On May 21, the Damascus governorate evacuated residents of 18 homes in the Wadi Al-Safirah area of the RuknEddin neighbourhood, known informally as the “Kurdish quarter,” which is located at the base of Mount Qasioun. The evacuation came after a fissure appeared in the ground along a fault line, causing some stone formations to collapse.
The fault line is linked to a series of underground caves in Damascus about 10 kilometres long and 20-30 metres wide. It extends along the foot of Mount Qasioun from Barzeh to Al-Mazzeh, passing through the RuknEddin and Al-Muhajireen neighbourhoods. The first mention of a potentially destructive fault line came in 2008. At the time, the state-owned Al-Thawra newspaper published statements by Damascus governorate officials warning that thousands of people living at the base of Mount Qasioun were at risk from building collapses due to potential seismic activity. Since then, officials have repeatedly spoke of plans to evacuate RuknEddin residents. The plans included providing alternative housing for residents living next to the fault line. However, none of the plans have been put in motion.
On May 21, the director of the Department of Services in the Damascus governorate told local media that a landslide within the boundaries of the fault line had occurred as a result of the land drying up after the rainy season. He added that the area is highly prone to landslides due to the fault line, and that a study was underway to study the soil in order to assess risk levels and necessary measures. The governorate said that it had secured temporary shelter for residents who wished to evacuate their homes and transported them to social support centre in the Dummar project. Other evacuated residents preferred to stay with friends or relatives.
There have been similar incidents in the past in the RuknEddin neighbourhood. In 2020, a one-story house collapsed near the Younes Agha Mosque. Earlier, in 2010, more than 20 buildings were evacuated along Al-Wadi road in Al-Sheikh Khaled neighbourhood after heavy rain and snow.
The Kurdish quarter in RuknEddin sprouted in the 1940s as a series of individual buildings scattered along the base of Mount Qasioun above the Yazid River. The area was inhabited mainly by Kurds and Circassions who had migrated to the capital city from the east. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Palestinian refugees also moved into the neighbourhood. Then, during the period of Syrian-Egyptian unification in 1958-1961, the neighbourhood was given the name RuknEddin .
In 1975, the Damascus governorate expropriated the land of RuknEddin , after which it was considered an informal settlement built on public property. The governorate did not carry out any serious zoning process for the area or any projects to rehabilitate local streets and infrastructure. Today, tens of thousands of people live in informal housing in RuknEddin with poor services. They also face the serious danger of their homes collapsing, as most were constructed without adhering to structural safety rules.