Who said civil society can’t have an impact in Damascus.
Plans to destroy decades old shops in Amara caused outrage last year. It was all in the name of progress – knock-down the shops, and widen the road. That would mean less traffic in the Old City. But critics said it would damage the city walls.
It was part of a grand scheme to eventually ban traffic from the whole of the Old City. But that can’t be done until there is an alternative – at the moment, the roads outside the northern city walls are chaotic.
Shopkeepers were furious at the plans, a Facebook and Blogger campaign was launched. That led to a petition. And eventually journalists got wind of the proposals and it made the international news. Then the bombshell – just months before Damascus began its year as Arab Capital of Culture, UNESCO threatened to withdraw Damascus’s World Heritage Site status unless more is done to protect the Old City.
Quietly, the plans were dropped – thirty years after they first surfaced. Victory for the Old City. Although the net has stayed very quiet about the change of plan.
It seems the price to pay is that traffic isn’t going to be banned from the Old City – and that could end up being far more damaging than the Amara proposals.
On the other side of the Old City, something equally destructive has been happening for the past year – more on that soon.