The reconstruction process of a warn-torn country is always a long and difficult road. How to bring back life in places that have witnessed the most horrific acts of violence and destruction? The truth is that this restoration requires a global effort to overcome paramount challenges such as dealing with all kinds of economic, political, and social actors, new realities on the ground, and a different time and moment in a nation’s history.
As we discuss how these processes will unfold in Syria, we also witness one of the most brutal human tragedies of our time. We must not forget that this conflict has already taken the lives of more than half a million people and at the same time it has caused the displacement of half of the nation’s population, according to a report by the Syrian Centre for Policy Research.
Reconstruction arrangements are already on the way, with agreements between the Syrian government and countries such as Iran, Russia, China, and Turkey. The government of Iran, for example, has negotiated with rebel groups to swap populations in areas around the Syrian capital Damascus with Lebanese and Iraqi Shia families, in a country where 74 percent of the population practices Sunni Islam. This measure aims to create a safe corridor with access to Syria and Lebanon, but at the same time will sow divisions between the population.
On the other hand, infrastructure reconstruction is also a very important part in the discussions about the future of Syria. Russia, China, and Iran are already proposing deals in sectors such as mining, electricity generation, transport, and telecom infrastructure. Turkey’s initial move to secure its border security with Syria consists of training and deploying more than five thousand police officers, of which 450 are already on the ground in Turkish-controlled areas in the North of the country, where the Kurdish Democratic Union was ousted.
The cultural heritage of Syria has also suffered great losses, such as the occupation of the ancient city of Palmyra by ISIS in May 2015. Located in an oasis in central Syria, Palmyra was a crossroads of ancient civilisations; its importance resided in the fact that it was located along the Silk Road, creating a link between Persia, China, and India with the Roman Empire. The archaeological site was looted, monuments such as Temple of Bel and the Arch of Triumph were destroyed, and the museum was transformed into a court and dungeon. Maamoun Abdulkarim, director of Syria’s Antiquities and Museums Directorate, is confident that the revival of Palmyra will be possible with the help of international cultural institutions. This would undoubtedly be a ray of hope in a time of darkness for the country.
A key issue remains in the air though. Political agendas aside, it is necessary to envision an inclusive reAP Photo/ Manu Brabo, Fileconstruction process that gives a voice to local communities and the broader population. The inclusion of a myriad of perspectives will avoid rebuilding on old fault lines and the perpetuity of institutional systems that have proven to be incapable of grappling with major societal and economic problems.
Words: Astrid Scheuermann
Copy edited by Elena Stanciu
Cover Image: Saif Al Dawla district in Aleppo, Syria. Photo by Manu Brabo for Associated Press.