Urban Planning Becomes a Weapon in Syrian Civil War

It's still far from clear what the political outcome of Syria's civil war will be. But for the country's built environment, the effects are stunningly evident. Millions of buildings have been damaged or destroyed since March 2011.
November 30, 2012, 9am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Compared to the estimated 30,000 killed during the war, the widespread damage and destructuion of Syria's homes, schools, mosques, churches and hospitals is but a footnote. But the truth remains that "[m]uch of Syria has become a disaster zone."

According to Los Angeles Times staff, "[o]n streets once lined with multistory buildings and mosques, ceilings lie pancaked atop smashed and dusty home furnishings and appliances. Electrical wires hang like carelessly strung streamers across concrete columns strewn with antigovernment graffiti. Roads in front of gutted shops have become impassable for the sheer amount of rubble."

As we noted before, some of the world's most treasured historical sites have been damaged in the fighting. With a new law that allows for the demolition of "illegally contructed buildings," the government is opening a new front in the destrcution of the social fabric of the country. "More than half the buildings in Damascus are illegally built, in part because the country's urban planning hasn't been updated in 40 years, said Radwan Ziadeh, director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights and a member of the opposition Syrian National Council."

"The main idea behind [the law] was to punish all these areas where they have a strong presence of the Free Syrian Army," Ziadeh said. "They need to destroy the social support" for the rebels in Damascus and the suburbs.

"The regime is using the excuse of urban planning to demolish entire buildings," said Lena Shami, an activist in Damascus. "But what are the chances that it ignored the issue for all these years and now remembered it? And they haven't given residents any warning or reimbursement."

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Published on Monday, November 26, 2012 in Los Angeles Times
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