Local militias in Aleppo, loyal to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, have reportedly seized 150 out of 450 pre-fab homes meant to benefit civilians impacted by the February 6 earthquake, according to a local source.
Only 300 of these pre-fab homes would have reached its destination in the Jabrin area, which had been designated for the temporary housing, according to the source. Out of the 150 pre-fab homes seized, the Baqir Brigade militia, loyal to the Revolutionary Guard, has seized 30 dwellings, setting them up near their stronghold in the Belloreh neighbourhood in eastern Aleppo. And local militias in Aleppo loyal to the Revolutionary Guard, have seized 120 of the dwellings and moved them to military bases and locations they control in Azzan, Assan and Al-Hader in southern Aleppo governorate, as well as Nubl and Zahraa in northern Aleppo.
On April 15, the state-run SANA agency quoted a member of the Aleppo governorate’s Executive Office, saying that the body has allocated 13 hectares in Jabrin for a Popular Mobilisation Forces relief initiative. The Iraqi Popular Relief Force is the civilian arm of the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces, comprised of armed, majority Shiite Iraqi factions.
The relief initiative coordinator previously told SANA that the project aims to set up 500 housing units. Each dwelling is 36 square metres and consists of two bedrooms, a salon and its annexes, and is equipped with a solar panel. Iron is the primary material used in manufacturing these units, along with sound and thermal insulation materials. They are to be furnished and can accommodate six to eight people. These dwellings, constructed by the Popular Relief Forces, appear to be little more than tin sheds, according to published photos.
The Syria Report’s local correspondent noted that there is confusion surrounding the distribution process of these pre-fabricated homes in Jabrin to the earthquake victims in Aleppo. To date, the Aleppo City Council has not issued any lists of eligible recipients for these homes, nor any clarification on how to apply for them or what criteria applicants must meet. Meanwhile, residents in Aleppo say there are rumours that these homes will be distributed to members of local militias loyal to the Revolutionary Guard.
In March, the Aleppo governorate operations room adopted a plan to construct pre-fabricated temporary housing units to shelter those affected by the earthquake. The units were planned to be set up over 50 hectares in Jabrin, an area near Aleppo International Airport, surrounded by an industrial zone and the Aleppo train station. The area was incorporated into the administrative borders of Aleppo city in 1996 and had been the site of a refugee shelter and camps established in 2017.
Most of the land in the town of Jabrin is publicly owned, and was acquired by the state in various stages since the 1980s. Originally, Jabrin’s lands were private agricultural properties owned by local villagers.
In 1981, however, the Aleppo City Council acquired 323 hectares of this land to establish an industrial zone. The council also planned to set up a vocational zone in Jabrin specifically for car maintenance workshops. Many industrial and vocational plots have been developed over the past decades through collaboration between the Aleppo governorate and Aleppo City Council, along with the General Federation of Artisans Associations (GFAA), although a formal industrial zone and vocational area have not fully materialised.
Despite these extensive land expropriations in Jabrin, the area has not seen any significant benefits. The town still lacks basic services like electricity, water and sewage facilities, and most of its construction is unlicensed. However, the acquisitions have not stopped.
In 2004, the Minister of Irrigation issued Decision No. 1739 to implement a water canal from the main channel in Maskana to the Queiq River, and Decision No. 840 in 2005 to build feeder channels to the plains of southern Aleppo. These decisions led to the expropriation of many properties and parts of properties in the town and its remaining lands.
Decree No. 840 was issued to acquire most of Property No. 466 in Jabrin for the irrigation project in the southeastern plains of Aleppo. The project uprooted 15,000 olive and pistachio and grape vines, in addition to arable grain-cultivated lands.
In 2006, Decree No. 460 was issued, stipulating cash payments as compensation for the properties and parts of properties that were expropriated for the project. However, according to The Syria Report’s local correspondent, the majority of those affected in the Jabrin area have not received any compensation for their expropriated lands.
During the conflict, the site of the Jabrin Industrial Zone remained under the control of regime forces as it was close to Aleppo’s civilian and military airports. The industrial area has become a hub for local militias loyal to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, including the Al-Quds Brigade, which has its main base in the nearby Al-Nayrab camp. A local source in the Jabrin area told The Syria Report that between 2012-2016, displaced people from eastern Aleppo neighbourhoods lived in designated areas of the industrial zone in Jabrin. Meanwhile, pro-regime militias allocated some of these areas as depots for their vehicles, weapons and ammunition.
After regime forces regained control of east Aleppo in late 2016, the City Council promised to rehabilitate the Jabrin Industrial Zone, and complete and hand over the real estate plots within the zone. It also aimed to encourage the relocation of trades and crafts from inside Aleppo city to Jabrin. However, the council’s promises remained unfulfilled, and the Jabrin Industrial Zone remained as it had been previously.
In 2017, a shelter centre for displaced people was opened in the Jabrin Industrial Zone. That same year, the Aleppo City Council stated that work had begun on completing the first phase of the vocational area for car maintenance in Jabrin, after the site had been divided into multiple project phases. However, no actual progress has been made on the project.
A year later, in 2018, the Aleppo City Council allocated the centre to receive displaced residents from the Shiite villages of Kafraya and Al-Foua in the Idlib countryside. In recent months, the Aleppo Defenders’ Brigade militia, affiliated with the Syrian branch of Hezbollah, relocated more than 400 families from Kafraya and Al-Foua from the Jabrin shelter to apartments in areas under their control in the neighbourhoods of Bab Al-Nayrab, Al-Marjeh, Al-Firdous, Al-Balloura, Karm Homad and Al-Maadi. These apartments were originally owned by people who had been forcibly displaced to opposition-controlled areas in northwestern Syria.
In 2019, Aleppo City Council formed a follow-up committee to rehabilitate the Jabrin Industrial Zone in preparation for transferring the craftspeople. Many of the applicants and allottees on plots in the Jabrin Industrial Zone, whether built or still in the planning stage, were internally displaced by the war. According to the GFAA, those people’s subscriptions will be cancelled on the grounds of defaulting on their instalment payments.