Note: This article was amended in March 2023 to update the cost of building each house.
You may have seen the horrific images of UN tents and shelters in Syria being flooded with freezing muddy water over the winter and we are sure you feel as passionately as we do that a a safe, warm home should be a right enjoyed by all, rather than a luxury preserved for the lucky few.
We've now been given the opportunity to build homes for displaced families in Idlib, northern Syria. We are honoured to support the blessed lands of Shaam with this project, and we urge you to donate and raise awareness!
Alhamdulillah, you've been supporting Allah's 'best servants' for almost a decade, donating generously to people within Syria as well as Syrian refugees. You've given emergency food and essential supplies, supported schools and vocational centres, set up a bread factory, and provided medical care and winter relief.
Now, for less than what many of us would spend on a new sofa or wardrobe, you can house a whole family. Want to know more?
What is the Syria Housing Project?
Our partners on the ground have been given over 100 acres of land in Idlib, in the safe zone near the Turkish border. They are using this land to build 50,000 brick houses for displaced Syrian families, who are currently living in makeshift shelters or out in the open.
Each brick house is 38m² and includes two main rooms, a kitchen, a washroom and a small yard. The houses will also be furnished. The total cost of building each home is just £2,000.
This is the first time these kinds of shelters will be provided to Syrians who are internally displaced. Currently, most families are living in tents or makeshift shelters. Their washrooms are outside the camps, and many of them don’t have ventilation or proper security. Some families are even living out in the open.
The Syrian Housing Project is building safe, fully-furnished brick houses for these IDPs which will sit within a wider residential community.
Where are the new houses?
As mentioned before, the houses are being built in the safe zone in Idlib, Syria. The local administration has provided this land to various NGOs solely for humanitarian purposes. The entire housing project is under the supervision of AFAD - the Disaster Management Authority of Turkey.
Currently, the safe zone is filled with IDP camps and families living out in the open. The Syria Housing Project aims to construct an entire residential complex for these IDPs. This would include 50,000 brick houses, schools and medical facilities, as well as infrastructure like roads, a sewage system and garbage disposal. A borehole has already been constructed at the site: it is 600 metres deep and, like the rest of the infrastructure, will most likely be powered by solar electricity.
These services will be provided and supervised by the relevant Turkish ministries and the local administration, with contributions by INGOs, NGOs and charities, both Turkish and international. For example, the Ministry of Health is developing the structure of the schools.
Medical and teaching staff will be made up of both Syrian IDPs as well as Turkish workers. Although the project will be supervised by the authorities, it also aims to create local employment and livelihoods, while ensuring all services are run by qualified people.
In short, the Syrian Housing Project is not just about building shelters. It is about completely transforming the living situation of the displaced families in the safe zone.
Who are these houses for?
Many displaced Syrians are currently moving through Idlib, escaping from violence elsewhere in Syria. Since December 2019, ongoing airstrikes in northern Syria have forced at least 1 million people to flee their homes. Many of them have sought refuge in existing IDP camps in Idlib, where resources are already stretched desperately thin.
On top of that, entire swaths of the camps in Idlib have been severely damaged by terrible flooding, destroying thousands of family tents. The Syria Housing Project will shelter these IDPs. Some of the houses will be for people who have settled in the camps already, and some will be for families who are currently living in the open fields. There is also potential to settle people who are travelling into Idlib from elsewhere in Syria.
As 80% of those displaced are women and children, our partner on the ground is prioritising sheltering widows with children, as well as disabled people.
Why is this project so important?
This project is significant for three main reasons:
Firstly, the current living situation of Syrian IDPs in Idlib is completely inadequate and unsustainable. Some of them are living out in the open, at the mercy of the elements, with not even the semblance of a shelter. They are literally sleeping beneath the trees, forced to leave their homes and livelihoods behind just to survive.
Meanwhile, 2.5 million people within the major camps are living in makeshift shelters, at risk of flooding, fire and exposure to below-freezing temperatures. Though they tell our team they are grateful for shelter and community, the camps are not liveable, especially considering many have been staying here for years. The destruction of shelters because of heavy rains each year is evidence of just how precarious their situation is. Even visiting the camps for half an hour is difficult for our teams on the ground - walking through overcrowded conditions, while freezing, muddy water fills the narrow paths.
Secondly, this project is unique in nature, because we are settling displaced people. Initially, this idea was resisted by UN organisations such as OCHA - settling families means making their displacement permanent, as they will have less incentive to return to their hometown. However, the Syrian conflict began in March 2011 - meaning many of these families have been displaced for a decade.
A new generation has been born in the camps. There are orphanages everywhere and there are even children who have no living relatives. Meanwhile, people are dying in the camps every winter. (When our team visited one camp in January, they learned of two winter-related deaths in that camp alone). At this point, ten years after the conflict began, it is our responsibility to provide better shelter and facilities for the IDPs.
While many Syrians have settled themselves in Turkey, with jobs and businesses, given the scale of the crisis, there are still millions dependent on humanitarian aid. This project is creating local livelihoods, schools and medical facilities - it will transform their living situation and create hope for a better future.
Finally, this project is a huge collaboration between INGOs, NGOs and charities. It is being supervised by AFAD, implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent, and contributed to by several organisations, including Muslim Hands. Over 70% of the funding is coming from the Turkish people, but this project also represents an international humanitarian effort. For our team, it is a privilege to be a part of this undertaking, which will give hope and stability to the blessed people of Shaam.
When do we hope to finish this project by?
The overall project involves building 50,000 houses, as well as the infrastructure of the residential complex. This project was initially split into three phases: 20,000 houses would be built in Phase 1, 30,000 in Phase 2, and much of the infrastructure would be completed in Phase 3.
12,500 houses have already been built. The first phase was delayed by a few months due to the pandemic. However, our partners are now implementing Phases 1 and 2 simultaneously, and accelerating the building of these houses.
Your Zakat and Sadaqah are constructing 700 of these new homes - and of course, we hope to build many more!
How can you help?
As mentioned before, each house costs £2,000 - and if more people come forward, we can house even more than 700 displaced families. You can give the full amount or set up a payment plan by calling 0115 911 7222. You can even give any amount to the Syria Housing Fund.
There are numerous hadith about the blessed nature of Shaam and its people, but the above is one of the most emotional ones. SubhanAllah, these people were so dear to the Prophet's (saw) heart that he singled them out from his Ummah to ask Allah to ease their burdens. It is an incredible honour for us to play a part in relieving their pain and alleviating their distress.
Ma sha' Allah, Allah has blessed some of us with enough wealth to give a full house! But all of us are able to contribute something to this project - even if it's just £5, or even if it's just sharing this article! We encourage all of you to get involved in supporting the blessed people of Syria and ensuring their right to decent homes which provide their children with warmth, safety and shelter.
The ahadith make it clear that our reward reflects our action. For example, if we feed the needy, Allah will give us the food of Jannah. If we clothe the poor, Allah will clothe us with the garments of Jannah. If we hide the faults of our brother, Allah will hide our faults on the Day of Judgement.
Therefore, scholars have said that we can apply this to many other actions. And we pray that, by building homes for our Syrian brothers and sisters, Allah will build us houses which are more beautiful and desirable in His Jannah, ameen!