High rent of houses and agricultural land in Idlib | Residents and displaced people make use of public properties and forests
In Idlib, residents and displaced people have resorted to using and owning some public and state properties and forests amid hiking prices of houses and agricultural land that were used for establishing camps. Meanwhile, some people exploit the absence of authority supervision to sell these houses and pieces of land or lease it to displaced people.
Pieces of land and number of squatters are doubling after the last and largest wave of displacement that happened between 2019-2020 due to the regime forces and its factions’ escalations and control over wide swaths of Idlib, Hama and Aleppo countryside.
The squatting processes in several areas in Idlib countryside, especially in displacement camps, are considered by some as a necessity to ensure their stability and not to face expulsion by the village or the hosting areas.
A lawyer known by his initials as (M.M.) told SOHR, “this is an illegal process” because large parts of the seized land are communal for all inhabitants in towns or villages, adding that each town or village has pieces of land that are not owned by certain persons while dignitaries in those areas agree to freeze its sales for establishing certain projects like medical centres, schools or playgrounds for interests of the public.
“Owning or seizing communal land by inhabitants, displaced or deported people is an illegal action,” the lawyer added, noting this land is public property.
(M.M) adds that after forming a government that would replace Al-Assad regime, it will reclaim that land, stressing that the contracts of selling and purchasing are null and the buyer legally has the right to reclaim that land and restore the money.
(M.M.) reiterates that phenomenon is widespread in areas in north Syria in general either by the displaced or deported people seeking to own public land with no permission of anyone, or some inhabitants in a certain village or town buy public properties and then resell it to the displaced and the deported people exploiting their difficult circumstances and the lack of livable places or shelters.
Recently Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham has banned selling land to the displaced people and imposed strict procedures in this regard.
Meanwhile, a man known by his initials as (A.A.) who is displaced from west Hama countryside to one of the camps in Deir Hassan neighbourhood in north Idlib countryside, sees that owning communal land by the displaced people happened for a short period at the beginning of the exodus but now indigenous inhabitants buy it and later either sell or lease it back to the displaced. He purchased a 200-meter piece of land for 500 US dollars and built a house for his family.
He adds that he had nothing to do with this illegal process but it is the responsibility of reasonability of the indigenous inhabitant who sold this him this land. He also pointed out that large number of displaced people have bought their land the same way.
However, their rights are not guaranteed because the deal is not concluded by official contracts which mean the land will remain parts of public properties that were seized by the sellers before reselling it.
(A.A.) says, in case he wants to sell the house that was built on a seized land, he will get current prices, not only the expenses of the construction like the case with all, arguing that the prices of houses are increasing constantly and his house value is double the price of the original purchase .
Meanwhile, a man known by his initials as (M.A.) who lives in Kafr Takhareem town in north Idlib countryside laments that many of the displaced were victims of buying public properties or communal land from illegal owners, adding that some areas in Deir Hassan, Kafr Luceen, Sarmada and Al-Dana large abandoned pieces of land have been seized and owned illegally.
(M.A.) adds that most of the squatters have good relations with the Salvation Government or the Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and have gained tens of thousands of dollars from those deals that were concluded with no supervision, exploiting the needs of the displaced for an area to build temporary houses amid worsening conditions in makeshift camps.
He adds that the percentage of the displaced people who put their hands on lands with no fees is insignificantly small, while the majority of the squatters are indigenous inhabitants who are not subject to prosecution by local municipals or local authority in Idlib.
On September 14, 2020, the Salvation Government issued a decision prohibiting the sale of any land that is listed under public properties by anyone especially the displaced people, and warned buyers that they would be sharing part of the responsibility and also vowed to punish those who illegally seize, occupy and own land and properties.
In September 2020, the government also issued a decision banning building houses without licence or written approvals by “Sarmada directorate” due to the growing phenomenon of squatting, and seizing public properties, and threatened the violators with financial and legal punishment.