SOHR exclusive | Agriculture Ministry in Idlib offers confiscated farmlands of opponents for investment to reap huge profits
As regime forces seek to offer agricultural land owned by people forcibly displaced to northern Syria following military operations in Idlib countryside in 2019, the governor of Idlib has announced, through pro-state media outlets, the launch of a farmland investment project.
“All agricultural land owned by people who reside outside regime-held areas will be put up for investment by the Ministry of Agriculture in Idlib to be cultivated with wheat only,” Idlib governor stated.
Idlib governor said that hundreds of acres of uncultivated land should be invested for “public interest” as he put it.
The decision issued by Idlib governor has sparked a wave of outrage and anger among social media users who considered the decision as colonisation of their land, which they were forced to leave for fear of arbitrary arrests and field execution by militiamen backed by regime forces who took part in military operations in Idlib countryside in 2019.
A reliable source affirmed to SOHR that this decision is not the first of its kind, and it is merely an update for advance decisions related to farmland owned by the opponents of the Syrian regime in Hama countryside that have been issued in 2021.
The man pointed out that the only enforcer and beneficiary of the decision are regime security branches that will give these farmlands to loyalists and cronies of regime in order to reap huge profits.
The reliable source added that a prior agreement had been done with the associations concerned with paying financial compensation to the families of regime soldiers who were killed in battles with the opposition factions. The compensation will be paid from profits of both the current olive seasons and the wheat-growing seasons that would be gained, after being auctioned off for investment.
Some people have expressed their fear that the Ministry of Agriculture in Idlib will apply a rule adopt previously, according to which displaced people returning to their land in regime-controlled areas will restore 60% of the rented out farmlands, while investors can keep the remaining 40% only.
On the other hand, some of those who support the decision demanded that Idlib Council should set a term stipulating that the investor shall receive financial compensation from the farmland owner in case of the return of the owner to regime-held area, in view of the expenses incurred by the investor for land reclamation.
While others of those who support the decision of investing in the farmlands of the displaced people call for a decision to be issued to prevent those “enemies of the state,” who had paid thousands of dollars to regime opponents to allow them to live in their villages during the past years of the Syrian Revolution, from returning to regime-held areas, as they described.
It is worth noting that the Governor of Idlib, Thaer Salhab said “in case of wishing to return to regime-held areas, the displaced persons can restore their own farmlands when their status is settled by regime security branches.”