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

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    City could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters

    Turkey Aims New Crackdown at Journalists, Academics, Airline Workers

    Ankara continues targeting people allegedly linked to exiled cleric, who it says led the failed military coup

    Pakistan Ready to Inaugurate Rebuilt Afghan Border Crossing

    Construction of Torkham Gate triggered deadly clashes between Pakistani and Afghan military forces

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora