Since the civil war in Syria began, millions of Syrians have been displaced and killed. Their businesses and homes have been bombed and destroyed. Their markets and farms, burned and shelled.
The city of Aleppo has been held by rebels since 2012. Among many other things, Aleppo is known for soap making. The history of soap making in Aleppo dates back over 2,000 years, but now this tradition has been nearly completely interrupted.
Only a few soap makers still remain in Aleppo, and it is not known how many of the subterranean chambers used for aging the soap still exist in tact. While there is no foreseeable end in sight for the Syrian conflict, Llacuna has begun developing an agile plan to help displaced people from the Levant who have relocated to Southern Arizona.
A Strategy for Displaced Syrians in Tucson
Llacuna has launched an organizational initiative to help preserve the culture and tradition of Syrian soap making while educating local communities about the Syrian conflict and culture. Llacuna hopes to be able to identify displaced Syrians who have arrived in Tucson and work with them to recreate the Aleppo soap, or ghar soap, industry in Tucson. This will not only preserve the tradition of Syrian soap making, but also provide jobs and a positive economic impact for both Syrians and local Tucson community members.
Aleppo soap is made from olive oil, laurel oil and lye. Llacuna plans to reach out to other community non-profit organizations who currently work with refugees to harvest olives and make oil from local trees. We plan to work with local nurseries to acquire and plant the species Laurus nobilis in and around Tucson to create a sustainable method of harvesting in the future for all of the ingredients required to create Aleppo soap. To make lye involves a process of burning hard wood. There are already existing cord firewood suppliers in Tucson that harvest firewood using sustainable methods. Using existing vendors for ingredients will strengthen Tucson’s economy and help build community partnerships through trade.
Aleppo soap needs a large indoor space to air-dry and cure. We plan to work with local developers and local Tucson government (specifically the real estate sales division) to identify vacant city-owned buildings that could be used for the purpose of soap making. In 2006, the National Vacant Properties Campaign estimated that there are thousands of vacant buildings in Tucson. Vacant buildings destroy communities and decrease property values significantly. Potential buildings would need to be made habitable and have some type operational cooling system installed. Working with local HVAC companies, constriction companies and neighborhood residents, Llacuna will attempt to have buildings restored using sustainable methods to livable/workable conditions and leased to the organization for the purpose of soap making.
Llacuna will also look into ways to expedite immigration of displaced people of the Levant by investigating ways to circumvent the official refugee application process using existing long-term business visas (H1B). This could not only save lives by, but also provide a greater positive economic impact for Southern Arizona through taxable income generated and other factors. The soap making business in Aleppo was collectively a multi-million dollar industry with strong export trade between Europe and Asia. The people with strong business ties to these regions have been displaced from their homes and factories, but still possess the business contacts necessary to implement global product distribution in sustainable ways.
Aleppo soap is one of the healthiest products you can ever put on your skin and down your drain. Beyond its simple and sustainable ingredients list, the soap is used for a variety of skin ailments such as skin allergies, irritated skin or conditions such as general dermatitis like eczema, psoriasis, bacterial dermatitis, acne, herpes, rosacea. It also helps prevent hair loss and it aids in the recovery of skin diseases. Laurel oil is an effective cleanser, antibiotic, anti-fungal and anti-itching agent. Compounds extracted from Laurus nobilis have recently been identified as an inhibitor of human melanoma (skin cancer) cell proliferation, as well as inhibiting other human tumor cell growths such as amelanotic melanoma, renal cell adenocarcinoma, and breast cancer cell lines. Olive oil has been known for generations not only for its healing qualities but also as a natural, deep penetration moisturizer, regenerating skin cells and softening the tissue.