Assad’s property law to strip people of their rights

Assad’s property law to strip people of their rights

After all the killing and displacement, now is the time for the confiscation of properties in Syria. The Syrian Arab News Agency has published the text of Legislative Decree (Law) No. 10 of 2018, issued by President Bashar Assad. The law stipulates the formation of two organizational real estate zones in Damascus for model cities that will replace the ruins of destroyed areas on the outskirts of the Syrian capital.

This decree will first take effect in Damascus and its outskirts, but will later extend to other parts of Syria. 

Let us forget for a minute that proposing reconstruction projects seems absurd when the country is still in a state of war, many political and military parties are playing a role in the war and, above all, there is no comprehensive political solution to end the war. 

Amidst all of this, Law No. 10 was issued. 

The law includes many details about the rights of former property owners who were banished and should return to get hold of their lands, but the wording of the law shows its intention to strip people of their properties — especially those who have fled Syria or those with no association with the regime. 

The proposed decree is full of obvious traps, namely in its text about the right of residents to prove ownership of their properties through submitting applications within no more than 30 days. After that, decisions will be made by a committee that issues decisions not subject to appeal.

Can someone who fled Syria after being pursued or after having his house destroyed and his family displaced return to the regime that caused all this and provide documents proving his ownership of a destroyed house or a burned land within 30 days? 

What does this mean in practice? It is known that it is impossible for a large number of Syrian individuals and families who have fled the country to submit applications, since they are wanted by the security authorities or because they worry their sons would be recruited into the regime’s army — and let’s not forget about the lack of security in Syria. 

The law, which is supported by other laws and decrees, gives committees the power to strip people of their properties, and this practice will be repeated throughout the regime-controlled areas. This is a serious step that entails forced displacement. It also strips people of their property ownership rights and manipulates them through exploiting reconstruction plans and turning them into profitable projects that benefit pro-Assad businessmen. 

The new law is not innocent — it mainly targets displaced persons, the majority of whom are wanted by the security authorities in Syria.

Diana Moukalled

These laws reward parties that have supported the regime and prevented its fall and punishes its victims, who were forced to flee Syria because of the war the regime has waged against its people. 

The new law is not innocent — it mainly targets displaced persons, the majority of whom are wanted by the security authorities in Syria. It is known that the families of nearly one million war victims (killed and wounded) cannot return to Syria under the current circumstances and will fail to provide the required documents. Therefore, the regime’s property confiscation decisions lack legal and social legitimacy. In fact, they are contrary to international human rights laws, specifically a person’s right to housing and private property.

In Lebanon, where 1.5 million Syrian refugees live and where the issue of refugees has caused a serious political division, some political parties, especially the Syrian regime’s allies, were overwhelmingly confused by the new law.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who has been inciting against refugees and urging the government to stifle them and return them quickly and forcibly to Syria, finds himself and his partners obliged to rethink his plans. 

The first reason Syrian refugees have not returned home is the regime, which is supported by Bassil and his party. Now, this decision to confiscate properties seems to be a nightmare for Lebanese political parties, especially Christian ones that are worried about Syrian refugees staying in Lebanon. 

Bassil rushed to send cables of protest and questions to the Syrian regime and the United Nations, but he forgot that a regime that has killed its people and destroyed its country won’t care about anything like that. 

The regime claims these acquisitions and construction projects will transform destroyed areas into glamorous tourist attractions. It is worth reflecting on what has happened in recent years to realize that what will be built — if it actually goes ahead — would only be the foundation for more destruction.

  • Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. Twitter: @dianamoukalled
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