Corrupt Urbanization Threatens Ancient City of Aleppo

As Syria’s brutal civil war rages on, a group of German and Syrian academics are already taking note of the nature of the reconstruction efforts being considered for Aleppo, Die Welt reports, and their outlook is not optimistic.

“The moment that peace is concluded, international investors, especially from Saudi Arabia and the corrupt Syrian government would fall upon the city and ensure that Aleppo loses its historic face forever,” Hilmar von Lojewski, a member of the German Association of Cities and former aid worker in Aleppo warned, after saying, “We cannot wait until the war burns out.”

Von Lojewski and his fellow researchers accuse the government of President Bashar Assad of targeting parts of Aleppo, not only for military purposes but also for lucrative urban redevelopment in this ancient city that is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

Aleppo’s particular plight was highlighted in the artnet News story 2014 Saw Horrific Damage to Syria’s Cultural Heritage. David Ebony reported:

Some of the worst damage was sustained in northern Syria in Aleppo, most of which was once protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both sides in the war have used the city’s ancient fortresses as military bases. A number of famous Islamic monuments that the radical Sunni Muslim insurgents deemed heretical have been destroyed. Even the Great Mosque, or Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo, built in 1090, has not been spared from destruction. While Syrian officials in charge of antiquities say that tens of thousands of portable works of art and artifacts spanning 10,000 years have been removed to special warehouses in secret locations, more immovable works of art and architecture could not be preserved. Efforts to stem the rising tide of destruction have so far been ineffectual (see “The Fight to Save Syria’s Cultural History from the Ravages of War “).

Damascus has already installed a Ministry for Reconstruction, which is reportedly already selling contracts for the redevelopment of land on which the conflict still rages. At the same time, the regime has been destroying records from the land-registry offices to prevent former residents from reclaiming their property.

Von Lojewski has called for the enforcement of a construction ban to prevent the “Dubaiisation” of Aleppo. “We learned from the reconstruction of Germany after the war; we lost as much from postwar reconstruction as we did from wartime destruction.”

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