Post-conflict Analysis and Post-war Reconstruction Strategies: Sociopolitical Considerations Using the Old City of Aleppo as an Example
Part of the TRAFO series “Reconstructing Neighborhoods of War”
By Mamoun Fansa
Each reconstruction project after the destruction of a war has two priorities to consider:
- Technical management, such as damage mapping, developing strategic action plans, urban planning, rehabilitation and restoration, reconstructing infrastructure, and integrating archaeological investigations. This work is based on technical criteria from different times, places, and cultures.
- The socio-political preparation for reconstruction includes the evaluation of the returnees, the development of strategies for the renewed neighborhood relations, and the coexistence of the old inhabitants and the newly arrived groups.
This post deals with a selection of relevant topics that need to be considered for the reconstruction of Aleppo.
General Information about Aleppo
The situation in Aleppo, in particular the old town, is very serious. While it is a site of cultural world heritage, up to 70 percent of the city is destroyed, encompassing 360 hectares, 110,000 inhabitants, 36,000 jobs, and 16,000 housing units.
Developing new relations in the neighborhood will not be easy. The situation in Aleppo has become particularly complex, due to the history of Aleppo as a multicultural community, and even more complex due to the separation of East and West Aleppo during the war seven years ago. The East was inhabited mostly by the middle and lower classes before the war.
For the most part, the population of East Aleppo either fled during the war to neighboring countries or to Europe or moved to other places inside Syria. The societal makeup of Syria, and especially in Aleppo, has changed radically.
The former population structure no longer exists — the old neighbors are no longer there. They are forced to build a new neighborhood, which is not easy for the people of Aleppo, because of their attachment to centuries of traditions and habits.
The changed composition of the population in Syria and also in Aleppo makes it more difficult for the new and old populations to live together. The development of a concept for the recreation of relations in the neighborhood cannot be developed solely on the basis of experience from other war-torn places. In Syria, after such drastic demographic changes, personal contacts have been ruptured, and the divisions of the community cannot be rebuilt at short notice.
The state’s decision to sell or give away the real estate of Syrian refugees living abroad to regime loyalists during their absence, previous neighborhood relations have been extinguished or destroyed. Dealing with such property issues is crucial for the construction of the future society.
Democracy and the Neighborhood
The establishment of a postwar neighborhood cannot be left to individuals and groups alone, but must be democratically designed and coordinated. I doubt whether a democratic process will be allowed by the Syrian state. The central task in the area of social care and attempts to create a new neighborhood is to mediate between the actors in the various working areas. The power and influence of the state as the victor in the war will be stronger than before. Problems of corruption and cronyism that plagued governance in Syria before the war will only be exacerbated.
The situation in the Old City of Aleppo is currently catastrophic. Reconstruction work is uncoordinated; the state does not have the appropriate people to act professionally, which is why these measures should be taken:
- Actors must be identified and a political map drawn up for internal use. The relation to the history of the city (symbolic meaning of the Old City and its buildings) and the future development from an economic and social perspective must be taken into account.
- It is necessary to examine the ownership structure and to coordinate the role of tourism with future inhabitants.
- The relationship between the Old City and the new town must be picked out as a central theme.
- A proposal for a communication strategy regarding the pacification and cooperation of the inhabitants by using social media has to be worked out.
- Strategies must be developed for how to react quickly in the event of a pacification of the situation, such as problems of illegal building, housing shortages, unsecured ownership, lack of legal certainty, and territorial claims.
- As far as possible, experiences from other post-conflict situations must be taken into account, and these must be examined with regard to their transfer to Aleppo, as in Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, etc.
- All of Aleppo’s residents, especially civil society, must be included in reconstruction initiatives.
- Parallel to the technical development and consolidation of society, cultural awareness of cultural heritage must be underlined.
- An urban development plan (or master plan) should be avoided in favor of structuring guidelines/strategies according to a phase model.
Development of a Phase Model:
Phase 1: Preparation phase; development of an action plan, in particular measures that can be taken immediately; elaboration and collection of strategic approaches taking into account the principles of democratic behavior such as human rights and ethical guidelines, such as respect.
Phase 2: Implementation of the first emergency measures in a largely stable political situation. The monitoring of this implementation can only be carried out together by the state and civil society (representatives of the resident’s interests).
Phase 3: Long-term planning objectives/application of implementation strategies, evaluation and adaptation to requirements.
Mamoun Fansa is a member of the German Archaeological Institute and the Archaeological Heritage Network, and president of the association “Friends of the Old Town of Aleppo.” He holds a PhD and an MA in Prehistory and Early History from the Universities of Hannover and Göttingen and an honorary professorship in History and Museum Studies from the University of Oldenburg. He was the director of the State Museum for Nature and Man (Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch) in Oldenburg. He is the author and editor of numerous publications dealing with urban heritage, such as “Aleppo. A war destroys cultural heritage,” and has initiated a number of exhibitions, including “Damascus – Aleppo. 5000 years of urban development,” “Saladin and the crusaders,” and “Lawrence of Arabia.”
Further articles in the series “Reconstructing Neighborhoods of War” on TRAFO:
Birgit Schäbler, Introduction: The Importance of Being Earnest About Neighborhoods, 28 August 2019.
Kevin Mazur, Not Just Neo-Liberalism: Spontaneous Settlement and Violent Conflict in Homs, Syria, 4 September 2019.
Mazen Haidar, Neighbors at War in 1975-77 Beirut, 11 September 2019.
Piotr Korduba, The Reconstruction of Warsaw: Between Abhorrence and Acceptance, 18 September 2019.
Paul Sigel, “More Beautiful than Ever Before!” Neighborhood-Rebuilding in Divided Germany as Political Propaganda during the Cold War, 25 September 2019.
Allam Al-Kazei, Beyond the Atomic Bombing: The Revival of Hiroshima’s Neighborhoods, 2 October 2019.
Mohammad Hassan Khani, War Emigration and its Impact on Post-War Reconstruction of Neighborhoods: A Case Study of Khorramshahr after the Iran-Iraq War, 17 October 2019.
Namariq Al-Rawi, Baghdad Neighborhoods: Processes of Resilience against the Internally-reflected Conflict of 2006–2008, 24 October 2019.
Kefah Ahmed M. Najjar, Youth Teams and Reconstruction, 7 November 2019.
M. Wesam Al Asali, Majida Malo, and Iyass Shahin, Informality for Reconstruction: A Possible Partnership, 21 November 2019.
Citation: Mamoun Fansa, Post-conflict Analysis and Post-war Reconstruction Strategies: Sociopolitical Considerations Using the Old City of Aleppo as an Example, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 12.12.2019, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/20735.