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May 16, 2015

This Modern World

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Notable & Quotable: Rebuilding Aleppo

First Bashar al-Assad bombed Aleppo; now he wants to make money rebuilding it.

From “Syrian President Seeks Investors to Rebuild Aleppo’s Bombed-Out Old City” by Laura C. Mallonee on, April 29:

As if the horrors of Syria’s war weren’t already difficult to process, now there’s this: a group of archaeologists and urban planning experts in Germany say that PresidentBashar al-Assad is already seeing dollar signs in the ruins of his country’s cities.

In an article recently published by the German newspaper Die Welt, the group accused Assad of bombing parts of Aleppo not just for military purposes, but also to maximize their lucrative redevelopment potential. The walled Old City has already lost four fifths of its buildings, including the 900-year-old Umayyad Mosque. . . .

Though the war is still raging, the government has already established a Ministry of Reconstruction in Damascus that has allegedly begun selling property. It has also burned land registry offices and deleted title entries, presumably to keep people from reclaiming their houses and businesses after the war ends (more than half of Syria’s citizens have fled the country).

Luckily, they’re not the only copies. Since the 1990s, a group of academics has been working to build up and digitize the Aleppo city archives and land registry offices, which means that a server owned by the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus in Germany also holds the records. . . .

In the wake of its destruction, [some of these experts] fear that Assad, if victorious, will reap the benefits of a rapid, lucrative, and historically and aesthetically indifferent reconstruction process.


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