The People’s Assembly of the Syrian regime passed, on Feb.16, a bill amending Article 11 of 2011, on non – Syrians’ ownership of real estate in Syrian territory. The bill allows foreigners to own homes, in a move that was seen by some as a reward for the Iranian militias that supported the regime in its fight against Syrians. The regime is helping in settling militiamen by giving them the property of Syrian citizens, especially those who are displaced.
According to followers, the amendments are part of the regime efforts to legalize demographic change in the country, while legal and rights bodies have called for a response to the laws passed by the regime to safeguard the rights of Syrians.
Reward for Iranian militias
The Syrian People’s Assembly website published on the same day that the amended law guarantees that any property right in kind may be created, modified or transferred in Syrian territory for the name or for the benefit of a non-Syrian natural or legal person, provided that the person’s residence in Syria is lawful, and that the property of one property is built for the purpose of housing and on an independent basis and is licensed under the regime of the construction officer.
According to the official website of the Syrian People’s Assembly, the amended law guarantees that any non-Syrian can transfer, construct, or modify any property in Syria, provided that the person’s residence in Syria is lawful, and that he will own one property that is built for the purpose of housing and on an independent basis and is licensed from the Syrian construction directory.
Article 1 of the Act provides that the Council of Ministers is entitled to grant exceptions to the provisions of the Act and to grant the right to own property to non-Syrians without any controls or conditions. This means that the Council may grant thousands of exceptions to non-Syrians under this new article. It is noteworthy that Law 11 of 2008 imposed a restriction on the non-Syrian owners as they were not allowed to dispose the property under before five years, however, now they can do this after 2 years only.
Firas al-Tahhan, lawyer and legal expert, considers the law to be very dangerous, as it relates to Decree 66 of 2012 and Law 10 of 2018, all of which, according to al – Tahan, are integral to the process of seizing Syrians’ real estate. Tahan considers that the regime seeks to reward Iranian militias by making major Syrian cities the property of Shia militias within the next two to three years.
On the possibility of stopping or disrupting the new law, al-Tahan makes it clear that it can be stopped only by a UN resolution, revealing that the regime is racing the time to own more than 2,200 properties in Damascus province and rural areas, all of which will be under the new law, while thousands of properties will join in the subsequent phase.
Al-Tahan refers to the synchronization of the amendment of the law with the declaration by the province of Damascus of the estimated value of real estate seized under Decree 66 of 2012 and Law No. 10 of 2018, which covered the areas of Mazza, Al-Razi orchards, Darya, Kfarsusa, Al-Sad, Yarmouk camp, southern Damascus, Ghouta and Qabon, in addition to some ancient neighborhood.
The new amendments would give onvestors the freedom to own and dispose of the properties of displaced Syrians, open up foreign real estate markets, strengthen the regime’s foreign exchange treasury and supplement the crime of demographic change through the settlement and ownership for Iranians, Afghan and Iraqi-Pakistani militias, Hezbollah and others.
Legalizing Demographic Change
In the light of the approval by the People’s Assembly of amendments to the Law on the Possession of Foreigners, the Syrian Legal Authority issued a memorandum calling on international actors to stop the new amendment because of the danger it poses to the future of Syria and Syrians.
The authority identified three key points that it considered to be dangerous in the new law. First, these amendments allowing the possession by foreigners and the lifting of previous restrictions came in the light of the devastating war waged by the Assad regime and its militias against the Syrian people, the absence of a secure environment and the control by Iranian forces over State institutions and large areas of Syria.
Secondly, these amendments made it mandatory for the Syrian Arab Republic to take up lawful residence in the Syrian Arab Republic to own the apartment. For 10 years now, only hundreds of thousands of Iranians and Shia from Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan have taken up residence in Syria.
Thirdly, the abolition of foreign possession restrictions coincides with the declaration by Damascus of the estimated value of real estate seized under Decree 66 of 2012 and Act 10 of 2018.”
The authority considered that the amendments is a continuing war crime against Syrians, as they affected their property, deprived them of their homes, sold them illegally to foreigners, and complemented the crime of forced displacement and demographic change.
Economic analyst Fouad Hamadi considers that the amendments are intended to bring investors and capitalists from Europe and elsewhere to Syria, noting that the amendments are essentially simple, not targeting militias, because the regime has granted Syrian citizenship to a large number as well as to members of their families since the start Syrian Revolution, so they do not need such amendments to buy properties.
However, according to lawyer Khalid al-Deiri, the beneficiaries of these amendments are regime real estate dealers, as well as members of Iranian, Afghan and Iraqi militias, accusing the regime of legalizing control over the property of Syrian displaced persons, through amendments that complement Law No. 10 of 2018.
Al-deiri warns of the seriousness of the new amendments, as they affect the future of Syria and make everyone believe that they are the culmination of the regime’s efforts to bring about demographic change, especially in the areas restored by the regime in the suburbs of Damascus, Aleppo and Homs.
It is noteworthy that in mid-year 2018 the regime promulgated Law No. 10, which allows administrative units to create one or more regulatory zones, within the general regulatory scheme, and requires proof of ownership within a maximum period of one month since the date of the announcement of the regulatory zone.
The law imposes difficult conditions for proof of ownership on more than 5.5 million Syrian refugees, including over 200 thousand Palestinian refugees who have left Syria, while facilitating mechanisms for the looting of homes and lands of refugees, especially since the deadline of 30 days for a relative or legal agent to file a claim on their behalf is too short.