Al-Foua displaced evade rental contracts so not being bound by evacuation period
Idlib countryside – Shams al-Din Matoun
The displaced Hassan, pseudonym, decided not to subscribe to the electricity clock (meter) in the town of al-Foua in the northern countryside of Idlib because he did not have a rental contract.
He considered that if he obtains a rental contract, it will be limited to a specific period and a monthly subscription, which will force him after a while to vacate the house because he does not belong to any military faction.
Hassan’s case is one of the dozens of cases that carry the same fears in the town of al-Foua and its neighbor, Kafriya, where the displaced people from the countryside of Damascus, such as Hassan, or from Homs, Daraa, Quneitra, and others live.
Displaced people in al-Foua refuse to register rental contracts with factions that share control of the town, including the Sham Legion, considering that these houses are the right of civilians who lost their homes after displacement and not “spoils” for the military factions.
Concerns are based on previous harassment of residents, as the military factions in Idlib are accused of following a systematic policy of harassing the displaced, but they deny these allegations.
Since 2018, the military factions in Idlib have been carrying out harassment to evict dozens of displaced families in the towns of al-Foua and Kafriya, who settled in the two towns in place of the original (Shiite) residents, who left in an agreement between the military factions on the one hand, and Iran and the Syrian regime on the other hand.
The town of al-Foua was divided into sectors after it was controlled by several factions, most notably the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) after its people from the Shiite sect were expelled in 2018 following the HTS’ agreement with Iran, which gave great importance to the issue of the towns of Kafriya and al-Foua.
Tahrir al-Sham reached an agreement with Iran stipulating the exit of all fighters from Kafriya and al-Foua in exchange for the release of detainees and prisoners held by the regime.
In the sector run by the Sham Legion, a number of residents refuse to register contracts with the group’s real estate office to confirm them through the local council in al-Foua.
Electricity with a contract
The Green Energy electricity company, operating in areas controlled by the HTS-affiliated Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) in Idlib and parts of the Aleppo countryside, has begun installing meters for subscribers in the town of al-Foua in the Idlib countryside.
The power company requires the existence of a lease or ownership contract for the property to be equipped with an electricity meter, and the conditions in al-Foua raise residents’ fears about concluding contracts.
Al-Foua-based Khaled, who requested that his full name not be revealed, said that he spoke with the electricity company, which expressed its agreement to deliver the meters to the beneficiaries without lease contracts due to the different nature of housing in al-Foua from the rest of the areas.
Khaled, originally from Damascus countryside, told Enab Baladi that it was the leadership of the Sham Legion that asked the electricity company to pressure the people to sign the contracts after attempts to convince them of this measure had failed since their arrival in al-Foua in 2018.
According to local testimonies, the number of homes that have not signed rental contracts in the Sham Legion sector is approximately 450 homes, as no statistics are available from the district administration or the local council.
Lease contract is “obligatory”
The head of the local council in al-Foua, Amin Mohammad-Khair Jumaa, told Enab Baladi that the electricity company began delivering power meters to subscribers weeks ago and that things are going “smoothly.”
Jumaa said that the condition of having rental contracts for homes in al-Foua and proof of ownership in other areas is an essential clause in extending meters to subscribers, and it is part of the agreement that the company concluded with the Salvation Government in Idlib after granting it a license to invest in the field of electricity in the region.
Jumaa stated that all sectors in al-Foua organized rental contracts for civilians residing in it, explaining that the existence of the contract is a duty and necessary for the municipal organization in the town and that there are no problems in renewing the contract after its term has expired.
He continued that this is what some people fear, especially those residing in the Sham Legion sector, so Jumaa called on the military factions to clarify the terms of the contracts for civilians to remove the confusion.
Mohammad al-Farkh lives in a district called the “Council” sector, which is run by the HTS. He said that since his arrival to the house at the beginning of 2020 from Damascus countryside, he had obtained a lease contract from the HTS’ real estate office.
Al-Farkh added that the contract is renewed automatically every three or six months and that the rent does not exceed one dollar per month. He also registered a meter to subscribe to electricity without any problems.
The monthly rent for homes varies depending on the house and the controlling faction and ranges from $1 to $3.
Salvation Government reassures
Abu Omar al-Shami, local official in the central region of al-Foua and Kafriya, told Enab Baladi that there are guarantees from the region’s administration and clear instructions not to remove any civilian from his home in al-Foua unless he has committed a felony or has security problems.
Al-Shami said that the refusal of the people in the Sham Legion sector to register the homes they live in has no justification, explaining that in doing so, they are violating the mechanism that was agreed upon in all sectors. In this case, the military faction has the right to remove them from their homes by resorting to the judiciary.
He added that if contracts were signed with them, no one would be able to attack them if they did not report the previous cases (a felony or a security problem), pointing out that what is being promoted by removing them through the court after signing the contracts is completely out of the question.
According to al-Shami, all the incidents that previously occurred by evicting any of the residents of homes in al-Foua were due to committing a felony, such as murder, theft, harassing neighbors, using and possessing drugs and cannabis, or for security reasons.
In June 2022, the town of al-Foua witnessed a demonstration of dozens of people in protest against the decision of the Sham Legion in the region to expel them from their homes as the faction then decided to evacuate about 130 homes by decision of the faction’s military court.
The incident then ended with a “reconciliation session” and promises not to expel any family from their homes and an emphasis on the necessity of registering homes with rental contracts indicating their affiliation with the Sham Legion.
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