Monday, June 17, 2024

A fire in Saruja’s Damascus neighborhood…a different story from “Little Istanbul”


Fires in the old neighborhoods of Damascus have become a recurring scene every year, and although the official version of the circumstances of these incidents is “going in one direction”, the Syrian opposition has become accustomed to it over the years. They present a “different story” that is tainted with suspicion and thereby make allegations based on what happened “really happened”.

The accusations were often linked to Iran and the Syrian regime’s “hidden goals”, which was reflected in the wake of Monday’s flames that engulfed several ancient and ancient houses in the Damascus neighborhood of Saroja, including the palace of Abdul-al Rahman Pasha al-Yusef, the second Prince of Hajj during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid.

The Syrian government did not release the cause of the massive fire, while the semi-official Al-Watan newspaper reported that “investigations into the issue are underway”, and Damascus Governor Muhammad Tariq Girishadi said there were “casualties”. The actual value of the damage is considered historical rather than material.”

As he put it, what the fire left behind was “incalculable material, especially the old Arab houses which are our civilization, culture and heritage”.

The Saroja fire, considered one of the most important old neighborhoods in Syria’s capital Damascus, comes after a series of fires that have hit nearby neighborhoods in recent years.

In April 2016, a fire destroyed more than 80 shops in al-Azrooni market behind the mosque near the shrine of Mrs. Ruqayyah, and in July 2017 in Bab al-Jabiya area (The Wool Market) in Damascus, and similar incidents were recorded later, in 2020 in the capital. Including hitting one of the most popular commercial markets, Al-Busuriya district.

“Legacy Turned to Ashes”

The old neighborhoods of Damascus hold great symbolism among the capital’s population and Syrians in general, and are seen as a heritage image documenting a civilization that spread over previous decades, so fires often excavate “deep scars.” They cry over “past memories” that have turned to ashes.

The above reflected after images and video footage documenting the fire’s losses in the Sarujah neighborhood circulated, as the fire destroyed more than 15 archaeological sites, including part of Abd al-Rahman Pasha al-Youssef’s palace and house. In addition to the House of Volumes and Manuscripts, Khaled al-Azmin, one of the founders of the Syrian state and the most famous prime minister in its history, Syrian archeology and historical maps.

Abd al-Rahman Pasha al-Yusef’s palace is considered “a unique historical architectural masterpiece in the city of Damascus”, according to Syrian historian and researcher Abd al-Razzaq Mowas, explaining that “it was built during the reign of of the Ottoman authorities in 1866, Abdul-Aziz Khan.”

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The palace is considered one of the most beautiful Damascene houses of the Ottoman era and is spread over an area of ​​2000 square meters.

Pasha al-Yusef Shami was the Amir of the Pilgrimage and held his position between 1892 and 1918, heading a number of government positions during the reign of King Faisal, including President of the Council of Representatives, the Senate, and the Shura Council. 1919.

According to the Syrian historian Mowaz, his palace, which was consumed by fire, was distinguished by its “beauty and magnificent architectural details”, especially since Pasha al-Yusef made a lot of efforts to decorate and expand it, and did not change it. Not only is it a major historical site, but “a center of beauty and architectural art in the heart of the capital, Damascus.”

The Syrian engineer, Mazar Sharbaji, points out that “Sarujah has a different story, different from other neighborhoods in the capital city of Damascus” and says that it was “the first city outside the market during the days of Ottoman rule.” “

The neighborhood is also considered “the residential center of the Ottoman rule in Damascus and the residence of the leaders at the time”.

Sharbaji adds on the “Al-Hurrah” website: “The neighborhood was called Little Istanbul. In urban terms it consists of a straight street, and most of the houses in it are decorated with Turkish images, decorations and paintings from the cities of Yalova, Bursa and others.”

According to the Syrian engineer, ownership of real estate in Saroja has not been changed since Ottoman times, and “if an owner there wants to buy or sell a house, he is obliged to look at the Ottoman title document.”

“In the past there have been efforts by the regime to improve and de-clutter the area, the first step of which was the opening of Al-Thawra Street and the construction of modern buildings in the surrounding area.”

Sharbaji doesn’t rule out that “fires hitting old neighborhoods are fabricated on the grounds that they could be the beginning of an erasure of troubled real estate in the area.”

The fires are unlikely to have been caused by causes related to “electrical short circuits” previously pointed out by Syrian regime media, with the electricity network barely reaching the city’s neighborhoods and in some “non-existent”.

Syrian opposition often accuses Iran of being behind the fire, on the grounds that “the old Damascus area has religious status for Iranians.”

However, the above has not yet been confirmed by any sources at the time when the government of the Syrian regime is dealing with a single policy, announcing the extent of losses and damages and the efforts of firefighters.

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What did Zorian say?

Ahmad Mowaz Al-Khatib, the first leader of the Syrian opposition coalition, wrote on Twitter: “The systematic destruction of Syria and its identity, destruction from destruction of land and people, men, women and children, trees and stones. Half of Saroja market burned yesterday with its main features.”

He continued: “The most important of them is the Center for Historical Documents, and it contains half of the history of Syria (five million documents) and the house of Abd al-Rahman Pasha al-Yusef, the Emir of Hajj in the Ottoman Empire.”

Abdul Hadi al-Ani, a Syrian content producer, added: “Historical documents and a traditional house in Sarujah have also been reduced to ashes. The place is visited by old people and people interested in genealogy, documents and extracting family trees. For example, the lineage goes back to the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wasallam.”

Al-Ani continued: “Who is in the interest of all these documents being burned? Who is in the interest of all this historical information about the disappearance of the people of the Levant?”

Rasheed Kamal wrote on Facebook: “A lot has been written about the Saruja fire, from lamentations to accusations of a conspiracy to blame the fire for the purpose of selling the region to the Iranians. I read everything, felt everything. It was written like a story about the whole of Syria, but compressed in time and space. .”

And Kamal opined that “when factors such as old building, historical neglect, encroachments, dominance of the place, lack of planning come together, it is only a matter of time before everything burns down”.

And he added, “Sarujah or something else, but the whole of Syria. We have no plan, no readiness, no personnel to manage it urbanally, and we have to surrender to the idea of ​​failure and hierarchical accumulation. Corruption is the result of fire once in Sarujah and once in all of Syria.” .”

However, the Syrian writer and historian Saad Fanzah expressed a different opinion on this: “Whoever started the Sarujah fire had previously demolished and relocated the house of Haqi al-Azm in the Ottoman Bank and Midat ​​Pasha market. Its architectural and decorative valuables and sold it to Qatar.”

“Today, the plan to destroy the Ottoman historical monuments of Damascus seems to be in favor of the invaders of the new era, and it includes their tools and agents,” Fanza added, citing people’s testimonies, adding that “nobody denies it.” Selling his shops and archaeological houses to an Iranian buyer would burn down the whole neighborhood.”

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“Breaking the neck of property”

And Damascus Governor Girishadi noted that “the reason for the spread of fire in Saroja is due to the presence of highly flammable materials (flames) which are considered to burn faster than gasoline, and there are constant warnings.”

“One of the Arab houses belonging to the antiquities and museums caught fire because it houses many professional workshops,” he pointed out.

For his part, the Syrian researcher, Muhammad Munir al-Faqeer, explains that the fire, which occurred earlier or engulfed the ancient houses in Saroja, “occurs, either real or imagined, in areas close to Iranian holy shrines.”

He told Al-Hura: “Iran is interested in having assets near these limits that it claims.”

He added, “Homeowners in the old neighborhoods of Damascus are forced to sell to the Iranians, and if they refuse, they are pressured one way or the other, leading to fires.”

The restoration process requires “difficult permits because the area is purely archaeological, so this complicated cycle eventually forces the homeowner to sell under pressure,” Poor believes.

The Syrian researcher adds that the fires spread in a line stretching from the east of the Umayyad Mosque to Saroja, and that they were fabricated.

This area is associated with Iranian shrines including “Sayida Ruqayyah” and “Mashhad al-Husayn”.

Al-Faqeer, on the other hand, continues after his question that “there is data indicating the activities overseen by the Damascus Governorate to re-inspect and evaluate the properties of the old neighborhoods of Damascus, especially those of travelers and emigrants.”

According to the Syrian researcher, “There are other data about real estate and efforts to play with maps to identify and release assets, and it is related to the presence of the property geographically based on its location, registration, shape, image. , ownership and who owns it.”

And he adds, “What’s happening with the fire is that the Damascus governorate is trying to break the property’s neck. An antique is ready for a building.”

The Syrian engineer, Sharbaji, believes that, as he puts it, “God cannot have fire,” and that “there is great negligence in the regime, and the fabrication of incidents is not from the direction of the president, but from the security services.”

Sharbaji believes that “the area is archaeologically documented and registered with UNESCO, and the government should protect it through precautions and procedures”, and feels that “the government should take responsibility for the heritage”.

Rolf Colon
Rolf Colon
"Creator. Award-winning problem solver. Music evangelist. Incurable introvert."

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