Recent years have seen industrial zones established on agricultural lands in rural northern parts of the Aleppo governorate controlled by the Syrian Interim Government (SIG). These zones are spread out across the countryside outside Al-Bab, Al-Rai, Azaz, Jarablus, Maraa, and Souran and are known as industrial cities.
Legislative Decree No. 57 of 2004 regarding the establishment of industrial cities in Syria, as well as Legislative Decree No. 22 of 2013, which amended it, stipulated establishing just four industrial cities: the Sheikh Najjar Industrial City in Aleppo governorate, the Hasya Industrial City in Homs governorate, the Adra Industrial City in Rural Damascus governorate and another one in Deir-ez-Zor governorate. Under Decree No. 22, these industrial cities are legal entities with financial and administrative independence. However, they are affiliated with the Ministry of Local Administration. They are treated as if they were actual cities managed by a city council and a governor. Members of these city councils include the relevant governorate’s finance directors, electricity companies and service directorates. Later, these industrial cities were run under the provisions of Local Administration Law No. 107 of 2011. Decree No. 22 also authorises the establishment of new industrial cities based on proposals by the minister and per regional planning trends and regulatory principles for urban planning. Decree No. 57 affirmed that administrative entities must complete the infrastructure for industrial cities and equip them with all the needed services and facilities such as electricity, water, roads, sewage networks, communications, civil defence centres, police, rehabilitation and training centres and medical centres. This all comes before licensing the area’s subdivisions and offering them for investment.
Meanwhile, the regulations for industrial zones are subject to various laws, the latest of which is Prime Ministerial Decision No. 66 of 2018 on the system for establishing, implementing and investing in industrial and craft zones within administrative units. Under Decision No. 66, industrial zones should be on lands owned by the state or local administrative units or on confiscated lands. This Decision also stipulated that the implementing party comply with the approved general and detailed zoning plans for the area, following regional planning guidelines. Decision No. 66 did not grant independent legal status to industrial zones, instead classifying them as falling within local administrative units.
Authorities in opposition-held areas in Syria no longer adhere to the laws and decrees most recently issued by Damascus. However, according to the previous and existing laws, the newly established industrial clusters in rural northern Aleppo governorate cannot be considered industrial cities but industrial zones. These zones were built on agricultural lands where construction was not permitted according to the local zoning plans. Some of these lands were privately owned, purchased from the owners and converted into multiple subdivisions designated for construction, as in Maraa and Souran. Others were built on abandoned public lands where local residents were entitled to usufruct, such as in the case of Al-Rai and Azaz.
Further, those constructing these industrial zones did not consider their location concerning neighbouring residential communities. Under Decision No. 66, local administrative units must choose the site of an industrial zone after considering the zoning principles, environmental criteria and proximity to residential communities. Such zones must not be expanded on agricultural lands, as this would violate housing, land, and property rights due to damage to agricultural lands and neighbouring residential communities.
Decision No. 66 also required local administrative units to put zoning and subdivision plans for industrial zones that comply with the general zoning plans and allow multi-storey buildings to accommodate industrial production. However, the new industrial zones in rural northern Aleppo did not consider the area’s general zoning plans, despite having their own specific plans. This means a total deviation from such zoning plans and construction of buildings without adhering to technical conditions on agricultural lands, which might not be suitable for multi-storey construction.
Furthermore, the plots within these new industrial zones were sold without imposing special conditions on the buyers. Instead, buyers were enticed to make the purchases by being granted commercial entry into Turkey if they agreed to set up their facilities within these industrial zone plots. As a result, most buyers ended up simply reselling their plots as they intended to profit and obtain commercial entry permits into Turkey. More than half of the plots within these new industrial zones have, as a result, remained without constructing any industrial facilities on them. Decree No. 22 prohibited selling unconstructed plots within industrial cities more than once after fully paying their value to the industrial city. Buyers were also required to commit to building on their plots according to the regulations of the industrial city. Selling subdivisions after the completion of construction is allowed with the approval of the industrial city management.