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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Recent reports of Syrian refugees returning to their home country after several years of civil war raise important issues, one of which being the status of their properties in the country. A recently enacted law called Law No. 10 of 2018 – ostensibly part of benign reconstruction legislation – has proven to be problematic for the millions of Syrians who are refugees, internally displaced or living abroad. This is happening on a scale that affects conflict settlement and the emerging post-war social order, as it shapes the framework for reconstruction and reintegration into the economy and social life. Although several articles have addressed the potential problems raised by this law, there are no analyses that explicitly tackle Law no. 10 from a rule-of-law perspective.

In this paper, I argue that Law No. 10 will permanently exclude displaced residents especially from having a voice in reconstruction in their home areas. In the first instance, the paper expounds on the different historical and socio-political aspects of the issue, which is necessary for a better understanding of the current state of affairs. The paper then analyses the specific parts of Law No. 10 that provide grounds for rule of law violations in its practice. In the third section, based on the aforementioned analysis, I propose a series of measures – consistent with international standards and best practices – that must be taken in order to effectively guarantee property rights for returnees and contribute to an equitable reconstruction process, both in the immediate term (e.g. including returnee property rights in peace talks) and in the longer term (e.g. establishing an independent adjudication body).

To download the full paper please click here.

The post Law No. 10: Property Rights Violations in Syria Against Sustainable Solutions for Returnees appeared first on The Aleppo Project.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Circassians are an ethnic group originally native to the Northwest Caucasus region until they were driven out of their land by Russian conquest in the late 19th century, after which the Circassians resettled in agricultural communities in parts of the Ottoman Empire. In Syria, their communities were concentrated in the Golan Heights in the south-western parts of Syria, including Quneitra city and several surrounding villages. For many decades, the Circassians revived their heritage and lifestyle and became the largest ethnic minority group in southern Syria. In 1967, following the Six-Day War, the Circassians were yet again forcibly expelled from their homes; the Israeli Army bulldozed many villages and Quneitra city was never rebuilt, even after its return to Syrian control following the October 1973 war. Circassians became internally displaced people in Damascus or left abroad mainly to the United States following an offer by the United States government to move them to Paterson, New Jersey throughout the 1970s and 1980s. These periods of displacement made it difficult for the Circassians to maintain their traditions and sense of cohesiveness. In the Golan Heights, only two Circassian villages survived and were under Syrian control: Bir-Ajam and Breiqa. A minor attempt to reconstruct these communities took place at the end of the 1970s; however, it did not encourage many Circassians to return. By 2011, these two villages were home to around 5,000 inhabitants, as well as serving as a destination for Circassian cultural activities. These latest inhabitants were displaced after November 4, 2012, due to the Syrian Army’s military operation against anti-government rebels. Many of these inhabitants and Syrian Circassians fled to neighbouring countries, Europe, and the Russian Federal Republics in the Caucasus (mainly The Karachay-Cherkess Republic, The Kabardino-Balkar Republic and The Republic of Adygea). This paper aims to explain the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the Circassians in Syria within the historical and current contexts of displacement, integration, and diaspora. Additionally, it will examine internet-based initiatives by Syrian Circassians to preserve their rural architectural heritage in Bir-Ajam and Breiqa. This exploration will illustrate the importance of the Circassian heritage to the displaced society as well as the role of social media documentation in preserving this endangered heritage and people’s memories.

To Download the full paper click here.

The post The Circassian Heritage in Syria within the Context of Multiple Displacements appeared first on The Aleppo Project.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Aleppo city has fallen. The Assad Regime has re-imposed its authority over eastern Aleppo.
However, the relevancy of the Aleppo Governorate is no less diminished. As the war enters
its eighth year, the majority of fighting has shifted north where the many actors have gathered
to determine the fate of their claimed territories. Under the control of various militaries,
both foreign and domestic, the nearly six million inhabitants of the region are left with little
control over who governs them and how.

This paper initially served as a response to US President Donald Trump’s announcement
that American troops would be removed from Syria. Since then, it has grown into a larger
project examining the many actors at play in the governorate, their motives and positions,
and the effect US withdrawal will have on the existing balance of power. This paper attempts
to detail the reality on the ground and provide insight into the complex nature of a war with
shifting alliances and foreign proxies that provides little voice for the civilians who suffer
most. Any lasting peace will have to guarantee the free return of all displaced people and
equal political representation of all communities in the Governorate of Aleppo, including
Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen.

To download the full paper please click here

The post The Larger Battle for Aleppo: The Removal of US Troops From Syria and the Struggle for Provincial Aleppo appeared first on The Aleppo Project.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Marota City is a new construction project that was launched by the Syrian government in Damascus in 2012. This project is presented as part of a more modern, aspirational ‘master plan’ for urban development to move away from the traditional patterns of informality in housing that had developed over generations. This paper elaborates on the issue of Housing, Land and Property rights (HLP) in the conflict and post conflict periods in Syria, particularly concerning reconstruction and informal settlements. As reconstruction policies tend to ignore informal ownership systems and are based on proving ownership through documentary evidence only, millions of people are losing their rights to a just, sustainable and inclusive reconstruction process.

Marota City is designed for a small elite of wealthy people who are not the obvious focus of reconstruction.However, this focus is what the government, along with the private sector, are promoting, by pushing the architectural firms to focus on the exterior without developing new housing options that fit the changing and urgent demands of the majority of Syrians living in the area. As an example of what is being advanced as a post-conflict reconstruction agenda, Marota City illustrates how this reconstruction needs to be rethought – urgently – in order for people to obtain housing, for the economy to rebound, and for communities to begin developing again. In the absence of a political resolution, it is important for the international community to find tools and mechanisms that assist displaced populations to secure their HLP rights. This includes practices that will assist displaced Syrians in proving ownership of their homes and property, regardless of their current location, and in ways that are transparent and secure.

This paper was presented by Edwar Hanna at the 5th Lemkin Reunion.

Edwar Hanna and Nour Harastani founded Syrbanism in 2017. To communicate this research to a wider audience, they created a video explainer. Watch the English version below:

Marota City : Is this the type of reconstruction Syrians need? - YouTube

To download the full paper please click here

The post Is Marota City the Type of Reconstruction Syrians Need? appeared first on The Aleppo Project.

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Interview with Dr. Mohamed (Abu Jafar) Kahil, founder and chief medical examiner of the Forensic Authority in Eastern Aleppo.

Aleppo Municipality in regime-held areas has opened and moved cemeteries of victims killed by the regime since the bombardment of Eastern Aleppo districts, four and half years ago. From July 2012 until December 2016, the regime displaced the entirety of eastern Aleppo’s population, estimated by one million and a half. After more than two years, not more than a fifth of the displaced have managed to return.

As part of a research by The Aleppo Project[1], we interview Dr. Mohamed Kahil on the (re)burial of those who have been killed and the conditions in which the Forensic Authority in Aleppo was established. Being an expert in forensics and founder and chief medical examiner of the Forensic Authority, he talked to us about the challenges of documentation during burial and the procedures for dealing with unidentified bodies. We discussed regime’s attempts to rebuild some public parks while moving the relics without media coverage in order to conceal their crimes, and the difficulty this poses for the displaced to recognize the bodies of their families. We drifted to discuss the efforts to commemorate the anniversary of some massacres done by the regime.

Dr. Kahil teaches criminal sciences and forensics at Biroya Academy in Gaziantep, Turkey. Biroya Academy is an educational organization for displaced students who did not finish their studies in Syria. He also teaches postgraduate students, and his teaching subjects includes crime-scene, fingerprints, and crime-scene documentation.

How often were the dead buried in locations outside of cemeteries? Was it common to bury the dead in parks and other makeshift places?

It was not allowed to bury in the cemeteries that were already in Aleppo, as it was planned [before the revolution] to move all these cemeteries to the Modern [Islamic] Cemetery. At the beginning of the revolution, the Modern Cemetery was under the control of the regime. As the other cemeteries were over-occupied, the dead were buried in spaces between the old graves, or the old graves were re-opened, in the presence of their families and the burials would be over the formerly deceased, or just inside the fence of the cemetery, an area normally left for pedestrians.

When the area around the Modern Cemetery was freed, burial there did not last for a long time for several reasons. First, the Modern Cemetery was far from the city. There was no financial ability to manage the funerals for a long distance. Second, the Modern Cemetery was under the crossfire of Brigade 80 —if I remember correctly— who were targeting it with DShK-carrying tanks. In one of the funerals, we had to lie on the ground for hours until night in order to bury the dead. For these reasons we stopped burying in the Modern Cemetery. Therefore, we —as the Forensic Authority— allocated a zone near Queiq River for burying the dead and the martyrs. But as a result of poverty and expensive transportation, some continued to use parks and gardens to bury the dead.

Do you have an estimated number of people who were killed in the bombing whose burial you oversaw?

It is very hard to estimate. It is war and the country is under constant shelling. Massacres happened daily and people were in a difficult psychological status and were in no position to fully comply with every guideline. You could not cover all massacres. It is psychologically hard to document all what’s happening, and we did not have the capabilities to do so. With the absence of documentation techniques, tools and trained staff, the dead were only remembered by their families and their communities. However, after the displacement [and regime’s attempts of reburial without families’ approval] the locations of the dead changed, though families now forget where their relatives were buried. Thus, at the beginning of 2013, because I had knowledge and experience with criminal sciences, we established the Forensic Authority after the Queiq River Massacre. It took us a while till people started to acknowledge the necessity of not burying their dead without documentation.

The total number of the victims is, at least, around 17000. However, around 5000 to 7000 were buried without being documented by the Forensic Authority. I stress that these figures are approximate, yet not accurate. By the end of 2015, when I visited these cemeteries, the Forensic Authority, with the help of other authorities, decided to move the corpses therein. Because some families of the dead are still there, and some people know who are in the cemeteries, we moved the corpses to the al-Ansari district, which is located in the southern parts of Western Aleppo. We started the procedures of moving the bodies to al-Ansari Cemetery. However, shortly, the reburial stopped because the numbers of the victims increased tremendously. Moving the bodies, of course, needs financial and logistic support in addition to a municipal approval. However, at that time, the fall of Aleppo took place.

Some groups documented higher figures of the dead, by names and dates. According to the database of Violations Documentation Center in Syria, there are around 31000 dead in Aleppo, which is higher than what you mention. [update and correction: this figure is for all Aleppo Governorate, not only the city].

I do not have an idea about that number, but it might concern the districts that were added to Aleppo by the urban expansion before the revolution. The Forensic Authority cannot cover districts like Rashideen, Layramoun, Hraytan, and other neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city. Hence, with all respect to the various documentation centers, at the beginning there was neither a standard way nor an official authority for documentation. There was also no information exchange among those who were documenting. Some cooperation between who documented the situation happened in mid 2016.

The victims who died in hospitals were moved to the Forensic Authority for documentation for the announcement of the death toll. The White Helmets was responsible for recording and announcing the numbers of airstrikes and aerial bombardments. We all, and whoever was in Aleppo, were working like a beehive. Therefore, there was a common understanding between the hospitals, the White Helmets, emergency services  and the Forensic Authority. Some families refused to move the bodies of their relatives to the Forensic Authority for documentation, as they thought that their bodies will be autopsied or for other unclear reasons. We do not want to give astronomical figures that are incomparable with what is happening on the ground. We were in a hard situation. If there were 15 murders, 10 were documented in the Forensic Authority and 5 were buried without being documented.

What did you do with the unidentified dead? How were the dead identified?

It is a good question. It is not that I am doing rocket science, yet thanks to God, as I am a forensic expert, we overcame the issue of the unidentified bodies. A number of key markers were drawn to identify the dead: What is his/her approximate age? What are his/her distinguishing features, i.e. is s/he a dark skinned? Does he have a mustache, tattoos, a ring or Jewelry? What are the types and numbers of the shoes? Which entity brought the body? Afterwards, we would post such information in social media and the press, and leave them for some days. The burial, then, was done in a known cemetery, and is assigned a number. Such information were collected in a digital system, on which the Documentation Department in the Forensic Authority has the database.

We made four exchanges of corpses we have and other corpses under the control of the regime. All the corpses the regime asked for were of Hezbollah, Iranian and Afghan militants. The regime did not ask for corpses for Syrian fighters. We document some sources regarding these cases:

  1. The area in which the dead were found.
  2. The military uniform that distinguishes the fighter. The Syrian uniform is different from the Lebanese and the Afghan uniforms, for example.
  3. The documents that were often found with the dead.
  4. The distinguishing features; usually there are some clues. Iranians, for instance, have mascots and incantations in Persian. Even the tags in the underwear are in Persian. Such clues tell us  who this person is and from where he is.

I would like to add something else: as an authority which took the responsibility of burials, we did not differentiate between our dead and the regime’s victims. Regardless its belonging, the corpse has its sanctity. That’s why we used to bury them in special cemeteries, for their families to be able to identify them later. We were like doctors who treat all patients [equally,] regardless their ideological standpoints. We were keen on leaving no murdered undocumented. All the corpses have their own sacredness and should be dealt with without discrimination.

How did you bury the unidentified victims? What about the process of their identification and reburial?

Sometimes the families who come to receive the corpse of their dead from the Forensic Authority would say they want to take care of the burial on their own. We addressed those who are responsible for the graves that burials are not allowed without a permit from the Forensic Authority. We did daily training regarding these matters. Two persons were arrested by the legal authorities because they contravened the instructions. We do so to prevent any concealment of [the regime’s] killings and for the sake of documentation as well. We ask the families where they want to bury the body, then we keep a written copy of what they say. Not all corpses were buried in Aleppo. In some cases families ask to bury their dead in their villages.

In regards to the unidentified victims who we buried, after a few months or years, a next of kin comes to ask about one of the dead. We go with them to a hall in which we keep the information and possessions of that victim, i.e. where they have been buried after s/he has been identified. When the victim is identified, we add their name [to the graveyard and to our database]. However, until then we attach a number and the date of burial to the grave. We also keep in our database the name of the cemetery, the date of burial, and names of those who buried and identified him.

Regarding the disappeared, it is a highly important topic. With all my respect, it is very difficult to work on this topic. From the moments the aerial bombardment starts, the bodies under it were cut into pieces, and mostly there are no identified organs left. We even documented these cases: whoever was suspected to be there is included in the disappeared toll. We tried to match charred or rotten corpses found around a park, a river or an empty building, with lists of disappeared people.

Regarding the unidentified, what happened in case you did not manage to identify the person?

In one of the workshops in Turkey attended by [forensic] experts who worked in Sarajevo, Somalia and other conflict countries, I asked what the problems they suffered from in such situations were. They answered that a whole generation is missing and after 12 years it became extremely hard to identify the victims. I suggested to them to take the DNA of the current generation [to draw conclusions about dead’s identification]. However, they replied that it is not reasonable and ‘inhumane’ to ask a father, for example, to give them a DNA sample [to know if the dead is his son or not].

Now in Ar Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor they suffer in identifying the dead. In an interview with Baladi News, I advised to avoid using bulldozers [while reopening mass graves]. This mixed unidentified bodies with one another, which makes it even harder to recognize each. I suggested to them to leave these bodies where they are, not to move them at all, and try to document them from afar. No one can recognize these bodies, as they lose their features during reburial.

How do you remember the Queiq River massacre and other massacres?

When we had 10 bodies, we did not consider it a ‘massacre’. However, one of the most terrifying massacres which a few talk about is as-Sukkary Massacre, on June 16, 2014, which claimed 120 lives. We are going to commemorate the Queiq River massacre as a symbol for all the massacres, as we had massacres on a daily basis and the River’s massacre was one of the first to take place. 240 innocent died; they did nothing other than crossing regime-held borders in Aleppo. That’s why they were killed. In Gaziantep, we are going to organize a photo exhibition of the martyrs. Some families [of the martyrs] might come. Since the fall of Aleppo, I try not to remember. It hurts. But commemorating martyrs of the massacres should have more attention. It’s a subject we must continue to deal with.

What is happening now to the graves? Why does the regime rebury the victims? And what is the aim of the “beautification” of some parks?

Under the control of the regime, people are not going to identify more than 10% of the dead. Most of the people who were in the liberated areas [i.e. opposition held districts] are now displaced. Only a few of them, around 5 per cent, stayed. Thus, in case of reburial, 90% of families are not going to identify their dead. The regime will not document such cases. All the dead are considered to be terrorists by the regime, while 80% of them are actually civilians. Again, the regime is not going to document these cases. Therefore many families will lose their rights [to identify their own people].

When we were displaced from Aleppo, some corpses remained unburied. I warned that the regime would accuse the revolutionaries of murdering those who are inside these cemeteries, and this is exactly what the regime did. I call [forensic and human rights] experts to go and check if these victims died due to physical liquidation [by the revolutionaries] or shelling with rockets and bombs [by the regime]. There are a few people who died naturally as well. If you bring criminal experts and forensic doctors to check these cases, they will not say that they were physically liquidated.

The regime does not aim at beautifying the parks, as houses are completely destroyed in all districts. Do we leave destroyed houses for the rats and rodents to play around and pay more attention to decorating the parks? The regime does so, however, to conceal its crimes. As I said, if any criminal expert just came, they would know that these people died because of the airstrikes.

Bodies used to arrive to us torn into pieces. We used to collect the missing organs; here you find a head, there you can see a leg, etc. This annoys the regime. That’s why the regime invests several millions to move these bodies. I do not believe that the regime will move them to a known, rather to a remote location like mass graves. This is to leave no traces of these crimes, about which the regime might be held accountable in the future. I appealed to human rights organizations and the UN to supervise the reburial to prevent any concealment of the regime’s crimes. For instance, the regime reburied Queiq River Massacre martyrs without announcing to where they were moved. The Forensic Authority at the Syrian regime says that it does not know to where they were moved. The regime removed them from the Qabaqeeb Park to an unknown location and claimed to have moved them to the Forensic Authority operating at the Syrian regime to be recognized but it turned out the Forensic Authority had no knowledge of it

Does the regime still move the bodies?

Since the regime moved the martyrs of the Queiq River Massacre from the Qabaqeeb Cemetery, we have not seen anything. We are on the alert and following what they are doing. That’s why I think the regime moves the bodies without any media coverage.

[1] The research is carried out by Connor Kusilek. AlHakam Shaar did this interview on 18/12/2018 in Arabic, via Skype. The translation is by ElSayed Mahmoud. Some details might have changed due to the dynamic situation in Syria.

The post Burial and Reburial: Aleppo’s Dead between Documentation and Disappearance appeared first on The Aleppo Project.

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Introduction:

The question of refugees’ return is one of the major issues addressed in conflict resolution literature. People usually flee to the nearest safe location at the time of conflict because when refugees abandon their homes, they hope to return as soon as possible. That is why the question of refugees’ return is inextricably linked to geographical proximity. For this reason, countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan are hosting the majority of Syrian refugees.[1] in the Middle East, while countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda are hosting large numbers of African refugees. This blog will focus on the case of young Syrian students who arrived in Lebanon after the uprising in 2011 and still live there. Specifically, it will address challenges and barriers that prevent these refugees from returning home and will examine the Lebanese reaction to the presence of these Syrian refugees.

Why Lebanon?

Lebanon is one of the first countries Syrian refugees fled to at the outset of the Syrian uprising in 2011; it is the closest neighboring country where Arabic is spoken. Additionally, Syrians have hosted Lebanese refugees in recent years, the latest was in 2006. It is difficult to provide the exact number of the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon since Lebanese authorities demanded that UNHCR suspend registering Syrians in Lebanon in May 2015. At that point there were more than 1,200,000 Syrians in the country. This is a significant number considering that the Lebanese population does not exceed 5 million. In fact, Lebanon still has the highest number of refugees per capita worldwide and according to the European Commission’s latest updates, there are currently more than a million Syrians in Lebanon.

At the very beginning of the Syrian uprising, Syrian students started moving to Lebanon to escape the oppressive Syrian regime. They found Lebanon to be the best location to continue their studies given the difficulties they faced in accessing higher education in cities such as Homs, and the heavy regime surveillance in cities such as Damascus and Aleppo.

At the beginning of the uprising, the regime sought to force students to flee the country as they were the leaders of most of the peaceful demonstrations. The tactics the regime used with respect to the students included massive raids to university dorms and targeting young students in demonstrations. Once arrested, the leading student figures were detained, tortured, and eventually executed or they would simply “disappear.” Remaining students were tortured and forced to sign affidavit refrain from participating in protests under the threat of losing their student status and their future. A Syrian student in Beirut said:

“When I was arrested, I was almost directly told that I have no place in the country. They knew that my family would pay them to let me out. They also made me understand that if I stayed in the country, I would be arrested again and again. To me the message was clear: save yourself and leave the country.”(Interview, Beirut, October 2017)

Unfortunately many students started leaving at an early stage of the Syrian uprising, especially male students, as they were subject to obligatory military service. This card was the most effective strategy the regime managed to play. It started by spreading rumors, which it sometimes followed through with— about canceling official delays for military service for students and by banning students from leaving the country in some instances. Then, it moved to the level of forcing young people and students to join the army even if they were granted official postponement.

As the conflict continued, the number of Syrians fleeing to neighboring Lebanon continued to increase: Syrians arrived to Lebanon both through official border entry points and through illegal crossing points. According to a survey conducted by the Higher Education Alliance for Refugees in October 2017, the second half of 2011 witnessed an increasing number of Syrian families crossing the border to Lebanon to escape the Syrian regime’s escalating violence directed towards civilians. The flow of refugees to Lebanon continued with greater intensity in the years 2012-2013, which prompted the Lebanese authorities to introduce an unwritten policy for visa restrictions prohibiting Syrians from entering Lebanon in 2014. This new policy was communicated directly with Syrian nationals who were planning to come to Lebanon. First, it started to be circulated on social media networks then directly to people who contacted the Lebanese embassies to ask about the visa requirements. These restrictions included requiring visa applicants to have bought a return ticket, to have a residence permit in another country, to have a hotel booking for the entire period of their requested duration of stay, and to have sufficient cash to cover all expenses for the duration of their proposed stay in Lebanon. Furthermore, Lebanese authorities were given the right to deny entry to Syrian citizens even if they met all of the aforementioned conditions, despite the two countries’ signing of the 1989 Altaif Agreement, which included a full segment talking about the cooperation and the fraternity between the two countries. This eventually resulted in a reciprocal visa waiver agreement between the two countries that is still supposedly in place up till now.

The second reason is economic. Prior to the Syrian uprising in 2011, Lebanon was very dependent on the Syrian economy: the Lebanese market was full of cheap Syrian textiles, food and electronic products, and agricultural crops. Many of these products were never manufactured in Lebanon as it lacked the industrial facilities, the manufacturing ability, and the requisite labor. According to the World Bank’s April 2015 Annual Report, since 2011 there has been a drastic decline in many imported Syrian supplies, including key agricultural products. The report also shows that the refugee crisis in Lebanon has cost the country $18 billion, mainly on the war’s border economic implications. The new export resources Lebanon is depending on are more expensive and are also more costly to be shipped into the country.

Lebanese Reaction

The Lebanese authorities have started responding strictly to the influx of Syrian refugees since 2015 with political campaigns aimed at restricting Syrians from entering the country. The authorities increased the density of their responses when they started raiding refugee camps and sending people back by force to Syria. Given Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian conflict, its support for the Assad regime, and its strong presence in Lebanese politics, the Lebanese army has conducted a few refugee camps raids in the south of Lebanon sending Syrian refugees back to Syria through an agreement with the Syrian regime. The number reached 50,000 people in 2018. Also, a majority of Lebanese media outlets spread propaganda blaming Syrians for all of Lebanon’s current economic, social and political woes. “Discrimination is quite direct against Syrian refugees in Lebanon” and is prevalent according to Farah Kobaissy, from the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship. In some cases, it has led to the implementation of some illegal policy practices by some municipalities in Lebanon that target Syrians. For example, in some small towns, there is a curfew for Syrians which restricts their movement after 19:00 pm. Other problematic public policy practices are related to obtaining a residence permit, especially for Syrian students. This is evident because of the high dropout rate of Syrian students in Lebanese universities at the same time the number of young Syrians in the country is increasing. It’s possible that such policies were put into place due to, “the fear of Syrian students deciding to stay in Lebanon after obtaining a Lebanese degree and eventually entering the Lebanese job market and staying in Lebanon,” according to Georg Haddad, a researcher at Synaps Network in Lebanon.

Challenges and Barriers to Return:

In Lebanon, Syrian students struggle to survive in a fragile economy and a poor administrative capacity to be able to find a way to continue their studies. While some have managed to find scholarships abroad, many could not. With the increasing number of Syrian refugees in the country and the NGOisation movement to accommodate these large numbers, many Syrian students have found it useful to stay in Lebanon and do some “significant work”. There has also been a significant number of scholarships for Syrian students in Lebanon. Another Syrian Student in Tripoli pointed out:

 “I decided to switch to psychology after I was studying law. I believe Syrians will stay in Lebanon for a while and most of the children have either gone through traumatic experiences or going through discrimination now. Psychological and mental health is very important and I would be happy to stay here to do it.”(Interview, Tripoli. October 2017)

Finally, in a country like Lebanon with severe problems with the formal economy despite the open market opportunities in the country, many Syrian graduate students have created an informal economy in and outside the country. Internet savvy students have found a venue outside the formal economy in the form of freelance jobs in design and data analysis.[2] Also, in some areas, students managed to find opportunities to respond to the needs of the Syrian community by creating some small mobile businesses. One student put it in the following way:

“Now I have the opportunity to access a better form of education in Lebanon. I worked hard to get a scholarship and I am about to graduate with a master’s degree. Also, I managed to start my own small business with the support of my father. I am able to support my family financially. Something I cannot dream of in today’s Syria.”(interview, Tripoli,. October 2017)

With the escalating political and economic upheaval and resulting humanitarian crisis in Syria, the challenges and barriers to return are daunting, especially for young Syrian students who have finished their degrees or enrolled in Lebanese universities. These challenges include the following:

The full-fledged dictatorship regaining power; as mentioned above, most students fled the oppressive regime because they did not want to be involved in the extreme machine of violence and killing. They know that they will have no place in Syria as long as the current regime is in power. They fear that harsh measures, including imprisonment, torture, or even execution could be employed against them. As the regime is still in power in areas that most of the student refugees came from, the question of return is a premature one. Syrian students continue to leave the country looking for better. For many of them who stayed in Syria throughout the conflict and managed to obtain a university degree, finding a job and leading a ‘normal life’ is not possible in Syria. One student who arrived to his appointment in the German embassy in Beirut said:

“Well, you know it is safe in Damascus now and there is no bombardment, but as an engineer, I do not see any future prospects in the country. What I want is a normal life with a good job. This is difficult to achieve in Syria now.” (interview, Beirut. October 2017)

Another challenge is the declining economy and increasing cost of living: the Syrian economy is suffering at many levels and the conflict has forced a lot of capital and labor force to migrate outside the country. With the level of destruction in the country’s infrastructure and the exodus of more than six million people from the country, Syria’s economy will need several years to recover after the conflict is over. Adding to this , if we consider the fact that a majority of students fled the country at an earlier stage, and the country is suffering a generational loss in terms of education, an even grimmer picture of the future of the Syrian economy emerges.

The education system in Syria suffered from a lot of serious problems before the uprising, including over- crowding and a lack of academic resources. These difficulties have only been exacerbated given the ongoing security issues and the lack of mobility within cities. These conditions constitute additional barriers for the return of Syrian refugee students, as voiced by one student in Beirut:

“I do not think I can have the same education opportunities I have had in Lebanon so far. At least I have learned a foreign language and I am planning to do my master’s next year.” (interview, Beirut. October 2017).

Conclusion:

Although the socio-political situation is not stable for Syrians in Lebanon, the return of Syrian refugees does not seem to be a plausible option, especially for the young student community, which has been fighting to build something even in the most difficult of circumstances. This is very important to consider when thinking about refugees’ return to Syria. The conflict will not have a resolution without the return of educated youth and a productive community. For this to happen, a significant political change needs to take place, along with serious reforms in the educational system and the economy.

[1] It is important to mention that Syrians in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan are not entitled to a refugee status. They are mainly either registered at the UNHCR records or have a private visa/residence permit. Thus, the term refugees here does not have any legal implication.

[2] Throughout the fieldwork I did in Lebanon, most of the Syrian students mentioned that the first option for having a job for them was to work online mainly on the domain of information technology.

The post Syrian Students in Lebanon: Challenges to Return appeared first on The Aleppo Project.

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An opinion piece 

The Arab Spring protests reached Syria in March 2011, the pro-democracy uprising, initially demanding reforms, soon turned into a civil war and violence escalated as a result of the government forces utilizing brutality to suppress the civil movement. More than seven years of conflict lead to the deaths of over 400,000 Syrians; millions were forcibly displaced, and the country is devastated economically. Since the beginning of the conflict, more than four million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and an estimated  6.1 million people have been  displaced within Syria, bringing the total  number of expelled Syrians to a staggering 11.5 million (UNHCR 2017). 

Now that the Syrian conflict is “coming to an end” according to many countries, the following question arises: can all Syrians return home? Some Western countries have started sending Syrian refugees back to Syria or forcing their hand to return by rejecting their families’ asylum applications. Return might sound like a possible scenario now that the country is no longer the site of a proxy war, reality is much more complex. Unfortunately, the concept of return is often discussed and decided upon without consulting Syrian refugees themselves. Policies encouraging Syrians to return home could have catastrophic impacts on the lives of many innocent people. 

Before deciding whether Syrian refugees should return home, the international community must answer the following questions: Who would guarantee the safety of the millions of displaced Syrians as international human rights laws aren’t respected in their home country? The fear of detention, torture and death prevents many Syrians from even considering the idea of homecoming. Will the regime tolerate their “‘betrayal”’? Will they be able to live with fear and oppression after experiencing the freedom and security offered in other countries? Will they be able to join the compulsory loyalist marches cheering al-Assad and showing support for him and his regime after all the crimes he has committed against them? Will they want to go live in Syria where their basic life needs aren’t met? Such questions and many more can’t be ignored when discussing the concept of return. 

What these countries aren’t taking into consideration is the fact that the al-Assad regime has secured his ruling of the country and simply will not tolerate having these refugees back. Nonetheless, the regime was indulging an illusion by inviting Syrians to come back and participate in rebuilding the country. It is what world leaders want to hear but this couldn’t be true and history has shown that this regime can’t be trusted. 

The sad reality is that Syria is no longer a home for all Syrians; it has become a country for ‘certain’ Syrians, Russians, Iranians and Hezbollah fighters and supporters. What most people neglect to recognize is that the Russian/Iranian interference in Syria is a kind of an invasion. These countries are not just “helping” the Syrian regime to restore order and peace, they are there to stay and subdue any attempt to overthrow al-Assad and his regime. In fact, the regime’s dominance over Syria could be considered a case of internal occupation, since the al-Assad administration invited his allies in arms into the country to suppress and control the Syrian population and its prominent opposition figures.

RECONSTRUCTION – BUT FOR WHOM?  

Regrettably, Syria is well known for its corrupt system; the country is based on favoritism and an inequality of wealth distribution. The regime’s family and their relatives and friends share the country’s fortune and resources, with no laws to restrain their power and influence; their control over Syria’s capital and investments has no limits. 

Seven years of war have had its tragic toll on Syria’s economy, but the loss of military investment could be turned into profit, by using the destruction of the country to promote reconstruction projects. Militarized reconstruction is a new term that is used nowadays when discussing the Syrian case, and, more specifically, the reconstruction of the city of Aleppo. The regime is desperately trying to show the world the gains it has achieved in the city and how great the economic opportunity is. The reconstruction is merely for propaganda to promote a false story of a fake victory. 

Since Aleppo and many other cities fell to the Syrian regime, many governmental campaigns to promote reconstruction projects have begun. Daily updates from Aleppo are emerging, and the government is serious when it comes to the topic of rebuilding, but we should ask the critical question: reconstructing for whom and how? Who is going to invest and at what cost? The rebuilding process is biased and selective. One could argue that the UN involvement should limit the Russian and Iranian domination over the reconstruction projects, but this isn’t entirely true. Their influence is present regardless of UN involvement, and this involvement just serves to give false legitimacy and credibility to the regime. The displaced population isn’t allowed back in the city and east Aleppo is completely abandoned, but rebuilding the ‘significant’ half of Aleppo is what the UN and its partners want. It’s not a matter of perspectives here, it’s more about how repulsively prejudiced this whole thing is. 

With many projects undertaken by Asma al-Assad’s charity foundation and its UN partners (Beals 2017), funds are being generated in order to burnish the regime’s murderous face and promote its secular, civilized, necktie brutality. 

UNDP and UNESCO are working closely with the Syrian regime and its administrative. Their role in the reconstruction procedures is still unclear, but the argument they are using provoked some controversy, especially that they claim not to be working with the regime, but with the ‘people’. Which people are they talking about, and why does it sound like they don’t already know that the government controls all of the country’s institutions? 

The Syrians who fled the country escaping the regime’s brutality aren’t considered “people”, and the claims that the reconstruction is for reconciliation doesn’t make much sense: the ones who need to be reconciled aren’t even there to begin with and won’t even be considered. 

It is true that rebuilding the country requires local expertise and would generate plenty of job opportunities, but not all Syrians are offered the chance to participate: unless you support the regime and its corruption, you’re not welcome.

WHAT HAS TO BE SAID AND DONE  

History has told many stories, but are we to learn something? It could be said with certainty that the past keeps repeating itself in the most horrific of manners: dictators come and go, cities fall and rise again. Why is the Syrian story so special? Well, it isn’t, the only significant thing is all these unused international legal documents: if we are to read those dealing with human rights, cities’ rights, and so on, one would be astonished. However, the question remains: when will these legal documents be implemented in the Syrian case? When will the international community stop waving these away in order to protect a killer’s government? 

Aleppo has entered a new era, and history is definitely written by winners. The objective story doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Yet this is not the case with everyone. We still care, and by ‘we’, I mean the Syrians who believed in a better future. The Russians are there to stay, so are the Iranians, the Turks and the Americans. How could our story be written by them? Will the following generations read the epic story of the many Syrians who died believing in a dream, a dream that cost us more than souls, it cost us our cities, our memories and everything we held dear? The answer is no, they will hear a story of victory, a story of a modern dictator who saved Syria from terrorists. This is the most popular story nowadays anyway. 

If we were to discuss options and propose solutions for the obstacles facing the Syrians when deciding to return to their country, I could think of one solution: the regime has to be overthrown and justice should be served. Those who committed crimes and have stains of blood on their hands should be punished so that Syrians can restore faith in the global justice system. 

Anything else would be fictitious and unfair for many Syrians, and unless there’s a way to guarantee the safety of those who want to return, many won’t even consider doing so. 

It’s safe to say that al-Assad doesn’t want any of his opponents back, but he’d go as far as suggesting that many of the Syrian refugees are terrorists and pose a threat to the Western world (Nelson 2017), supposing he thinks it’s better when the hosting countries send them back and let them languish in his prisons to die instead. 

The logic is simple: if you want to get Syrians back to their country, stop supporting al-Assad and take your troops out of their country. You can’t keep empowering al-Assad and his regime and expect people to return voluntarily, knowing that nothing awaits them except suppression, imprisonment and death. 

The Syrian revolution was the country’s chance for a reformation. Now that the revolution has failed to achieve its goals and objectives, the future of Syria doesn’t look so bright, especially given that regime change would require not only the downfall of al-Assad as a person but that the whole regime’s intelligence agencies, security and military system be altered. The chain of corruption has been forming in the country for almost half a century, and it isn’t easy (if not impossible) to break. The security grip is only tightening, and the brutality of the regime has no limits.

References 

Beals, E. 2017: UN allowing Assad government to take lead in rebuilding Aleppo. Fox News [Online] 16 November. Available at: <http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/11/16/un-allowing-assad-government-to-take-lead-in-rebuilding-aleppo.html> [Accessed 05 February 2018] 

Nelson, N. 2017: Syria’s Assad: Some refugees are terrorists. POLITICO [Online] 02 October. Available at: <https://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/bashar-assad-syria-refugees-terrorists-yahoo-interview-234890> [Accessed 01 February 2018] 

Rodrigues, J.  2011: 1982: Syria’s President Hafez al-Assad crushes rebellion in Hama. The Guardian [Online] 01 August. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/from-the-archive-blog/2011/aug/01/hama-syria-massacre-1982-archive> [Accessed 05 February 2018] 

UN, 1948: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [Pdf] UNITED NATIONS – Documents. Available at: <http://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Documents/UDHR_Translations/eng.pdf> [Accessed 03 February 2018] 

UNHCR, 2017: Syria Emergency. [Online] 07. December. Available at: <http://www.unhcr.org/syria-emergency.html> [Accessed 09 February 2018] 

 

 

The post Should Syria’s Displaced Return? appeared first on The Aleppo Project.

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An opinion piece

The Arab Spring protests reached Syria in March 2011, the pro-democracy uprising, initially demanding reforms, soon turned into a civil war and violence escalated as a result of the government forces utilizing brutality to suppress the civil movement. More than seven years of conflict lead to the deaths of over 400,000 Syrians; millions were forcibly displaced, and the country is devastated economically. Since the beginning of the conflict, more than four million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and an estimated  6.1 million people have been  displaced within Syria, bringing the total  number of expelled Syrians to a staggering 11.5 million (UNHCR 2017).

Now that the Syrian conflict is “coming to an end” according to many countries, the following question arises: can all Syrians return home? Some Western countries have started sending Syrian refugees back to Syria or forcing their hand to return by rejecting their families’ asylum applications. Return might sound like a possible scenario now that the country is no longer the site of a proxy war, reality is much more complex. Unfortunately, the concept of return is often discussed and decided upon without consulting Syrian refugees themselves. Policies encouraging Syrians to return home could have catastrophic impacts on the lives of many innocent people.

Before deciding whether Syrian refugees should return home, the international community must answer the following questions: Who would guarantee the safety of the millions of displaced Syrians as international human rights laws aren’t respected in their home country? The fear of detention, torture and death prevents many Syrians from even considering the idea of homecoming. Will the regime tolerate their “‘betrayal”’? Will they be able to live with fear and oppression after experiencing the freedom and security offered in other countries? Will they be able to join the compulsory loyalist marches cheering al-Assad and showing support for him and his regime after all the crimes he has committed against them? Will they want to go live in Syria where their basic life needs aren’t met? Such questions and many more can’t be ignored when discussing the concept of return.

What these countries aren’t taking into consideration is the fact that the al-Assad regime has secured his ruling of the country and simply will not tolerate having these refugees back. Nonetheless, the regime was indulging an illusion by inviting Syrians to come back and participate in rebuilding the country. It is what world leaders want to hear but this couldn’t be true and history has shown that this regime can’t be trusted.

The sad reality is that Syria is no longer a home for all Syrians; it has become a country for ‘certain’ Syrians, Russians, Iranians and Hezbollah fighters and supporters. What most people neglect to recognize is that the Russian/Iranian interference in Syria is a kind of an invasion. These countries are not just “helping” the Syrian regime to restore order and peace, they are there to stay and subdue any attempt to overthrow al-Assad and his regime. In fact, the regime’s dominance over Syria could be considered a case of internal occupation, since the al-Assad administration invited his allies in arms into the country to suppress and control the Syrian population and its prominent opposition figures.

RECONSTRUCTION – BUT FOR WHOM?

Regrettably, Syria is well known for its corrupt system; the country is based on favoritism and an inequality of wealth distribution. The regime’s family and their relatives and friends share the country’s fortune and resources, with no laws to restrain their power and influence; their control over Syria’s capital and investments has no limits.

Seven years of war have had its tragic toll on Syria’s economy, but the loss of military investment could be turned into profit, by using the destruction of the country to promote reconstruction projects. Militarized reconstruction is a new term that is used nowadays when discussing the Syrian case, and, more specifically, the reconstruction of the city of Aleppo. The regime is desperately trying to show the world the gains it has achieved in the city and how great the economic opportunity is. The reconstruction is merely for propaganda to promote a false story of a fake victory.

Since Aleppo and many other cities fell to the Syrian regime, many governmental campaigns to promote reconstruction projects have begun. Daily updates from Aleppo are emerging, and the government is serious when it comes to the topic of rebuilding, but we should ask the critical question: reconstructing for whom and how? Who is going to invest and at what cost? The rebuilding process is biased and selective. One could argue that the UN involvement should limit the Russian and Iranian domination over the reconstruction projects, but this isn’t entirely true. Their influence is present regardless of UN involvement, and this involvement just serves to give false legitimacy and credibility to the regime. The displaced population isn’t allowed back in the city and east Aleppo is completely abandoned, but rebuilding the ‘significant’ half of Aleppo is what the UN and its partners want. It’s not a matter of perspectives here, it’s more about how repulsively prejudiced this whole thing is.

With many projects undertaken by Asma al-Assad’s charity foundation and its UN partners (Beals 2017), funds are being generated in order to burnish the regime’s murderous face and promote its secular, civilized, necktie brutality.

UNDP and UNESCO are working closely with the Syrian regime and its administrative. Their role in the reconstruction procedures is still unclear, but the argument they are using provoked some controversy, especially that they claim not to be working with the regime, but with the ‘people’. Which people are they talking about, and why does it sound like they don’t already know that the government controls all of the country’s institutions?

The Syrians who fled the country escaping the regime’s brutality aren’t considered “people”, and the claims that the reconstruction is for reconciliation doesn’t make much sense: the ones who need to be reconciled aren’t even there to begin with and won’t even be considered.

It is true that rebuilding the country requires local expertise and would generate plenty of job opportunities, but not all Syrians are offered the chance to participate: unless you support the regime and its corruption, you’re not welcome.

WHAT HAS TO BE SAID AND DONE

History has told many stories, but are we to learn something? It could be said with certainty that the past keeps repeating itself in the most horrific of manners: dictators come and go, cities fall and rise again. Why is the Syrian story so special? Well, it isn’t, the only significant thing is all these unused international legal documents: if we are to read those dealing with human rights, cities’ rights, and so on, one would be astonished. However, the question remains: when will these legal documents be implemented in the Syrian case? When will the international community stop waving these away in order to protect a killer’s government?

Aleppo has entered a new era, and history is definitely written by winners. The objective story doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Yet this is not the case with everyone. We still care, and by ‘we’, I mean the Syrians who believed in a better future. The Russians are there to stay, so are the Iranians, the Turks and the Americans. How could our story be written by them? Will the following generations read the epic story of the many Syrians who died believing in a dream, a dream that cost us more than souls, it cost us our cities, our memories and everything we held dear? The answer is no, they will hear a story of victory, a story of a modern dictator who saved Syria from terrorists. This is the most popular story nowadays anyway.

If we were to discuss options and propose solutions for the obstacles facing the Syrians when deciding to return to their country, I could think of one solution: the regime has to be overthrown and justice should be served. Those who committed crimes and have stains of blood on their hands should be punished so that Syrians can restore faith in the global justice system.

Anything else would be fictitious and unfair for many Syrians, and unless there’s a way to guarantee the safety of those who want to return, many won’t even consider doing so.

It’s safe to say that al-Assad doesn’t want any of his opponents back, but he’d go as far as suggesting that many of the Syrian refugees are terrorists and pose a threat to the Western world (Nelson 2017), supposing he thinks it’s better when the hosting countries send them back and let them languish in his prisons to die instead.

The logic is simple: if you want to get Syrians back to their country, stop supporting al-Assad and take your troops out of their country. You can’t keep empowering al-Assad and his regime and expect people to return voluntarily, knowing that nothing awaits them except suppression, imprisonment and death.

The Syrian revolution was the country’s chance for a reformation. Now that the revolution has failed to achieve its goals and objectives, the future of Syria doesn’t look so bright, especially given that regime change would require not only the downfall of al-Assad as a person but that the whole regime’s intelligence agencies, security and military system be altered. The chain of corruption has been forming in the country for almost half a century, and it isn’t easy (if not impossible) to break. The security grip is only tightening, and the brutality of the regime has no limits.

References

Beals, E. 2017: UN allowing Assad government to take lead in rebuilding Aleppo. Fox News [Online] 16 November. Available at: <http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/11/16/un-allowing-assad-government-to-take-lead-in-rebuilding-aleppo.html> [Accessed 05 February 2018]

Nelson, N. 2017: Syria’s Assad: Some refugees are terrorists. POLITICO [Online] 02 October. Available at: <https://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/bashar-assad-syria-refugees-terrorists-yahoo-interview-234890> [Accessed 01 February 2018]

Rodrigues, J.  2011: 1982: Syria’s President Hafez al-Assad crushes rebellion in Hama. The Guardian [Online] 01 August. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/from-the-archive-blog/2011/aug/01/hama-syria-massacre-1982-archive> [Accessed 05 February 2018]

UN, 1948: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [Pdf] UNITED NATIONS – Documents. Available at: <http://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Documents/UDHR_Translations/eng.pdf> [Accessed 03 February 2018]

UNHCR, 2017: Syria Emergency. [Online] 07. December. Available at: <http://www.unhcr.org/syria-emergency.html> [Accessed 09 February 2018]

The post Should Syria’s Displaced Return appeared first on The Aleppo Project.

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يجب الاشارة لاطروحة الطالب عبدالرحمن بكر عن إعادة تصميم ساحة سعدالله الجابري في مدينة حلب. نقاشه حول الأهمية التاريخية للساحة في مدينة حلب تضمن صور وخرائط اسرة من عشرينيات القرن الماضي كانت وبشكل خاصة غنية بالمعلومات. ومع ذلك, كان من الأمثل التطرق للوضع الحالي للساحة بشكل مفصل, خصوصا عند ذكر الدمار في عام 2012. على أي حال, أردنا أن نسلط الضوء على تصميم بكر المبدع لإعادة الحياة للساحة من خلال تصميم من مرحلتين. تركز المرحلة الاولى على توفير حلول ودعامات مؤقتة للساحة, من ضمنها بناء نقاط للتجمع و معرض خارجي و مشاتل متحركة للاشجار و تعتمد تلك المشاتل على مواد معاد استخدامها. بشكل هام, يشجع إقتراح بكر المشاركة المدنية في عملية إعادة التصميم مما يتيح الفرصة للسكان المحليين بأن يصمموا وسطهم العمراني. تتضمن المرحلة الثانية من إقتراحه المبتكر لإعادة ترميم الساحة منهجا جديدا للتصميم, والذي يهدف لوصل الحديقة العامة مع ساحة سعدالله الجابري من خلال بناء قنوات ماء ضيقة تصل إلى نهر قويق.

حاز عبد الرحمن على شهادة الدراسات العليا في الهندسة المعمارية من جامعة ساينت إستيفان في قسم عمارة المناظر الطبيعية والعمرانية.

لمتابعة المزيد من تصاميم عبد الرحمن الرجاء الضعط هنا

The post إعادة تصميم ساحة سعدالله الجابري في حلب appeared first on The Aleppo Project.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Offspring of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are at a heightened risk of statelessness due to barriers they face in the process of birth registration. A series of 2015 changes in residency renewal requirements and the discontinuation of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) registration directly led to this increased risk among Syrian refugee children. While already part of a generation with protracted refugee status, children who do not get registered will face a lifetime of challenges accessing basic human rights, protections, and services.

The right to nationality is particularly important considering the facilitation of future return to Syria. Likewise, addressing the issue of Syrian children at risk of being stateless is relevant to a larger campaign launched by the UNHCR to eliminate statelessness within 10 years. The following paper highlights these motivations and outlines the various barriers to birth registration for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. In particular, the paper addresses those barriers attributed to the relevant costs, prohibitive for a population that is primarily living under the poverty line, as well as risks associated with parents’ irregular status. In addition, it will analyze the barriers with international human rights standards, focusing on violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and considering the relevant actions outlined in the UNHCR plan to eliminate statelessness. Upon providing a successful case study of a large-scale effort to register Syrian refugee births in Jordan, the paper will conclude with a series of recommendations modeled after the protection-sensitive, human rights-based, and cooperative approach applied in Jordan.

To download the full report please click here.

This paper was presented at the fourth Lemkin Reunion, held in February 2018 and organized by the Shattuck Center at the School of Public Policy, Central European University in Budapest.

The post Stateless in Exile, Unrecognized at Home: Barriers to Registering Syrian Newborns in Lebanon appeared first on The Aleppo Project.

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