Palestinian Aid Group Builds Settlement for Displaced Syrians in Afrin
The Ajnadin Palestine displacement camp for Syrians officially opened on January 04, 2023, in the Afrin region in the northern part of the Aleppo governorate. Referred to as a “village,” the project aims to secure semi-permanent alternative housing for displaced Syrians in opposition-held areas. A local group called the Idlib Nation Team, active in Afrin, built the village with support and funding from Ajnadin, a Palestinian NGO based in the Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Bayt Hanina.
According to media reports, Ajnadin transferred the funds for the village from its account in the Israeli Habolim Bank. The fact that a Palestinian NGO in Israeli-occupied territory is funding a displacement housing project in Syria sheds light on the sheer depth of the crisis faced by displaced Syrians.
A source from Ajnadin told The Syria Report that the newly built village contains 50 dwellings for 50 families who had previously been living in displacement camps in rural Afrin. Each home has two bedrooms, a salon, a kitchen, and a bathroom, totalling around 45 square metres. There are two one-cubic-metre water tanks per unit, interior doors and windows, two main iron doors, and a 35-square-metre garden. A sewage network services the entire village. It also has a mosque and an Islamic studies centre for teaching Sharia and Quran.
The village is built on about 2.50 hectares of flat un-planted agricultural land near Shatika, a town in the Jandares district west of Afrin. However, the existing 50 dwellings only occupy one hectare of land, with the remainder set aside for a future stage of expansion in the project to build more housing units.
In the second phase of the village, the Idlib Nation Team will build 50 more homes and a school. Construction was supposed to begin in the first few months of 2023 but was postponed until the end of the year due to the February 06 earthquake, a source from the Idlib Nation Team told The Syria Report.
The Idlib Nation Team increased its support for the village and its residents after the earthquake. It set up a camp of dozens of tents to accommodate people affected by the disaster. The organisation was also in charge of implementing this project and confirmed it opened a village school last March for the children.
A source from the Idlib Nation Team told The Syria Report that the local council in Jandares granted the organisation land to build the village. The source added that Turkish officials in the area approved the project. However, the contract between the organisation and the local council does not indicate that the team owns the land or the residential units. Rather, the organisation’s role, according to the contract, is limited to the construction and supervision of housing operations. The local council is responsible for managing the village.
The homes cannot be sold or transferred to the families who live there. These families only have the right to use the housing units and cannot lease them. Therefore, according to the source, the village effectively belongs to the Jandares Local Council.
In 2018, Turkey-backed opposition factions took control of the entire Afrin region during Operation Olive Branch, forcing the displacement of much of the original population, most of whom were Kurds. There were also many violations of housing, land and property rights. In addition, more than 100,000 forcibly displaced people from the countryside of Damascus, Homs, and Aleppo also moved to Afrin, with many of them living in the homes of displaced Kurds.
A local source told The Syria Report that the land on which the village was built is not public or endowment property but privately owned by individuals from the Kurdish Manan family, which was forcibly displaced from the area in 2018. The opposition factions controlling the area accuse members of the Manan family of belonging to the majority Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Several family members were reportedly killed during the fighting in 2018.
The Manan family’s land is not an isolated case: it is among other lands that some opposition factions have extorted since 2018 on the pretext that their owners belong to the YPG. Sometimes, some factions grant these lands to local organisations to build residential villages to house the families of displaced opposition fighters from other parts of Syria.