In December 2022, the Aleppo City Council began demolishing several severely damaged and uninhabited buildings in the city’s eastern neighbourhoods, marking the beginning stage of its plan to raze some 1,500 structures at risk of collapse.
On December 28, the council demolished a large building near the eastern garage bus stop in the Al-Shaar neighbourhood and transported the rubble outside the city. Five days earlier, it coordinated with a local branch of the Military Housing Establishment in Aleppo to demolish a five-storey building in the Al-Mowasalat Al-Qadimeh area and remove the rubble. On December 6, council workers destroyed a building in the Al-Safaa neighbourhood with help from the Aleppo governorate’s Central Services Directorate.
On November 9, the head of Aleppo City Council said that “the evictions have been signed for 1,500 buildings at risk of collapse,” adding that the decisions needed approval. He did not specify who signed the eviction decisions or who needed to approve them.
Local administrative units frequently form public safety committees to address structural safety concerns for buildings at risk of collapse. These committees assess the risks and provide recommendations, such as demolishing the buildings, reinforcing them, or leaving them as they are.
In October 2020, Aleppo’s public safety committee announced that around 3,000 buildings in the city were found to be at risk of collapse and must be demolished. It is not clear why that figure decreased by half in the Aleppo mayor’s most recent statement.
According to a local correspondent for The Syria Report, the Aleppo City Council does not have the funds to compensate residents of dilapidated buildings or provide temporary alternative housing, even if the evacuations move gradually. The lack of funds and housing alternatives is why the demolitions have targeted uninhabited buildings on the verge of collapse.
However, many of the city’s at-risk buildings slated for evacuation and demolition are still inhabited, which presents an important question of what will happen to those residents. The head of Aleppo City Council said evacuating residents and securing alternative housing requires a plan of action. Yet, there is no such plan in place.
Our local correspondent added that the buildings slated for removal are in 40 different neighbourhoods across east Aleppo, most notably the Al-Fardous, Al-Aameriyeh, SalahEddin, Karam Al-Jabal and Al-Saliheen neighbourhoods. Most of the buildings in these neighbourhoods were built without a licence and endured severe regime airstrikes, artillery fire, and barrel bombs during the period of opposition control in 2012-2016.
Buildings that were not directly hit by the bombs were indirectly impacted. For instance, cracks developed in the walls of some buildings, while water leaks from run-down sewage networks further damaged others. Most often, buildings constructed without the proper licences and without solidly engineered foundations are more likely to collapse.
Although the head of Aleppo City Council’s statements about the demolitions, real estate sales transactions have increased in east Aleppo. The real estate is believed to be largely owned by internally displaced persons (IDPs) who were forcibly displaced from east Aleppo to northern areas of the governorate under opposition control, according to The Syria Report’s correspondent. Some IDPs believed their properties could be demolished without compensation, prompting them to sell their properties in east Aleppo at low prices out of fear of total loss. The correspondent notes that real estate traders affiliated with local pro-regime militias that control eastern Aleppo are the most prominent buyers of these properties.
Meanwhile, rumours have circulated that the militias in control of the Al-Aameriyeh neighbourhood were going to allow affiliated real estate development companies to demolish local properties and construct real estate projects in their place. Currently, Al-Aameriyeh is controlled by local militias loyal to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps that prevent most residents from returning to their homes.
It is worth mentioning that dozens of the buildings marked for demolition in the Al-Neirab, Al-Marjeh, Al-Fardous, Al-Maadi, and Al-Maysar neighbourhoods belong to tribes with close ties to the pro-Iranian Al-Baqir Brigade. The brigade considers demolishing these buildings as an opportunity to save on demolition and rubble removal costs and to ease licensing for reconstruction.