Waad Delivers a Reconstructed HARET HREIK



I recently drove around Haret Hreik and I would like to report that most if not all of it is rebuilt. In a paper, I once tackled the reconstruction process of Haret Hreik, so part of the following are extracts of it.

This blog entry investigates the reconstruction of Haret Hreik and critically scrutinizes the type of organizations that took part in the process. The blog entry will assess the organizations involved based on their relationships with one another, the social agents who intervened in the reconstruction in addition to the formal and informal rules that they accepted or ignored (building regulations, etc.) the institutions on which they pleaded with (state , religious customary geographic political) and their results according to my analysis of the situation.


 


The context:

Haret Hreik is a southern suburb of Beirut that is made up of a mixed residential and commercial fabric housing a relatively heterogeneous shia-muslim community and ministers that support Hizballah.

Haret Hreik before its destruction in 2006 emerged in mainly three different phases.

1- Historically it was known as a school district of christian missionaries. It was also a green space within the city which made it desirable for middle and high income residents.

2- During the civil war the composition of the population in this neighborhood transformed drastically. The near-20 year civil war saw the division of Lebanon into two religiously homogeneous units and the majority of Haret Hreik’s christian occupants were displaced and never returned.

3- In the years that followed the end of the war, the shiite community of Lebanon chose to live there and developed the area into a vibrant commercial and residential enclave. The once low-density green suburb of Beirut became an area dense with buildings most of which were 'against' building laws and planning criteria.(Fawaz2007) During the 1990s, Haret Hreik housed social, religious and economic institutions which transformed it into the Hizballah base that it is famous for, the state within the state.(Fawaz&Ghandour2007)

Original link to photo http://goo.gl/Z2y2t

In addition to claiming the lives of 1183civilians(30%children),4054 injured and displacing 255,794 citizens, the Israeli war on Lebanon in July 2006 destroyed most of the Lebanese infrastructure, several towns in the south of Lebanon and the Southern suburbs of Beirut.(RLn.d, HRCn.d.)

This entry, however, will only discuss the southern suburb of Beirut(Haret Hreik) primarily due to the specific reconstruction process, its repercussion on both the local and national political sphere, its location in an urban area, and its symbolic importance to Hizballah.

It was reported that 265 residential, commercial and office buildings were severely destroyed or razed to the ground in Haret Hreik. “The municipality reported 3119 housing units and 1610 commercial units (stores and offices) were completely demolished. In total at least 20,000 residents of Haret Hreik lost their homes.” (Fawaz&Ghandour2007)



Unknown source (if you can identify  it please indicate)

The predominantly Shi’ite inhabitants were left homeless and angry at the conscious and strategic destruction of their homes, memories, loved ones and livelihood. Schools and parks were taken as make-shift homes and the Haret Hreik refugees were left with little food, clothes or services. With the end of the 36-day war, the shock of the devastation was made worse with the fact that no one had plans.


The central government and Hizballah


 



Reconstruction phase 1: 

In the first few days after the truce, the Lebanese government declared that it will rebuild and recover Haret Hreik, the 'state within the state'. This area and its occupants have always felt excluded from the Lebanese community thus strengthening their support for Hezbollah. The importance of this declaration by the Prime Minster, and not the Hezbollah minister was a clear political challenge to Hezbollah, transcending Hezbollah's strong patron-client relationship and providing for a group Lebanese governments have historically excluded. (Nasrallah2006)

Organizations involved & their relationships with one another

The government's words were followed by unpublicized action including setting up water and electricity lines as well as cleaning the rubble. The HRC also initiated a generous cash compensation process. (Al-Manar2006)

Cash compensations and their problematic were not discussed. Instead the transfer upon the displaced all the risks that arise from the market use of cash to access and replace the lost assets were put solely on the displaced! (Cernea, 2002). Low-interest subsidized programs and transitional rent apartments were never discussed. Neither was there any debate about the public domain, its improvement and compensation.

Even though Hezbollah was well represented in government, the war increased its power tremendously. It was the first time in history that an Arab entity was able to really challenge, harm or even threaten the Israeli army. Despite the devastation, many of its supporters in Lebanon and the Middle East considered it to be a victory. Having proven their military strength it was time to continue their "divine war" politically.


265 residential, commercial and office buildings were severely destroyed or razed to the ground in Haret Hreik


Hezbollah, in my opinion,  was at a crossroad; the first path was to work and empower a central government and continue their integration within it or to continue their own empowerment and pushing their agendas. They chose the latter and the race for reconstruction and their war against the Lebanese state's political system intensified.
 

Reconstruction phase 2:

Several different organizations exist within the government that could have strategically taken part in resettling the displaced. Instead, public sector efforts focused on the development of surveys and the form in which compensations were to be disseminated. It appeared to the public that the relevant public agencies did not have reconstruction strategies for the neighborhood on the agenda. (fawaz2007)


In the days that followed the launch of the competition between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah, Al-Manar TV, the Hezbollah backed and funded station, aired a live interview joining the heads of the CDR, order of engineers and architects, the Haret Hreik Municipality, a member of the organized civil society in the neighborhood and a number of residents. The dis-junctures in the perception of the reconstruction project was obvious and highlighted inadequacy of the government in this process.


Municipality

According to the local government leader, a Hizballah member, whose role was “to bridge between the government and Hezbollah…the government had not done enough”. (Al-Manar2006) The government did not challenge the Municipality’s comments in spite of the fact that they funded the cleanup. The government did not consciously decide to work through the municipality even though it was powerful and legitimate to the residents of Haret Hreik.


CDR

When asked by journalists about the role of civilians defining their homes and spaces , the head of the CDR replied that the parliament is enough of a representative. What made matters worse, the head of the order of the engineers proposed setting-up a private company to take care of the situation. Will a private company  after profit be the right decision for such a devastating situation? This intensified the government’s weakened position within this symbolic reconstruction race.

One of the obstacles that prevented the CDR from taking control and action swiftly was the building code and law dilemma. The area was built with several illegalities. In the process of regularization these were paid for and registered. The dilemma arose of how to rebuild. Do you rebuild the illegalities or change them? The changes will mostly cause decrease in building footprints and heights which results in displacement. Both the government and Hezbollah did not want this scenario for different reasons.

The prioritization of the law regardless of its implications and the planners’ lack of intrest or even acknowledgment of the planning decisions and their political outcomes has never been more visible.  Moreover it was clear that  the government had decided to continue its long history of allowing the private market to provide and exclude in the famous historic reconstruction projects. There was neither a clear nor efficient plan to provide for this community that has relied on Hezbollah.
I re-graphed these based on  Harb 2003
Meanwhile, Hezbollah exacerbated the situation by actively disregarding the government’s role and obligations. Within a few days, the remaining buildings of Haret Hreik were suddenly covered with huge posters, including one of Sayyed Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, reading “It’s going to come back more beautiful than it was. That’s a promise from the honest Secretary-General.”

Hezbollah’s second victory and their reconstruction maneuvers

The effectiveness of the system based on informal relationships and rules, local reputation and personal relationships with the individuals within the neighborhood confirmed Hezbollah’s success. For starters, residents did not have to prove they lived in one of the demolished buildings. The compensation distributors within Hezbollah, already knew who, because they were camped in the area with the money. Secondly, the party had already found apartments and rented them for people that hadn’t. Given the vast amount of homeless families, the demand and cost for rented apartments rose dramatically thus rendering the once-generous compensation from the government hardly enough.

Hezbollah then created from their building construction NGO, a private company called Al-Waad-Al-Sadiq to monopolize the neighborhood reconstruction project. This allowed them to also detach themselves from the municipality thus ensuring that their success has no relationship to the government and its efforts. In addition with the creation of the company, under the Lebanese law the real estate company has the right to buy all public land in the area its working in!

The company’s aim was to preserve the previous social fabric but with buildings of a higher quality and public spaces. The goal was to build swiftly while avoiding all the legal entanglements and social complications by avoiding major changes. To have their apartments back, residents had to sign off their rights to the company. (Zraket2008)

However, despite their praise-worthy reconstruction strategies,time-lines and studies Hezbollah and Waad al Sadiq left no room for participation




The space of contestation was not maintained, and room for civil society to maneuver between two powerful actors was minimized. Instead the state within the state is rebuilt stronger with greater dependency by civil society on it. The government and its desire to include and create bridges of trust between it and a large fraction of its community diminished due to un-strategic action and disregard to the municipality.

Unknown source (if you can identify  it please indicate)

This was not about finding another apartment but about the destruction of people’s homes, livelihoods and neighborhood. This uncreative and interactive approach to the community, context and event needs to be changed if the government aims to include and provide for its citizens. In addition it is important to recognize that the planning department’s failure to tackle this project in a more inclusive and socially just manner has affected the central government’s position in terms of civil society backing. Therefore the restructuring of the planning and policy department will be a political investment and a strategic decision by the central government.

Al Waad al Sadiq ( http://www.waad-rebuild.com/competedproject.asp ) , the name of the private company ‘started ‘ by Hizballah , is an Arabic term that means the truthful promise. As you can see in the aerials below the neighborhood is mostly rebuilt and the promise was and is truthful, successful and impressive. I hope one day our public institutions will be so dedicated to provide for their citizens!


Google Earth 2005, 2006 (after the war) , 2011



References

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Alagha J.,(2006),The Shifts in Hizballah Ideology: Religious Ideology, Political Ideology, and Political Program Amsterdam University Press
 

Allers, J. Sep 26, 2006 “Hezbollah construction wing leaves government in the dust” in Finalcall.com news, http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/article_2940.shtml last accessed feb 2008

Al-Manar TV, 2006, dialogues “the government”, the “ruling class”, and the civil society in the reconstruction of Lebanon, an example of reconstruction? Aired on TV live 17/08/06 (in Arabic) نقاش "الدولة" و"السلطة الحاكمة" والمشاركة المدنية في إعادة بناء لبنان: نموذج لإعادة الإعمار؟


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