Article published in The Funambulist 11 (May-June 2017) Designed Destructions. Click here to access the rest of the issue.
Since the beginning of the Syrian war, the expression “creative destruction” has taken on an unbearable literalness. The carpet-like razing of entire neighborhoods and converging evidence suggest that the destruction in Syria is being used as an urban planning strategy to expel a large part of the population and enable the enrichment of developers intimately connected with the government. Observing that the targeted areas are home to the country’s Sunni Muslim population, leads to think that the Assad regime has been purposefully using the conflict to homogenize the demographic composition of Syria’s cities.
Mortars and Shelling as Urban Planning Tools ///
The intensity of the shelling has been a unique characteristic of the Syrian conflict, which does not seem consistent with the battle tactics of other wars, as much of the destruction has occurred away from the frontlines (see “Razed to the Ground: Syria’s Unlawful Neighborhood Demolitions in 2012-2013,” Human Rights Watch, 2014). As Leïla Vignal notes in “Destruction-in-Progress: Revolution, Repression and War Planning in Syria” (Built Environment, 2014), in February 2013 alone, shellings took place in 250 to 400 different locations every day. Moreover, the destruction sites covering large urban environments are numerous, as are craters found close to one another in open areas. The demolition has been so widespread and systematic that it can be classified under the Geneva Convention as a war crime for unlawful destruction of civilian property. The Human Rights Watch study of the bombings shows that a second wave of destruction often followed the first, and therefore couldn’t be linked to any armed hostilities. The pattern and scale of the destruction, indicative of an urbicide, and its correlation with master plans for future development, designed before the war but continuously updated by the regime, proves that the bombings are being used as a planning tool. Indeed, neighborhoods that have been partially or entirely erased from the map, in which most of the buildings and infrastructure have been either heavily damaged or destroyed by the bombardment, are the very ones implicated in pre-war redevelopment proposals.