For years, National Army factions deprive Syrians of their homes 

A Syrian woman, displaced from Ras al-Ain and carrying the key to her home after it was seized by Turkey-affiliated military factions – August 10, 2020 (AFP)

A Syrian woman, displaced from Ras al-Ain and carrying the key to her home after it was seized by Turkey-affiliated military factions – August 10, 2020 (AFP)


Enab Baladi – Reem Hamoud

“They broke into my home and did not allow my mother to enter the house,” with these words, Mohammad, a man in his fifties, began speaking about the seizure of his home in Afrin, northern Aleppo, by the Sultan Suleiman Shah Division (Amshat) of the Syrian National Army (SNA).

Mohammad, a refugee in Turkey since 2015, is not the only one who faced the problem of his home being taken over. Since the start of the Olive Branch operation conducted by Turkey in Afrin in 2018, and the Peace Spring operation in the sector extending between the cities of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain in 2019, hundreds of thousands of residents of these areas have been displaced from their homes, according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

A total of 36 people interviewed by the organization, in cooperation with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and other human rights organizations, faced violations of housing, land, and property rights.

Many Syrian and international human rights organizations have documented violations including looting, theft, as well as property seizures, extortion, and failures in attempts to demand accountability and curb violations.

“Prevented from entering”

Looting, theft, and property seizures continue to occur in the areas of Afrin, Tal Abyad, and Ras al-Ain, which are under Turkish influence. International organizations are calling on Turkey to comply with international human rights law and international humanitarian law, ensure the rights of property owners and returnees, compensate them for the illegal confiscation and use of their property, and for any resulting damages.

Mohammad (who withheld his full name for security reasons) told Enab Baladi that members of the Sultan Suleiman Shah Division controlled the house when his mother returned to Afrin after being displaced for less than two months to nearby villages following the Olive Branch operation. When she tried to enter, they stopped her by force, claiming she was alone and that a family must reside in the house.

At the same time, Mohammad stated that they only allowed his mother to take her clothes from the house and forced her to stay with neighbors for about a month until she could move to her daughter’s house. Even after more than six years, Mohammad is still unable to reclaim his home due to the seizure, the dangerous area, and the presence of kidnappings and extortion, among other obstacles preventing him from recovering his property, according to him.

The Syrian National Army, supported by the Turkish army, took control of Afrin during the Olive Branch operation after battles with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which ended on March 18, 2018. The military operation led to the displacement of more than 137,000 people, according to United Nations estimates.

Five years

During the Peace Spring operation in 2019, everyone in the cities of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain was overwhelmed with fear, running frantically amid sounds of crying and screaming, making leaving the area an inevitable option for one of the sons of Ras al-Ain.

The man in his fifties (who preferred not to be named for security reasons) told Enab Baladi that he left his home with his neighbor due to the operation to the village of Tal Tamr in northern al-Hasakah on October 9, 2019, and it was the last time he saw his home.

After the man and his family of four stayed with relatives for days and then rented their current home in al-Hasakah, he contacted some neighbors who had remained in the city, only to be shocked that his home had been seized.

He learned that his home had been taken over by people driving cars bearing flags with Sultan Murad written on them, belonging to the Sultan Murad Division of the Syrian National Army.

After the house was taken and occupied by a family named “al-Shaibani,” all the furniture in his home was stolen, and he has no idea how to reclaim his property or evict the occupants. He told Enab Baladi that he has not been able to reclaim his home in five years, especially since the courts in the area are “unjust.”

The legal term for this act of seizing a home or property is called “usurpation of property,” and some legal books refer to it as “illegal possession.”

The cities of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad in northern Syria are managed by Turkey, with service institutions administered through the Urfa Province Center in Turkey.

Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad are located along the Turkish border and surrounded by frontlines with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The only outlet to the outside for these areas is the Turkish border, which has been closed to civilian movement for years.

Beyti platform

The Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) organization launched the Beyti platform on May 29, aiming to disseminate knowledge about property rights in a simplified manner using visual and textual content, specifically targeting property owners who lack legal experience or competence in this field.

The director of the STJ, Bassam al-Ahmad, told Enab Baladi that documentation can take various forms, such as confirming property ownership or documenting violations that have affected a person’s property for use in international mechanisms against those who have violated property rights. Understanding the purpose is essential before contacting the Beyti platform.

Al-Ahmad continued that the organization initially seeks to understand the documentation case that individuals want to pursue and will then provide a documentation and complaint plan through filling out a technical form. However, due to the knowledge from previous experiences that the form requires a lot of time, they relied on the “Contact Us” option initially to determine the required documentation.

The Beyti platform sheds light on the concept of property rights and the local and international legal texts governing these rights, documenting violations affecting various types of properties, and protecting these rights and their owners, according to al-Ahmad.

Al-Ahmad explained to Enab Baladi that the platform will cover all areas of control in Syria, with a primary focus on the northern regions, due to the limited monitoring of property rights violations in these areas and to avoid repeating what other human rights organizations have done in other areas.

The Beyti platform provided a brief guide on dealing with property rights violations in Syria, offering a definition of property rights and including recommendations and procedures for individuals, relevant organizations, and local initiatives to follow to protect and preserve property rights.


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