The Dying of Old Damascus!

Despite ample protests by civil society advocates, current residents and international NGOs, the Syrian authorities are said to move forward with plans to destroy the last pieces of Old Damascus that remain just outside the Old City Walls, especially the area known as Souq al-Manakhliyyah. Should this indeed take place, thousands of Damascene families will be thrown out of their dwellings with little or no compensation, and a piece of history will perish forever. Unless we can bring prompt international attention to this matter, soon there will be nothing to protest, as we will all be faced with a fait accomplit.

This is not the first time that such a measure has been adopted by the Syrian authorities. Indeed, in the early 90s, the Syrian authorities destroyed much of the old dwellings encroaching upon the old dwellings encroaching on the walls of the Umayyad mosque, including the cloister of the famous medieval philosopher Abu Hamid al-Ghazali. Protests came too late at that time as well.

If this trend should continue, soon there won’t be anything truly Damascene about Damascus.

The old forest al-Ghouta has been all but completely wiped off, the River Barada, has all but completely dried up, Qasayoun, the simple of its resisting spirit, has long been tamed by squatter settlements, unruly development, and, of course, palaces. And death haunts the Old City itself. Old Damascus, it seems, is following, or, to be more exact, is made to follow, in the footsteps of Old Hama, albeit armed with nothing but whimpers. It may not be too late, however, to prevent the crowning of this macabre achievement, if we made our protests loud enough and avoided, for the sake of Damascus at least, the overpoliticization of the issue – a pretty strange demand, I admit, coming from me.

This report is based on contact with an old friend who is in a position to know.