Similar to Moadamiyat Al-Sham in Rural Damascus governorate, traders from Deir-ez-Zor governorate are also buying properties in the nearby city of Qudsaya.
Qudsaya is located west of Damascus, on the old Beirut-Damascus highway. The Barada River passes through the city. Various army units, most notably the Republican Guard, have seized large tracts of land in Qudsaya and the neighbouring town of Al-Hameh. On these lands, settlements housing for officers’ families were established. This has sparked local tensions and conflict since 2011. In addition, many housing cooperatives have initiated housing projects in Qudsaya and Al-Hameh, for members of those groups. Many of these people are not local to the area.
About 150,000 people lived in Qudsaya before 2011, but this number rose significantly due to displacement during the war. The current estimated population is around 400,000 people, including thousands of Palestinian refugees. In 2012, Qudsaya and Al-Hameh were part of a single military zone controlled by armed opposition factions, and which saw battles with regime Republican Guard forces. In October 2016, a Russian-backed reconciliation agreement was reached that stipulated the evacuation of opposition forces to northern Syria.
According to a local correspondent for The Syria Report, some businesspeople from Deir-ez-Zor governorate, as well as a few Iraqi nationals, have in the past two years purchased around 120 apartments in Qudsaya. This demand for real estate, in a densely populated town, has increased significantly the prices.
The correspondent added that sales and purchases in the area are done through brokers and real estate traders, and can be divided into two groups: those who are originally from Qudsaya and are looking for properties for sale in the town, and those from Deir-ez-Zor who are taking on the task of finding buyers. Initially, brokers from real estate offices in Qudsaya compete for properties that are for sale and bid privately amongst themselves before reaching tacit agreements on prices and locations for the sales. After agreeing with a property owner on a sale, the broker contacts a broker from Deir-ez-Zor to offer them the property. The Deir-ez-Zor, or Deiri, broker then, in turn, offers that property to prospective Deiri or Iraqi buyers who are interested in buying real estate in Qudsaya.
Qudsaya, as well as the neighbouring town of Al-Hameh, were among the areas where Iraqi families sought refuge after the Iraq war in 2003. There is a square in Qudsaya that has since then been popularly referred to as Fallujah Square due to the number of Iraqi residents there. Some Iraqis remained in Qudsaya even throughout the Syrian war and the siege of the city imposed by regime forces.
In the past two years, sales have been concentrated in the area of the Tailors’ Housing Cooperative on the outskirts of Qudsaya, despite the fact that public services there are worse than in the heart of Qudsaya. The area is named after the Tailors’ Housing Cooperative Association, which bought land and built apartment buildings on it before 2011 for Syrian applicants to the housing there. As a significant portion of those applicants were not from Qudsaya, they sold their flats to Iraqi traders. They were motivated to sell by the risks of returning to a town still suffering the impacts of the reconciliation deal, including a partial siege imposed by regime forces.
Since early 2022, the price per square metre of unfinished housing in Tailors’ Housing has risen from SYP 400,000 to 600,000, equivalent to prices in the heart of Qudsaya. The price per square metre in some finished flats in the Tailors’ Housing has surpassed SYP 2 million.
This Tailors’ Housing has during that time become popular among buyers from Deir-ez-Zor and Iraq. However, not all of them appear to be civilians. An informed source in Qudsaya told The Syria Report that he had identified one of the Iraqis residing in the housing cooperative area as a member of the Iraqi militia “Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba”, which is affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and has fought in various parts of Syria against the opposition, especially in Aleppo. Some residents reportedly often visit the military area in Al-Hameh, which is used as a base for pro-IRGC militias. According to the correspondent, some of the new residents of the cooperative are from the Deiri family of Al-Marsouma, some of whom live in the nearby Rural Damascus cities of Jdeidat Al-Fadel and Moadamiyat Al-Sham.
Nobody has yet reported any fraud, manipulation, pressure or use of force in purchasing apartments in Qudsaya, the correspondent added. The real estate brokers reportedly avoid seized properties that are owned by opposition members, and do not offer them to new buyers.