The Syrian government is violating personal property rights in the town of Abbadeh, in the East Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, despite the fact that the town has been under government control since 2013 and is virtually empty of inhabitants.
This security crackdown and land appropriation in the town may be due to the fact that some opposition faction leaders in East Ghouta hailed from Abbadeh, part of the Nashabiyeh administrative district of Douma, the area’s largest city. Hundreds of men from the town were killed in battles against government forces.
Earlier this year, government forces took over some homes in the town which belonged to residents forcibly exiled to northern Syria. They converted the buildings to housing for families of officers. Other homes were taken as military headquarters, vacation homes and offices, according to reliable sources in the town.
The takeover was not carried out haphazardly. The town’s municipal council formed a committee to divide up the houses according to the political status of their owners. Homes of the forcibly displaced owners were marked using two colours: Blue paint to mark homes of residents who had fled to northern Syria and Turkey, as well as for those who had defected from the army, police and government employment; and red for the homes of those who had sought refuge in Lebanon and Jordan and were not wanted by security forces.
In accordance with the committee’s work, and in compliance with directives from the security services, municipal officials and the local Baath Party section asked residents of blue-marked houses, most of whom are tenants or relatives of displaced owners, to leave. Meanwhile, government officers, and some soldiers carrying out their military service near the town, have moved into the blue houses.
According to sources active in the documentation process who spoke to The Syria Report, about 1,250 out of the original 8,000 residents from before 2011, have returned to Abbadeh. Some 1,450 families are estimated to have been displaced to northern Syria, while 300 found their way outside the country.
The Abbadeh municipality last year announced that in order to remove building encroachments into the streets it would implement Law No. 10 for 2018 within the old zoning plans for the town. The municipality did not clarify exactly how it would apply the law to the zoning plan, which has not been implemented or amended for 40 years. The municipality has built a number of streets in the town in accordance with the old zoning plan, which led to partial damage and total destruction of more than 200 homes.
The Syrian regime forces retook control of Abbadeh in July 2013, but did not allow residents of the town to return to their homes until mid-2018, months after it had seized control of all of East Ghouta. The few residents who did return found their homes and other properties looted to the extent that returnees had to place nylon coverings over their missing windows and doors. Few public services remained in place, with electrical and water networks down, and the sewage system non-operational.
In 2013, regime forces levelled houses located on the relatively high Tell Gharifa hill, blew up homes belonging to prominent opposition figures in the town, and burned hundreds of other houses.
Despite Abbadeh’s small size, the town contains five checkpoints and is surrounded by military barracks. Residents of the town live under an intense security presence, preventing them from communicating with relatives who fled and now live in opposition-held areas of northern Syria. Hundreds of men from Abbadeh still fight within the ranks of the opposition.