Mass exodus transforms Idlib's countryside
Areas under opposition control in rural parts of Syria's Idlib province are undergoing huge demographic and geographic changes because of the war.
City dwellers have been forced to move to rural areas to avoid daily shelling by the regime. Many have bought plots of land to build new houses, and large areas of agricultural land are being built upon. However, houses often lack basic infrastructure and are spread out.
This has happened to the outskirts of Binnish, a town in Idlib province, over the past four years. The agricultural area of Wadi Anbar, famous for its vineyards, olive groves, wheatfields and summer crops has been partially transformed into one of the city's districts.
Umm Adnan, a 60-year-old resident of Binnish, has built three small shacks on land she owns in Wadi Anbar. She lives in two with her children and grandchildren, and has turned the third into a small shop. She built a new home with help from her son after realising the war was unlikely to end soon.
Athough life is more basic, they feel safer.
"It's temping to live in the city because you have water, electricity, flushing toilets, telephone lines and the internet. Here electricity is scarce. We get water from irrigation wells and we use walkie-talkies instead of mobile phones," she explained.
Mohammad Sadiq, a civil servant from Binnish, bought a dunam of land outside of the city with five friends, where they have built basic homes.
"One of the problems we face is sending our children to school. There are no buses, and going to school in the city can be dangerous. The wealthier have cars for when conditions are calm," Sadiq said.
Saeed al-Droubi, from Binnish, built a house on land he bought near the city of al-Dana on the Turkish border. "I wanted to get as far away from the shelling as possible," he told al-Araby al-Jadeed.
Droubi said he was likely to face infrastructural problems. For example, they have dug a pit latrine for sewage but in the future it is likely to pollute groundwater and seep into wells.
Sari al-Sayyid Ali, a civil engineer and former member of Idlib local council, told al-Araby that cities have building regulations, but they do not cover agricultural areas. This means many of the new buildings are largely unregulated.
This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.