News / Middle East

    Iranians Fuel Property Frenzy in Syria

    FILE - New buildings are seen in Damascus, where the price of property has been rising sharply.
    FILE - New buildings are seen in Damascus, where the price of property has been rising sharply.
    Sirwan KajjoMehdi Jedinia

    The Iranian government is encouraging prominent Tehran developers to buy property in well-off Shi’ite majority neighborhoods in Syria’s capital, analysts and construction industry sources in Tehran said.

    “Entire neighborhoods have been purchased by Iran,” Syrian economist Khorshid Alika told VOA.

    During the early days of Syria’s civil war, Tehran kept Iran’s involvement in Syria mostly from public view. In recent months, though, the government-run media have been reporting how Iran has teamed up with Russia to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against opposition rebels and the Islamic State group.

    Tehran has reportedly increased the size of its Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria, sending as many as 3,500 fighters to the front lines to defend Zeinab Shrine, a holy site for Shi’ite Muslims in the southern suburbs of Damascus.

    Market inflation

    According to news reports, rich and conservative Iranian business people with ties to the government are buying expensive properties and lavish homes in the affluent districts of Damascus. The high demand for property has contributed to price increases in Syria’s real estate market, experts said.

    “Five million houses have been destroyed in the civil war. The increased Iranian demand to buy land and properties has naturally led to more inflation in the [real estate] market,” Alika said.

    Iran has reportedly relied on a prominent Shi’ite cleric, Abdullah Nazzam, to arrange its real estate dealings in Syria. Using his religious authority in Damascus and ties with the Syrian government, Nazzam has persuaded residents to sell their properties to Iranian businessmen.

    “Some Iranian businessmen have been offering huge sums of money to buy Syrian houses near a holy Shi'ite site,” a Damascus landowner recently told a pro-opposition Syrian news site, All For Syria.

    He said some owners, including himself, had refused to sell their properties, but under Syrian government pressure, they had no choice but to accept the offers, the resident said.  

    Alika, who studies the trends of local economies in Syria’s civil war, said Iranians tend to buy properties in areas of strategic importance.

    “They are buying houses and lands near Shi’ite religious sites in Damascus,” he told VOA by phone. 

    Iran’s interest in owning real estate in Syria is not new, analysts said, but it increased after the beginning of the rebel uprising in 2011. 

    “The [Iranian] regime has always been active in the real estate market in Syria, but their boost became more visible,” said journalist Ali Nawaf, a Damascus native living in Turkey.

    “After the [Syrian] revolution [in 2011], Iran realized that buying properties in Damascus and elsewhere would give it yet another excuse to continue its interference in Syria,” he told VOA.

    FILE - Members of a construction crew work at a site for new apartment buildings in Damascus, Syria.
    FILE - Members of a construction crew work at a site for new apartment buildings in Damascus, Syria.

    Go to Syria, workers told

    Iran's government is urging Iranian construction workers to go to Syria.

    “A few months ago I was invited to a work-related gathering, and a fellow veteran contractor with strong ties with [Iranian] authorities informed us that there are very lucrative opportunities for builders in Damascus,” Amir Maghsoudloo, an Iranian construction contractor in Tehran, told VOA.

    “When we asked about the security of the site, he said that the zone is even more secure than Tehran,” he said. “I turned the offer down due to family and security reasons, but, two other fellow contractors, as far as I know, got some projects in Damascus.”

    Bricklayer Tahir Esmaili, an Afghan national who worked in Iran before moving to Syria in 2015, told VOA some Afghan workers in Iran had been offered construction jobs in Damascus.

    Roughly 3 million Afghans live in Iran. Most settled there after fleeing war and conflict in their homeland. Many Afghans in Iran lack basic rights and live without a formal status. Most earn low wages in Iran, making Syria a lucrative alternative.

    “There are quite a few projects running near [the holy Shi'ite site of] Sayyida Rouqqaya and the Iranian Embassy,” Esmaili said. “These projects are being dominantly run by Afghan nationals from Iran.”

    Wider area of control

    By buying properties throughout Syria, Iran is seeking to safeguard its presence in the war-torn country, even after a potential collapse of Assad’s government, experts said.

    “Iran’s goal of owning property in Syria goes beyond business interest,” said Iranian analyst Fariborz Saremi told VOA from Germany. “Controlling Syria politically, militarily and economically, through real estate, would only make Tehran in a better position to stay in control of other parts of the Middle East.”

    Damascus isn’t the only area in Syria where Iranians have been buying properties, analysts said.

    In the central city of Homs, local activists said more Iranian business people and companies are looking for new opportunities after the Syrian military and its Lebanese Hezbollah alllies took control of the city in late 2015.

    “The [Syrian] regime wants Iranians to invest in Homs, because it connects Damascus to the Alawite heartland in the coastal region,” Nawaf said.

    And with more Iranian-owned properties, Iran would have more incentives to maintain a stronger military presence in Homs and beyond, analysts said.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Annonymous II
    March 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    No mention of the natural gas pipeline in this article? Is not that the major drow to a presence in Syria?

    by: Anonymous
    March 23, 2016 11:24 PM
    So Iran is the only country who is actually constructing instead of destructing in Syria.

    Destruction is the business of savage Turks.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora