SOHR exclusive | Desperate from returning to their homes one day, displaced civilians sell their houses and land in regime-held areas for less than quarter their value
More than two years and a half after their displacement from their villages and towns to the camps in north Syria, many of Syrian civilians have sold their houses and agricultural land in the regime-held areas in order to build houses, so that they could live inside them instead of tents and camps and secure their living expenses.
Local sources have told SOHR that the selling of houses actually started in the beginning of 2021, where some displaced civilians have sold their houses and farmlands for low prices due to their need to this money in order to bear the expenses of their displacement and move to cement houses after being tired of living in tents which did not protect them neither from the freezing temperature nor the hot weather. The houses and land plots sold by displaced people are purchased by some other displaced civilians who are financially stable and still have hope to return to their areas. Some people in Turkey and others in regime-held areas also buy such real estate.
Sources have confirmed that the selling process is going differently than the usual processes, as the seller provides evidence of his ownership of the unit and most sales are carried out in coordination with real estate offices under official contracts to guarantee the rights in the future. It is worth noting that the price of one dunam of land ranges between one to five million Syrian Liras, while the prices of houses, which do not reach half their real value, differ according to their areas and specifications.
A young man known by his initials as S.M. from Jabal Shashabo area in the western countryside of Hama and now living in a rented house in Darkush area in the western countryside of Idlib, said to SOHR “I heads a family of six and lives in a house rented for 50 USD per month. I can not bear more burdens, as my only source of income is my taxi. I sold two dunams of my agricultural land in my village for two million Syrian liras per dunam in order to build a small house in one of the camps on the outskirts of Armanaz village in the northern countryside of Idlib. The land has been sold to another displaced civilian who also lives in the north Syria camps. I never imagined to sell the land that I inherited from his father, but the protracted displacement forced me to do so, especially with no signs or hope for a settlement leading to the return of displaced people to their villages and towns.”
Another man from Kafr Nebl in the southern countryside of Idlib known by his initials as M.A. shared his experience with SOHR, as he has sold his house for less than half its real value, after the debts accumulated over him and hadn’t been able to secure his daily expenses. The man said “my house consisted of four rooms and a basement and it was modern-decorated with marble, stone and plumbing in it. My house values more than 18,000 USD. I sold the house to one of my relative for only 4,500 USD. Now, I live in a house which I built in Deir Hassan area in the northern countryside of Idlib, after I had lived in the camps. I has a piece of land planted with olive trees, and I think of selling it if my dire living conditions lasted longer. There are many people forced to sell their properties in the regime-held areas due to lack of job opportunities, unaffordable high prices and the failure of humanitarian organizations to provide needed aid.”
In a testimony to SOHR, the manager of a real estate office in the northern countryside of Idlib known as K.M. said “the process of selling of agricultural land belonging to the displaced civilians have accelerated recently due to losing hope of returning to their areas. The role of the real estate office is limited to organizing the sale process to guarantee the rights of both parties, where the seller shows ownership documents of his property, if available, or he/she can bring witnesses and provide any hard-copy documents proving the validity of his ownership of the property. The prices of real estate differ from a unit to another considering the areas they are located in, where the areas that are far away from the frontlines are more expensive. After a price is agreed on by the buyer and seller, a contract is officially set. Many merchants started to take advantage of the decreasing prices of real estate in these areas, buying a large number of units.”
K.M. added “nobody wishes to sell his possessions after working hard to get them. However, many people are forced to sell their properties due to their dire living conditions, as some of them wish to move to a house instead of a tent, others wish to go to Turkey or other European countries, while others just want to secure their family’s daily expenses. Most of the selling processes are carried out through real estate offices and others are done by agreement between the sellers and the buyers without turning to real estate offices, especially the purchases by people outside Idlib city and countryside. Unfortunately, the unbelievably low prices are attributed to the displaced people’s need to money and the lose of hope of returning to their own properties one day.”
It is worth noting that the military operation carried out by regime forces and their proxy militias between 2019 and 2020 led to the displacement of approximately one million people from different places in the countryside of Aleppo, Hama and Idlib, while most of these displaced people now living in refugee camps which lack the minimum levels of basic livelihood.