By: Mahmoud Al-Adawi

The devastated neighborhood of Dahiyah is experiencing a rapid and sporadic reconstruction. Much of the development is illegal and has led to violent clashes between residents and the security forces.

This morning I went out for a walk to the neighbouring areas by the airport highway, across and adjacent to the camp. If you heard, this is the area that has been talked about on the news in the past few days, with regards to the illegal building rush; this is also the area where there were clashes between the security forces who had come to try to demolish these new constructions and the people who eventually drove them out.  The episode resulted in two kids being shot to death during the turmoil and a number of other persons were wounded from both sides. Then, of course, the security forces disappeared and no one really knows who shot the kids – each side accuses the other.

Honestly, I couldn’t believe the extent of the construction going on at first. I mean, I know that some people had taken advantage of the war situation to do some construction or renovation, but this area has literally been completely reshaped – it has taken on an entirely different image. Almost everyone is building either one or many extra floors, or people are simply constructing entirely new buildings on existing empty lots. The area seems lawless or in a state of insurgency. I don’t mean that there are armed men in the streets or anything of that nature, but you do get the feeling that no one can stop people from engaging in this illegal construction right now.

These days, it is as though Dahiyah were an independent space: during the day when there is traffic congestion, you can see Hizbullah members standing at crossroads organising the traffic. I went for a walk in Dahiyah as well; most of the rubble from the buildings that were completely flattened has been cleared, and there are fewer trucks and bulldozers now. The buildings that were only partially damaged seem to require a greater amount of time, effort and equipment to fix and many of these buildings have not been touched yet. The more rubble is taken away and the cleaner the area becomes, the more one discovers the extent to which the area is devastated. The hot weather and the gusts of wind create a sense that one is walking in a desert. The white ash and fine dust from the ground concrete cover the ground in a white-grayish sheet that reflects and intensifies the sunlight. You can find a few people walking around in Dahiyah, but nothing compared to its previous state or to the adjacent neighbourhoods that weren’t bombed. If you got deep into the most heavily bombarded areas, it is like walking through a forest of mangled and twisted steel, because that’s how they are clearing the rubble – they separate the steel from the concrete and pile them in different spots.

It is still even possible to find some collapsed buildings where there is still fire and smoke fuming from the shelters beneath them. The one building of this kind that I saw was most probably a sewing factor, because I saw lots of coloured thread rolls scattered among the shelter’s ruins and the smoke smelt like burning fabric.

With regards to this area deep inside Dahiyah you can state without exaggeration that it has been annihilated. And I don’t only mean the buildings on top of the earth, but literally everything below the earth – it’s as though it was blown upside down. The sewers were uncovered and the asphalt is totally gone. Despite this, the few buildings that are still standing on the periphery of this area and that are still habitable are slowly being repaired. Walls and balconies that were blown up are being replaced, like patches in a torn cloth. These repairs are not going on all at the same time though, and it is not uncommon to see a renovated, newly repainted apartment with clear signs of life, while the other apartments in the same building remain scarred by gapping holes and seared in black soot, with jaggedly broken windows that remind one of a mouth with missing teeth.

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