The Politics and Economics of Urbicide: Why Were Syrian Cities Destroyed?

Munqeth Othman Agha, University of Trento

 

Dozens of buildings in Deir-ez-Zor were marked for demolition in February 2023 on the pretext of being “unsafe due to the earthquake,” even though the city was barely touched by the devastating February 6 earthquake that struck Turkey and northern Syria.[1] The city did, however, suffer well-documented destruction in 2017, including at least 8,200 buildings that were damaged during brutal bombardment by the Syrian regime and Russia.[2] Not so far away in Aleppo, many images of buildings destroyed by the bombardment between 2012 and 2016 were similarly claimed as earthquake destruction in a campaign that called for lifting western sanctions.[3] Blurring this line between earthquake and conflict destruction, and manipulating the narrative of destruction, is not a technical confusion but a strategy that seeks to achieve at least three objectives: political, to break the regime’s political isolation; economic, to draw in more humanitarian and financial assistance; and legal, to manipulate criminal evidence of the destruction of Syrian cities by claiming the damage was due to natural disaster rather than a war crime.

Taking advantage of destroyed Syrian sites for political or propaganda objectives had been a systematic regime practice for years prior to the earthquake. Al-Hajar al-Aswad, a ruined neighborhood in Damascus, became a location to shoot a new Chinese action movie.[4] Other war-torn neighborhoods in Homs, Damascus, and Aleppo become hot spots for travel bloggers who were allegedly sponsored by the Syrian regime to help burnish the country’s image.[5] While these two events are insignificant from the political and economic point of view, they can be seen as examples of how ruins have been reproduced to generate revenue and promote certain political narratives.

This article advances the concept of urbicide, or the deliberate killing of a city. It argues that the ruination in Syria is not simply collateral damage or driven by military necessity, but also involves economic and political calculations. The article conceptualizes destruction as a continuous process that starts before the conflict and stretches into the post-conflict period. It investigates patterns of destruction in two cities (Hama and Homs) to understand to what extent destruction might have been a result of military necessity, political violence, or revenue maximization. The main focus is on the destruction that was caused by the Syrian regime and Russia, which constitutes the overwhelming majority of the damage in the cities in question and across the country in general.[6] The analysis draws on several datasets: UNOSAT damage density index dataset, the Syrian Memory Institute protest dataset (2011–2013), and the Urban Analysis Network-Syria (UrbAN-S) urban dataset.[7]

Why are Cities Destroyed During Wars?

From besieging and destroying enemies’ cities in ancient wars to fighting contemporary urban warfare, cities and wars have been intertwined throughout history. The drivers, repertoire, and intensity of how cities are destroyed during war exhibit a great deal of diversity. To understand the relationship between war and destruction, we need first to scrutinize whether destruction is just a by-product of the war (unavoidable collateral damage), or also a political and economic objective pursued for its own reasons.[8] There are different forms of destruction in addition to physical damage, such as looting, besieging, interrupting functionality, or altering identity. Although destruction of the urban environment is widely believed to be the result of targeting human occupiers, a non-anthropocentric approach also suggests that urbicide is a process that targets the very fabric of the city.[9]

There are multiple approaches to studying spatial violence, which is defined as the form of urban violence and aggression that are primarily directed against the physical space of the city. Francisco Gutiérrez-Sanín and Elisabeth Wood claim that patterns of spatial violence should be analyzed across four dimensions: repertoire (or the form of violence), targeted social group, frequency, and technique of violence.[10] Charles Tilly adds the type of actors engaging in organized violence as an additional component. According to Scott Straus, any form of organized violence can be driven by either strategic or ideological factors.[11] The strategic choice of destruction during wars is mainly associated with territorial control (as argued by Stathis Kalyvas), spoiling peace, or controlling resources.[12] Ideologically-driven violence can be manifested in multiple forms such as ethno-sectarian genocides or cultural intentional destruction (ICD).[13] The drivers often overlap. For example, Luis Felipe Mantilla and Zorana Knezevic find that ISIS destruction of cultural properties in Syria was driven by their ideological motives as well as determined by their degree of territorial control.[14]

Making Sense of the Destruction in Syria

Destruction has been one of the main features of the Syrian conflict. As of 2017, around 54 percent of the total housing stock in Syria was estimated to have various levels of damage, and around half of the basic social infrastructure in the whole country was reported to be non-operational.[15] However, the spatial distribution of the damage is uneven and the motivations and dynamics for the ruination are determined by various political, economic, and strategic factors.[16]

There have been several explanations offered for the scale and scope of the ruination of Syria’s cities. Laila Vegnial and Kevin Mazur agree that the destruction has been a vital element of the Syrian regime’s repression policy.[17] While Vegnial specifically highlights the relationship between destruction and uprooting rebellious communities as a form of war planning, Mazur demonstrates how destruction was used as an effective, and relatively cheap, tool to disperse urban demonstrators and later to make territorial and military gains. This policy was particularly applied in areas where the regime failed to demobilize social actors and contain crowds due to its lack of financial and technological resources. Kheder Khadour finds that destruction was used as a survival strategy to block any possibility for a political transition.[18] Instead of negotiating with opposition groups, the regime tends to destroy their areas and uproot their social constituencies. Finally, Salwa Ismael claims that destruction is a pedagogical tool that has been utilized as a modality of government, to order and structure regime–citizen relations.[19] She claims that the government marks the built environment with violence (and its memory) to inscribe social memories into the political landscape and, therefore, to unmake dissident political subjectivities.

This article aims to introduce an additional approach to investigating destruction, which is centered around revenue generation. Looting property and appliances, or ta’feesh, is probably the clearest example of how destruction itself can generate money. Debris and rubble are also being sold after removal exclusively by contractors linked to the Syrian regime. On the international level, by turning whole towns and neighborhoods into rubble, Russia made Syria a demonstration site for its weaponry to secure large arms deals.

There are three main dynamics that shaped the destruction in Syria, manifesting in various forms and timeframes, and carried out by different actors, but nevertheless, leading to one outcome: ruination.

The first dynamic is shelling and bombardment, which was the main form of destruction during the conflict. The destruction here is a standalone military tactic, not its by-product. The regime forces, due to a lack of manpower and advanced technology, relied on a scorched earth strategy (carpet bombing urban areas where the resisting armed groups hunkered down) to capture territory with minimum urban fighting, a tactic seen in Darayya and Eastern Aleppo. This type of destruction was intentional and group-selective, but was also arbitrary due to the use of cheap and dumb weaponry, such as barrel bombs.

Looting is the second dynamic that shapes destruction in the immediate period following the end of military confrontations. Looting activities are usually carried out by the very same soldiers or militiamen who captured a town or a neighborhood. They extract whatever they can from captured properties, including electronic appliances, furniture, and even building materials, to the point of making them uninhabitable. Looting is sometimes one of the main motivations of armed groups to fight; towns and neighborhoods are often divided into turfs to be looted by a specific group. As the case of Homs city proves, the level and type of looting vary according to the socio-economic level of targeted areas, which also influences the technique and intensity of destruction to be applied in the first place. For instance, wealthier neighborhoods were identified as potential locations for looting valuable appliances and furniture. These neighborhoods experienced comparatively less destruction on average, unlike poorer neighborhoods where properties were dismantled for raw materials and construction scraping, subsequently repurposed for urban development.

Demolition is the third dynamic shaping the destruction that takes place in the months and years following the capture of a city. Entire neighborhoods, such as in Damascus and Hama, have been demolished by explosives and bulldozers (not barrel bombs) under the pretext of urban development and reconstruction.[20] This type of demolition is intertwined with a parallel process of land dispossession through “legal” mechanisms such as law number 10, a process that primarily targets informal areas inhabited by opposition communities.[21] Demolition is undertaken by the local municipalities, which pave the way for regime-linked crony businessmen and foreign companies to construct high-end residential and commercial buildings.[22] These developments serve a political purpose of socially engineering targeted cities and an economic goal of strengthening capital accumulation to benefit the regime’s cronies.[23]

Tools and motivations for destruction can overlap in one place. Darayya is a salient example here. The city was besieged between 2012 and 2016, heavily bombarded, depopulated, looted, and then included in a sectarian-driven urban development plan.[24] A displaced resident from Darayya mentioned that regime forces specifically bombed residential areas surrounding the Sayyida Sukayna Shrine until they were completely reduced to rubble. Bombardment continued even after opposition forces withdrew from the neighborhood.[25] Later, these areas were included in an Iranian-sponsored reconstruction project of the shrine.[26]

In conclusion, destruction should be understood not as a single event but as successive waves of ruination and a continuous process of eradication that internalizes parallel processes of (re)production and circulation. For example, the destruction of the built environment transforms damaged buildings into sites for extraction and looting, then into potential sites for urban development. Looted goods are sold again in special markets (like Souk al-Sunnah) or reused in other construction projects.[27] Demolishing informal settlements and then transforming them into urban development areas increases their economic value and places them at the heart of a process of capital accumulation.

The Destruction of Hama and Homs

Homs and Hama, the third and fourth largest cities in Syria, contain a mixture of urban typologies drawing upon several binaries including old/modern, formal/informal, and urban/rural, as seen in maps 1 and 2. The local society of Hama is predominantly Muslim Sunni, in contrast to Homs which is a mixed society made of different sects and religions including Muslims, Alwaites, and Christians.

Map 1 Neighborhoods of Homs. Source: Urban Analysis Network Syria and author.

Homs and Hama had their own experiences with destruction before the conflict. As will be seen in the next section, the shadow of these experiences may have influenced the way both cities were destroyed during the conflict. Hama suffered massive destruction in February 1982 during the military assault launched by the Syrian regime against the Muslim Brotherhood in the city. Several neighborhoods, such as Keilaniya and Shamaliya, were turned into rubble. Other neighborhoods such as Sakhanneh, Baroudiyeh, and Hamidiya were partially destroyed.[28] Government buildings, hotels, and modern residential buildings were built on top of razed residential quarters. In Homs, multiple neighborhoods were subject to demolition and eviction orders as part of the controversial urban development project named Homs Dream.[29] The project targeted informal neighborhoods such as Baba Amro, Al-Sultaniyeh and Jobar and replaced them with high-end residential and retail complexes. The project was widely criticized for allegedly attempting to change the demographic makeup of the city.[30]

Map 2 Neighborhoods of Hama city. Source: Urban Analysis Network Syria and author.

Homs and Hama both participated in the uprising in 2011, but their paths diverged during the period of armed conflict. Both cities hosted many protests spreading out across their neighborhoods. According to the Syrian Memory Institute, between 2011 and 2013, at least 3,900 demonstrations took place in Hama and 5,300 in Homs. Alwaer, Al Khaldiyah, Jouret Al Shayyah, and Ghouta have been the main protesting hubs in Homs, while in Hama demonstrations peaked in Bab Qibli, Al-Hamidiyah, and Tareq Halab.

Localized street clashes took place early in Homs but quickly turned into intensified battles as multiple Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups established various forms of territorial control across the city. Heavy fighting took place in multiple neighborhoods such as Bab Amr, Deir Baalba, and Bayadah. Eventually, the FSA was encircled within two enclaves: the old city and Alwaer, both to be recaptured by the regime in 2014 and 2017 respectively after a multi-year siege.[31]Hama, on the contrary, has not experienced any large-scale military operations or actual control by the FSA. The regime has asserted its control over the city since July 2011, after raiding it in response to a series of massive protests in Assi Square.[32] Still, small-scale operations continued to take place here and there, particularly in the northern and southern outskirts of Hama, until 2013 when the FSA completely withdrew from the city.

Despite their military trajectory being very different, Hama and Homs both experienced their share of destruction. According to the UNOSAT dataset, as of 2016 there were more than 10,885 and 14,108 destruction points in Hama and Homs respectively.

 

Discussion

 

As shown in maps 3 and 4, the most devastated neighborhoods in Homs are in the old city, including Bab Hod, Jouret Al Shayah, Bani Sbaie, and Karm Shamsham. In Hama, peripheral northern neighborhoods such as Masha Arba’en, Wadi al-Jawz, Addahria, and Sawa’eq are the most destroyed. Despite not witnessing any major military battles, the overall destruction intensity in Hama (0.09) is almost similar to Homs (0.08), as well as the level of destruction in Hama (61 percent of affected properties in Hama are completely or severely destroyed) and in Homs (60 percent).[33]

Map 3 Destruction intensity in Hama as of 2016. Source: UNOSAT

In Hama, the data shows a correlation between the urban typology and the intensity of destruction. Informal areas and city expansion areas (in particular in the north and the south) were damaged more than regulated and old city neighborhoods, both in terms of intensity and density. Notably, much of the destruction in the informal areas was undertaken by bulldozers following the withdrawal of the FSA from the city, such as the demolishing of Mashaa al-Arbaeen and Wadi al-Jawz between 2012 and 2013.[34] Interestingly, both military and economic narratives were provided by the Syrian regime to justify these demolition campaigns. The first narrative proclaimed the need to eradicate the FSA’s capacity to carry out operations in the city from the southern and northern fronts where FSA fighters were confined by 2013. The second narrative maintained that certain areas had to be razed due to building violations. However, demolishing plans have continued for years after the end of military operations in the city, targeting primarily informal neighborhoods in the city such as Haret Alsamak, Nqarneh, Kazo, and Marabit. Thus, urban and social engineering rather than military necessity might be the main motive of destruction, especially considering the fact that the Syrian regime has not encountered any serious military threat in the city that necessitates such a high degree of destruction. It can be argued then that the regime capitalized on war conditions to carry out demolition plans for economic purposes.

Row Labels Destruction points Destruction intensity Destroyed (%) Severe damage (%) Moderate damage (%) No visible damage (%) Protests points Protesting days (avg)
City expansion 2,163 0.07 88% 5% 6% 1% 31 118
Groves 1,309 0.15 95% 3% 1% 0% 0 0
Housing area 37 0.005 30% 8% 54% 8% 14 201
Informal areas 4,733 0.40 95% 1% 2% 1% 43 114
Old city 152 0.01 30% 15% 34% 22% 950 517
Old city expansion 136 0.01 20% 8% 35% 37% 874 442
Regulated 512 0.007 16% 15% 40% 28% 2,004 637
Grand Total 9,053 0.09 53% 8% 25% 14% 3,916 304

 

Table 1 Destruction intensity, protesting, and military control in Hama. Source: UNOSAT and author

This argument can be also demonstrated by considering the low correlation of destruction with either protesting or military control. The level of destruction in the main protesting hubs ranges between low to medium, while a number of neighborhoods that witnessed military operations for the FSA such as Bab Qibli and Al-Hamidiyah enjoyed relatively lower levels of destruction.

Finally, not only destruction but also the fear of destruction has been a factor that threatens thousands of Hama residents who still remember the traumatic experience of the 1980s and live in its shadow. Whenever the FSA imposed any sort of territorial control in a neighborhood, the Syrian regime applied intensive and punitive bombardment, quickly turning the general opinion of locals against the presence of the FSA and forcing them to withdraw eventually.

Map 4 Destruction intensity in Homs as of 2016. Source: UNOSAT

In Homs, destruction is mainly concentrated in two zones: eastern informal areas and the old city—areas that were under FSA control. The data shows a larger correlation between destruction and military control than with protesting or urban typology. The exception here seems to be the FSA-controlled middle-class neighborhoods that are less damaged on average. For example, Alwaer, a modern and middle-class neighborhood, was one of the main protesting hubs in the city and witnessed the longest periods of siege, still, it had a relatively low level of destruction as of 2016. A similar situation can also be seen in other middle-class neighborhoods such as Ghouta and Inshaat.

Row Labels Destruction points Destruction intensity Destroyed (%) Severe damage (%) Moderate damage (%) No visible damage (%) Protests points Protesting days (avg) FSA control days
City expansion 623 0.04 30% 30% 38% 3% 24 28 175
Groves 419 0.01 32% 33% 23% 12% 0 0 0
Housing area 17 0.00 53% 24% 24% 0% 5 15 88
Informal areas 6,780 0.10 18% 42% 39% 2% 2,013 240 133
Informal areas / pro-regime 1,952 0.04 39% 30% 29% 1% 3 26 0
Old City 2,093 0.27 16% 52% 32% 0% 759 319 733
Old city expansion 159 0.03 10% 25% 60% 5% 40 83 184
Regulated areas 1,516 0.16 17% 30% 35% 1% 2,521 578 368
Grand Total 13,567 0.08 27% 33% 35% 3% 5,365 161 210

 

Table 2 Destruction intensity, protesting, and military control in Homs. Source: UNOSAT and author

However, some of these neighborhoods have been subject to another form of destruction—looting. Considering the Alwaer example again, following the displacement of its population in 2017, a variety of property has been looted, including household furnishings and electric appliances.[35] On the contrary, the looting patterns reported in neighborhoods with a higher rate of destruction but lower economic status (such as Bab Sbaa’, Karm Zaiton, Bab Amro, and Deir Balba) included debris and construction materials.[36] Regime-linked businessmen were granted exclusive contracts for debris removal from these areas.[37]

Indeed, the experiences of regulated and informal neighborhoods differ in multiple ways, including in the patterns and intensity of destruction. On average, most affected properties in informal areas (after controlling for the political affiliation variable) are either completely or severely damaged (60 percent) with a total of 6,780 destruction points, while the same kind of damage in regulated neighborhoods is less than 47 percent with 1,516 points. Based on that data, it can be concluded that the intensity of destruction was higher in neighborhoods that were perceived as having lower economic value by the regime. They were turned into potential sites for debris and building material extraction and urban development, while high-class neighborhoods were kept less damaged for the purpose of looting their expensive goods.

It must be noted that the findings above are correct only when controlling for the variable of political affiliation. Neighborhoods known to house pro-regime constituencies (such as Akrama and Nizha) have been far less destroyed. Furthermore, destruction intensity is noticeably lower in streets that contain government buildings, even in areas that were under the FSA control.

Like Hama, destruction has continued in Homs even after the regime gained control over most of the city in May 2014. New damage is most likely due to demolition campaigns undertaken by the Syrian regime, looting activities, or attacks by opposition groups against neighborhoods affiliated with the regime. Finally, several new regulatory plans were announced for Bab Amr, Sultaniyah, Jober, Joret Shayyah, and Qusur that aimed to alter the urban typology of these neighborhoods.[38] Many voices claim that these plans (and the map of destruction in general) mirror the pre-conflict urban development plan, Homs Dream.[39]

 

Conclusion

 

Despite the fact that Homs was a stronghold of opposition forces and Hama witnessed almost no major military confrontations, large parts of both cities were destroyed during the conflict. This paper analyzed the patterns of destruction in both cities between 2011 and 2016, arguing that the destruction of Syrian cities was not solely a military necessity but also served political objectives, such as punishing rebellious neighborhoods, and economic purposes, including house and land dispossession to clear the way for development that benefits the regime and its cronies. Three repertoires of violence against the built environment were observed: bombardment, looting, and demolition. These types of violence were interconnected to constitute a process of ruination, wherein destroyed properties, rubble, and land were made to serve the political and economic interests of the conflict actors. The paper also demonstrated how the location of a neighborhood, the socio-economic status of its residents, and the expected value of its land played decisive roles in determining the type and degree of destruction that was applied.

Table 3 Destruction intensity, protest and military control in Homs’s neighborhoods. Source: Author

Table 4 Destruction intensity, protest and military control in Hama’s neighborhoods. Source: Author

 

[1] Deir-ez-Zor City Council, February 23, 2023, Facebook post, https://bit.ly/40cvLZ7; “Statistics of Damaged Buildings in Deir-ez-Zor Because of the Earthquake,” SANA, February 15, 2023. https://sana.sy/?p=1841054.

[2] “Damage density of Deir Ez Zor, Deir Ez Zor Governorate, Syria,” UNITAR & UNOSAT, November 28, 2017. https://unosat.org/products/1190.

[3] Cathrin Schaer. “Syria Earthquake: Did EU, US Sanctions Stop Aid Deliveries?” Deutsche Welle, February 21, 2023, https://bit.ly/3FDd7Sx.

[4] Andrew Pulver. “Jackie Chan-Produced Action Movie Films in Devastated Syrian City,” The Guardian, July 19, 2022. https://bit.ly/3Y0VnYj.

[5] Sophie Fullerton. “Influencers are Whitewashing Syria’s Regime, with Help from Sponsors,” Washington Post, August 8, 2022. https://wapo.st/3HQ4mGi.

[6] Exceptions are Ar-Raqqa city, which was largely destroyed by the US-led International Coalition during the military campaign against ISIS (2014–2017), and a few parts of the cities of Aleppo and Daraa, which were damaged by shelling from opposition forces.

[7] The UNOSAT damage density index dataset compares satellite images across several years between 2010 and 2016. See “Geodata of Damage Assessment of Homs, Homs Governorate, Syria” and “Geodata of Damage Assessment of Hama, Hama Governorate, Syria,” UN Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT). https://bit.ly/3WUSO8T and https://bit.ly/3Rs4hMc. Also see https://shorturl.at/zBJYZ.

[8] Martin Coward. “Against Anthropocentrism: The Destruction of the Built Environment as a Distinct Form of Political Violence,” Review of International Studies 32 (2006): 419–437.

[9] Martin Coward. “Against Anthropocentrism.”

[10] Francisco Gutiérrez-Sanín and Elisabeth Jean Wood. “What Should We Mean by ‘Pattern of Political Violence’? Repertoire, Targeting, Frequency, and Technique,” Perspectives on Politics 15, no. 1 (2017): 20–41.

[11] Scott Straus. “’Destroy Them to Save Us:’ Theories of Genocide and the Logics of Political Violence.” Terrorism and Political Violence 24 (2012): 544–560.

[12] Stathis Kalyvas. The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Michael Boyle. “Explaining Strategic Violence after Wars,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 32 (2009): 209–236.

[13] Stathis Kalyvas. The Logic of Violence in Civil War.

[14] Abbey Steele (2009) argues that when armed groups assert a higher level of territorial control, they have the capacity to target individuals, then they tend to utilize discriminate rather than indiscriminate forms of violence. See: Luis Felipe Mantilla and Zorana Knezevic. “Explaining Intentional Cultural Destruction in the Syrian Civil War,” Journal of Peace Research 59, no. 4 (2022): 562–576; Steele Abbe, “Seeking safety: Avoiding displacement and choosing destinations in civil wars,” Journal of Peace Research 46, no. 3 (2009): 419–429.

[15] “Syria Damage Assessment: Of Selected Cities Aleppo, Hama, Idlib,” The World Bank, 2017. “Humanitarian Needs Overview,” OCHA,November 2017.

[16] Leila Vignal. “Destruction-in-Progress: Revolution, Repression and War Planning in Syria (2011 Onwards),” Built Environment 40, no. 3 (2014): 326–341.

[17] Leila Vignal. War-Torn: The Unmaking of Syria, 2011–2021. London: Hurst and Company, 2021. Kevin Mazur. Revolution in Syria: Identity, Networks, and Repression. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021.

[18] Kheder Khaddour. “Survival Through Destruction.” In Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center. November 29, 2017. https://carnegie-mec.org/diwan/74842.

[19] Salwa Ismail. The Rule of Violence: Subjectivity, Memory and Government in Syria. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

[20] Sawsan Abou Zainedin and Hani Fakhani. “Syria’s Urbicide: The Built Environment as a Means to Consolidate Homogeneity.” The Aleppo Project. July 2019.

[21] See for example: Porras-Gómez, A.-M., “The Legal Framework for the Syrian Urban Reconstruction,” Journal of Property, Planning and Environmental Law 13, no. 3 (2021): 203–217. On urban planning as a weapon, see: Valérie Clerc, “Informal Settlements in the Syrian Conflict: Urban Planning as a Weapon,” Built Environment 40, no. 1 (2014): 34–51.

[22] Ammar Azzouz, “Re-imagining Syria: Destructive reconstruction and the exclusive rebuilding of cities,” City 24, no. 5-6 ( 2020): 721 – 740.

[23] Joseph Daher. “The Political Economic Context of Syria’s Reconstruction: A Prospective in Light of a Legacy of Unequal Development.” Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSC). December 2012.

[24] “Fourth Division, Shiite Militias Accused of Looting Daraya,” The Syrian Observer, September 9, 2016. https://bit.ly/3TxlkgS.

[25] “Iran’s Strategy of Looting Syrians’ Properties: Southern Damascus as an Example” (in Arabic), in Focus Aleppo, March 31, 2022. https://bit.ly/3XWFMJp.

[26] “Iranian Imams in Darayya and a New Plan to Reconstruct the Sukayna Shrine ” (in Arabic), in Syria TV. https://bit.ly/3kQvjAm.

[27] Souk al-Sunnah or Sunni Markets are markets founded in the pro-regime neighborhoods such as Nuzha and Zahra to sell looted goods from Sunni neighborhoods in Homs city. See Jomana Qaddour, “Homs, a Divided Incarnation of Syria’s Unresolved Conflict,” Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center, May 15, 2020. https://bit.ly/3ltjsci; “Sunni Market Flourishes in Loyal Homs Neighbourhoods,” The Syrian Observer, August 14, 2013. https://bit.ly/3n9yZyA.

[28] “The 40th Anniversary of the 1982 Hama Massacre Coincides with Rifaat al Assad’s Return to Bashar al Assad.” The Syrian Network for Human Rights. February 2022.

[29] Details about the project can be found at this link: https://www.syrian-investment.com/project/homs-dream.

[30] “No Return to Homs: A Case Study on Demographic Engineering in Syria.” Pax and The Syria Institute. February 2017.

[31] “No Return to Homs: A Case Study on Demographic Engineering in Syria.”

[32] Nada Bakri and Anthony Shadid. “Syrians Strike Restive Cities in Fierce Raids,” New York Times, July 31, 2011. https://nyti.ms/3RqdRyN.

[33] The density of destruction is calculated by dividing the total number of destruction points by the total area of the city. The intensity of destruction considers the level of destruction (destroyed n1 = 4 points; severe damage n2 = 3 points; moderate damage n3 = 2 points; no visible damage n4 = 1 point) according to the following equation:

Intensity = (4*n1 + 3*n2 + 2*n3 +4*n4) / area.

[34] “Explained: Informal Housing in Hama.” The Syria Report, June 2, 2021. https://bit.ly/3Dz4SWm.

[35] Jalal Bakour. “The Looting of Wa’er Houses after Displacing their Residents with Russian Sponsorship” (In Arabic). The New Arab, May 23, 2017. https://bit.ly/3kZhCiN.

[36] Amin Asi. “Looting as a Formal Strategy for the Syrian Regime Forces” (in Arabic). The New Arab, May 29, 2018. https://bit.ly/40jFSw8.

[37] “The Post-Looting Era in Homs. Shabiha Loot Iron from Damaged Buildings for Hamisho” (In Arabic). Zaman Alwasil, October 6, 2014. https://bit.ly/3Hs8VVx.

[38] “The Regime Approves the Regulatory Plan of Bab Amro and Halts Its Residents’ Dream for Return” (in Arabic). Alsouria. September 6, 2015. https://bit.ly/3jkbnFG; “Regulatory Plans for Neighbourhoods in Homs” (In Arabic). Abwm Online, October 13, 2018. https://bit.ly/3HNlNab.

[39] No Return to Homs: A Case Study on Demographic Engineering in Syria.”