“Death Registration” Requirement Prevents Victims’ Families from Receiving State Pension
Faster legal procedures, recruitment rounds and financial support are among the benefits provided by the Syrian regime to the families of those killed in al-Assad’s army during the war, especially in the past two years. Recently the Prime Minister, Imad Khamis, introduced new benefits for the families of those killed.
It is impossible to register the deaths of citizens or soldiers in the Syrian opposition areas, which means their families are barred from obtaining compensation and the state pension. Meanwhile, families of the dead on the other side are rushing to register deaths and obtain a death certificate, in order to get the benefits provided by the government.
Job opportunities for families of those killed
On Wednesday 22 February, Khamis approved a decision by the Syrian regime’s Council of Ministers, in its meeting held in late January, which grants new benefits to the families of those described as “martyrs”.
These benefits include allowing siblings of the deceased (if he was unmarried) to apply for recruitment rounds in which 50% of posts are reserves for the public sector, and exemption from the requirement to hold an elementary school certificate for the fourth and fifth categories of applicants.
The government has also granted unemployed widows the right to a job post under a direct automatically renewable annual contract, which they can choose to pass to one of their sons. If the widow has a job, she can grant a single job opportunity to one of her children. If there is more than one death in the same family, the wife is given an additional job post for one of her family members, in addition to granting a full salary to the parents of the deceased where he was single, divided equally between them, instead of only 50% of the salary.
While these advantages and benefits are provided to families of those killed from the Syrian regime side, families of victims in opposition areas face difficulties in registering deaths for fear that they may be interrogated by security forces regarding the cause of death and of being accused of supporting those described by the regime as “terrorists”. This means they are deprived of their financial rights and prevented from getting compensation for death or a retirement pension.
Security reasons preventing registration of deaths
The complexity of procedures prevented a dissident officer from Assad’s forces in the countryside of Damascus, who refused to reveal his name, from officially registering the death of his father in 2014 with state authorities, due to the threat of his family being harassed by security forces.
The officer, who deserted with his three brothers, told Enab Baladi that since he has not been able to appoint someone to register the death due to harassment by security forces, they have been deprived of their father’s pension of around forty-five thousand lira, which can be accessed via an ATM card. The card has expired and the bank requires the presence of the primary cardholder to renew it. The officer was obliged to pay fifty thousand lira to one of the staff in the bank in order to renew the card for two years.
The officer confirmed that he had done this because his mother and sister are completely reliant on the pension since they have no one to provide for them. After the brothers deserted the army, they were dismissed from their jobs and their salaries cut off. Along with the rise in prices of basic goods and food to record levels, many families have fallen below the poverty line.
UN agencies estimate that the percentage of those living below the poverty line in Syria exceeds 80%.
Pensions cut off from families with no breadwinner
Soumaya Mohammed from Eastern al-Ghouta in the countryside of Damascus says that after the death of her father (who was shot dead), she tried to register the incident in order to get his retirement pension of forty thousand lira in order to secure an income for the family. However, the coroner requested that the corpse be examined in order to give them a medical report to prove the death, which prevented her from obtaining the pension.
Mohammed pointed out that the ATM card expired five months after her father’s death, and the bank refused to renew it because of the absence of the primary cardholder.
Circular prevents circumvention of death registration requirement
Wissem Auda, a lawyer, confirmed to Enab Baladi that the renewal of an ATM card is possible either if the retired person made before his death that includes explicit permission to renew the card, or by obtaining a certificate from a police station in a Syrian regime area and using it to renew the card.
However, the Syrian regime issued a ministerial circular that prohibits the use of a power of attorney in this context and requires that the cardholder must attend personally, depriving many families in opposition areas of a pension.
“Al-Watan” newspaper, which is close to the Syrian regime, reported in December 2016 that “a written announcement by the office of the former Prime Minister (Wael al-Halqi) prohibits giving an ATM card to anyone but its owner, even if the person is related to the owner and even if there is a general power of attorney that gives someone other than the owner permission to withdraw millions of lira from the owner’s account. The power of attorney does not give the person the right to obtain an ATM card.”
Opponents of the Syrian regime accuse the government of trying to deepen the division between areas under the control of al-Assad forces and those that are outside their control. This is confirmed by the fact that areas outside al-Assad’s control are deprived of services, benefits and any activities that might improve their living conditions after their infrastructure was destroyed.