Stuck between courts of two authorities: property recovery lawsuits exhaust al-Hasakah residents

The al-Yahoud (Jews) market in the northeastern city of Qamishli, northeastern Syria - 16 December 2022 (Enab Baladi/Majd al-Salem)

The al-Yahoud (Jews) market in the northeastern city of Qamishli, northeastern Syria - 16 December 2022 (Enab Baladi/Majd al-Salem)


Enab Baladi – Majd al-Salem

Upon requesting the zoning plan of his land from the Qamishli Municipal Council in order to sell it, Mohammad Shalabi (61) was surprised that a part of his land was taken over by two people without receiving anything in return and without his permission.

Shalabi told Enab Baladi that two people bought properties adjacent to his own, and each of them built a house at the expense of his own land, thus losing about 50 square meters, the price of which is estimated at millions of pounds, as shown by the zoning plan, a copy of which was seen by Enab Baladi.

Despite hiring a lawyer five months ago and filing a lawsuit for “recovery of possession,” Shalaby was unable to recover his right due to the two persons forging papers related to the property, giving them the right to acquire parts of it.

“I will have to sell them the space that they acquired by mutual consent,” Shalabi said, justifying this with the high costs of the lawsuit and the length of time it might take.

The price of a square meter within the northeastern city of Qamishli is estimated at about 100 US dollars, according to information obtained by Enab Baladi from owners of real estate offices.

Forging property contracts

The conflict forced hundreds of Qamishli residents to seek refuge in various countries, leaving behind many properties and possessions without protection, which provided an opportunity for property seizures through forging property contracts.

Assem, a Qamishli-based lawyer who refused to reveal his full name for security reasons, said that these operations are widespread in the city and are the cause of dozens of lawsuits called “property usurpation” or “forgery and the use of counterfeiters.”

Real estate usurpation: the appropriation of real estate without the perpetrator holding any document of ownership or disposition, and the legal description of the crime does not change, nor does the penalty imposed on the perpetrator, whether the object of the usurpation is a whole or part of the real estate.

Forgery and the use of forged documents: An artificial distortion of the truth in facts and data that is intended to be proven by an invoked instrument or manuscript that may result in material, moral or social harm.

The lawyer who works in the courts of the Syrian regime added that the appropriation of the property of others has “increased” in the past years in a “terrifying” way and has become the “main concern” of the courts, and the reason behind most of the disputes between citizens.

It has also become a gateway to “administrative and judicial corruption,” as “counterfeiting” networks earn thousands of dollars a month, according to what the lawyer said.

The matter is not devoid of “malicious” lawsuits, according to the lawyer, as a person files a lawsuit for “property usurpation” against someone, despite the fact that there is a regular buying and selling process between them.

Assem justifies this by the desire of the real estate owner to sell it at a higher price after the rise in the real estate market in the city, which is what is called “renouncing the sale contract.”

Between regime, AANES

Al-Hasakah governorate is controlled by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) with the exception of two security squares in Qamishli and al-Hasakah, which are under the control of the regime and include service institutions, especially the courts.

Laws and decisions related to real estate issued by the regime’s courts are not applicable due to the presence of real estate in areas controlled by the “Autonomous Administration.”

One of the lawyers working in the AANES courts, Adnan, 38, who refused to reveal his full name for security reasons, told Enab Baladi that there are too many lawsuits for property recovery, property usurpation, and counterfeiting, and they are repeated by the same people in AANES courts.

Most of the claimants suffer from financial and psychological exhaustion, as a result of the multiplicity of laws and courts, according to the lawyer.

He added that the “Autonomous Administration” does not have a real estate registry of its own, and this poses a “dilemma” for its courts, as court workers are forced to rely on documents issued by the regime.

Citizens are forced to resort to the “People’s courts” as they are the only ones capable of mobilizing the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) as an executive body with “judicial police functions” that can forcibly empty the property from its usurper and return it to its owner, according to the lawyer. 

Such cases cause contradiction and conflict in rulings between AANES courts and those of the Syrian regime regarding “property usurpation” claims if one of the parties to the case is an employee of the “Autonomous Administration” or close to it.

Security chaos

The two lawyers, whom Enab Baladi spoke to, attributed the prevalence of this problem to the absence of a deterrent law, the security chaos in the region, and the inability of the dominant powers to find a mechanism for coordination and preventing duplication of laws and decisions, as well as networks of fraud and scam.

In turn, Farouj Shamoun, judge at the First Civil Court of First Instance in Qamishli, attributed this problem to the existence of fraud operations as a result of the region’s departure from the state control, according to what he told the government-run al-Baath newspaper in September 2022.

Shamoun added that the court had registered many cases, claiming that all properties had been returned to the original owners.

The phenomenon is not limited to al-Hasakah province or the Qamishli region, as it has spread to various provinces, prompting the Ministry of Justice to issue several circulars to address and limit this phenomenon, according to what Shamoun said.

The circulars stipulate conducting local inspection and registration of the property and hearing the statements of the neighbors to find out the true owner, in addition to the signature or fingerprint of the seller on the contract to determine its authenticity.


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