The Damascus Governorate is delaying the return of residents to Al-Tadhamon District in southern Damascus, despite its optimistic statements in the past. The governorate recently halted work to remove rubble and rehabilitate the district with no explanation.
In June, the governor of Damascus visited Al-Tadhamon to announce the completion of work to reopen main and secondary roads and to restore the electricity and water grids. However, the heavy machinery that was used to remove the rubble during the governor’s visit was quickly removed from the site after the official visit ended.
The Damascus governorate previously announced that around 2,500 families would be permitted to return to Al-Tadhamon. The correspondent, however, said only 150 families had actually returned and that most of them had relatives fighting in the pro-regime National Defence Forces. Those families returned to the northern part of Al-Tadhamon, which remained under regime control throughout the war. Houses in this northern area of the district only need minimal repair work. Meanwhile, residents are still prohibited from returning to the southern part of Al-Tadhamon, which was under opposition control and faced large-scale damage due to bombardments.
In June, the pro-regime Al-Watan newspaper reported that only some areas in the southern part of Al-Tadhamon witnessed procedures by the Damascus Governorate thus far. The newspaper added that these preparations were limited to the partial reopening of some main roads, as rubble still covered the majority of secondary roads. High mounds of dirt also block entrances to some areas.
According to the correspondent, some real estate owners from the southern part of Al-Tadhamon submitted official objections to the Damascus Governorate recently for categorizing their properties as uninhabitable. They also accused the committee in charge of this evaluation of “lacking impartiality.” A number of lawyers from Al-Tadhamon vowed to reject this evaluation before the judiciary if the governorate did not meet their demands.
In July 2018, the Damascus Governorate formed a committee under Law No. 3 of that same year, which focused on removing rubble, to determine the habitability of certain buildings. On October 2018, the committee held a meeting with a delegation of representatives from Al-Tadhamon and presented the results of its evaluation. The Al-Tadhamon delegation objected to these findings, arguing that they contradicted the facts on the ground. Since that meeting, however, the committee has not changed its course. The process of return to Al-Tadhamon is still lagging, with the exception of some intermittent public statements and promises by the Damascus Governorate.
On the other hand, The Syria Report spoke with well-informed local sources who said that some influential traders bought real estate that the Damascus Governorate had been reluctant to allow the original owners to return to. Traders purchase these properties cheaply, taking advantage of owners’ desperation to return as their living conditions deteriorated elsewhere. Many people from Al-Tadhamon are still paying expensive rents in different areas of Damascus and the outlying countryside, waiting until they can return home.
Eyewitnesses told The Syria Report that families of National Defence Forces fighters recently tried to return to their homes in the southern part of Al-Tadhamon to restore their houses, but were quickly expelled. The Syria Report was unable to confirm which party was responsible for expelling the families, though it was likely the Damascus Governorate.