Qaboun to be Rezoned Under Controversial Reconstruction Laws 10 and 23

The Damascus governorate has released a new zoning plan, No. 105, for Qaboun, a formerly embattled and now heavily damaged residential district just north of the capital.

Released on June 25, the plan will be displayed publicly for a month to allow property owners and local residents the opportunity to submit any objections.

Qaboun, which sits four kilometres from the city centre, falls under the administrative control of the Damascus governorate. It sits between the East Ghouta suburbs and the Damascus neighbourhoods of Barzeh and Jobar. The M5 highway that connects Damascus to Homs and Aleppo borders Qaboun to the east.

Not long ago, Qaboun sat along the frontline of devastating battles. It was the victim of airstrikes, artillery fire and, later, a punishing siege that damaged much of the district.

Qaboun was also one of three contiguous opposition-held Damascus neighbourhoods that were linked to the besieged East Ghouta suburbs via a network of smuggling tunnels that supplied the latter with vital food, fuel and medical supplies. The tunnels were among the only entry points for life-saving goods into rebel-held East Ghouta’s starved towns and villages until an ensuing government siege over Qaboun itself ground the smuggling trade to a halt. Deteriorating conditions soon pushed rebels into an evacuation deal that saw regime forces move back into Qaboun and retake the district in May 2017.

The plans issued in recent days for the residential area of Qaboun are in accordance with the planning and urban development Law No. 23 of 2015.

But Qaboun also includes an industrial zone and in 2019 was given a separate development plan, in accordance with the provisions of Law No. 10 for 2018 approved for that zone. Law No. 10 is a controversial text that provides the government with the legal framework for reconstruction projects over the ruins of destroyed areas such as Qaboun.

Qaboun is the only Damascus district to have an industrial zone. The zone was established by presidential decree in 1948, and reorganised twice: first in 1972, and then again in 1984.

Since regime forces recaptured Qaboun from rebels three years ago, major disagreements have prevented rezoning, particularly for the industrial zone. The government has promised repeatedly that it would reopen Qaboun’s industrial area for manufacturers to reopen their businesses and factories, but the promises have so far proven empty, while businessmen close to the government have bought up real estate in the district.

It is not precisely known why the residential area is being made subject to the provisions of Law No. 23 of 2015 and the industrial area to the provisions of Law No. 10 of 2018. But in any case it will be difficult for many to prove their ownership, or to object to the plans, or to delegate others for reasons related to displacement and to security or military prosecution. The two laws, both promulgated after the beginning of the conflict, facilitate the seizure of property of the missing, forcibly disappeared, and dead.