The Ministry of Local Administration and Services in the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) began a campaign in September to demolish properties and homes to widen the road connecting the city of Al-Dana to the town of Deir Hassan, in northern Idlib countryside. The demolition operations included both licensed and unlicensed buildings. The road expansion aims to alleviate the severe traffic congestion in the area, which is home to many camps for Syrian IDPs.
Those opposed to the road expansion say it has had negative impacts on shops and building owners, who have not received compensation. They believe it benefits some traders who purchased properties on either side of the road, anticipating their value to rise after the expansion. The road expansion is expected to attract investors interested in establishing shopping centres, restaurants and parks on both sides of the road, similar to the situation on the Bab Al-Hawa-Idlib highway.
Many buildings were constructed on both sides of the road after 2011, during the period when the area fell out of the regime’s control, and before the establishment of the opposition-run local councils in northern Idlib. Later, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra Front) would take control of the area in 2014.
One local homeowner told The Syria Report that he built his home in late 2011 on land he owns. However, he expanded his construction onto land earmarked for road expansion in the old zoning plan for the area. Last June, like other property owners, he received a notice from the Ministry of Local Administration and Services to vacate and demolish the parts of the building that were unlicensed. Then, in September, the ministry forced the owners of unlicensed buildings to demolish them themselves and remove the rubble at their own expense. Those owners received no compensation for their demolished properties. They also received no financial or logistical assistance in demolishing them, as they were built on public property without a licence, as the local homeowner said.
Notably, the ministry did not issue a decision to expropriate the targeted lands for road expansion and has no clear legal methodology for compensating the owners.
Saeed Al-Ashqar, an advisor to the SSG’s Minister of Local Administration and Services, told The Syria Report that the demolished buildings were mostly unlicensed and built within the road expansion zone. He refuted claims made by some owners of demolished unlicensed buildings that they received no compensation. He said that only three unlicensed buildings were completely demolished, and their owners were compensated, without specifying the amount or method. The owners of nine other partly-demolished unlicensed buildings were compensated.
Licensed buildings were demolished in agreement with their owners, and they received compensation from the SSG, according to Mr Al-Ashqar, who did not specify the compensation amount. Licensed buildings that were demolished date back to a time before the old zoning plan, which included road expansion. In contrast, licensed buildings set back from the road by a minimum distance and with a front setback were not demolished.
Mr Al-Ashqar further argued that the road serves over a quarter of a million people. The road’s expansion and rehabilitation are initiatives by the Ministry of Local Administration to stimulate trade and the economy in the area and address the traffic congestion. A new zoning plan for Al-Dana city was introduced at the beginning of 2022, including road expansion. Al-Ashqar said that the expansion will increase the road’s width to 24 metres over a distance of 1,750 metres, and the area will be serviced with the necessary infrastructure, including electricity, water, and sewage networks.