriation Law No. 20 of 1983. Law No. 23 allows for the issuance of regulatory plans for a specific area, irrespective of the existence of public or private implementing agencies, without a specific timeframe for completion, no minimum ownership by administrative entities, and no specified minimum area requirement.
In 2020, the Aleppo City Council demolished and cleared homes within the executive plan for the Al-Haydariyeh development project. With that, the area was ready to be presented for investment in partnership with the General Authority for Real Estate Development and Investment. For projects within informal settlements like Al-Haydariyeh, the real estate developer is assumed responsible for providing alternative, paid housing for the area’s occupants or compensating them financially. In turn, the administrative entity must evacuate the occupants after handing them alternative housing and deliver the project site free of encroachments to the real estate developer.
One of the main concerns surrounding the land and property rights of former Al-Haydariyeh residents is that the real estate development project includes a social survey of the area’s inhabitants. However, given that all residents were displaced, it remains unclear how this survey will be conducted. A social survey typically solidifies compensation rights for residents present during the survey. Some local sources have suggested that people close to the authorities recently returned and resettled in the district based on security clearances. The Aleppo City Council has not listed any names of rights holders in the neighbourhood.