In a move similar to that of the Damascus governorate, the Hama City Council told owners and occupants of commercial kiosks in the popular Souq Jourah Hawa that they must remove the stalls. Only kiosk owners who were wounded in war or family members of “martyrs” were exempted; however, even them were only given an additional, non-renewable year before they too are required to remove their kiosks.
Removal of kiosks means dismantling them and transporting them elsewhere or selling them to people who have the proper licences to operate them. The kiosk owners have full ownership rights over the stalls, but must obtain licences from local administrative units and pay an annual fee in order to occupy public sidewalks and spaces.
Souq Jourah Hawa is located in the heart of the Hama city centre, east of the historic Souq Al-Tawil. The popular market is home to more than 200 kiosks, some of which have been operating since 2001 in accordance with Hama City Council Decree No. 922 of 2001. However, in 2013, Souq Jourah Hawa was allocated 62 kiosks for displaced people with special needs and for family members of war “martyrs,” as part of a plan to secure 400 new jobs.
The recent warnings sought to implement the Ministry of Local Administration and Environment’s Decree No. 1809, issued in December 2021, to remove kiosks. That decree was in turn based on the ministry’s Circular No. 347, issued in January 2019, which stipulated that the duration of the licence period of such kiosks would be three years (effective from the beginning of 2019). The kiosks now slated for removal are so-called “aid” kiosks, which had been granted to people with special needs and previously had no occupancy time limits. The licence for this type of kiosk typically expired upon the owner’s death and could not be passed down.
Following the warning, owners of the kiosks in Souq Jourah Hawa objected to the legality of the decree and demanded its cancellation. These kiosk owners have legal licences, most of them dating back to 2001 and some to 2013. In addition, the kiosks in Souq Jourah Hawa fall under the legal description of “popular markets,” rather than standard commercial kiosks.
The Hama City Council has implemented previous kiosk removals in various neighbourhoods in recent years. In 2016, the city removed 30 kiosks that had been set up in an endowment property behind the Pullman bus station. Those kiosks dated back to 1998, when the city council gave them to store owners in Souq Al-Atiq on what was intended to be a temporary basis in exchange for abandoning their stores. The reason for the exchange was unclear. Later, in 2016, the tenant of that endowment property requested that the Endowment Directorate remove the kiosks. The city council agreed on the pretext that the kiosk owners did not have proper licences.
In 2019, the Hama City Council removed kiosks from various parts of the city, claiming that the owners had not obtained licences.
There appears to be a new plan for licensing new types of kiosks according to different standards and at higher prices. Under the Financial Law of Administrative Units No. 37 of 2021, the occupancy of public property requires a licence granted by the executive office of the relevant administrative unit. This licence determines the area granted for occupancy, as well as the time span and type of occupancy, and may not be handed over to others. Though the 2021 law did not specifically mention kiosks, it set the fee for occupying public property at SYP 100-3,000 per square metre per day. The payment is collected in advance every three months or for the entire occupancy period, whichever is less.