The Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad is continuing to seize farmland from families who have been displaced by the ongoing conflict, media sources have reported.
According to the Turkish Anadolu Agency and various other outlets, local sources in the north-western Syrian province of Idlib reported that Assad regime authorities are continuing to seize and expropriate land belonging to those who fled their homes during the ongoing 11-year conflict.
The seized land plots were found to be located in and around the towns of Maarat Al-Numan, Abu Al-Duhur, Saraqib, and Khan Sheikhoun – areas that Syrian regime forces captured from the opposition groups during the first few months of 2019.
Syria’s Agriculture Ministry claimed that it aims to cultivate the expropriated lands and to reap the returns. According to the local Al-Watan daily newspaper, the regime’s governor in its Idlib territories – Thaer Salhab – stated that the lands are also to be offered for investment in public auctions.
The seized lands can be returned to displaced people and families upon their return to regime-controlled territories and “when their status is settled” by Damascus.
One displaced farmer from Maarat Al-Numan, told the news site, Orient Net that the main purpose of the seizure of lands is to “a new means of pressure in order to force them [displaced persons] to return”.
He expressed the widespread scepticism on returning to their lands under regime control, however, asking, “How can we go back when the majority of the people of those cities know that killing is their fate or, at best, putting them in detention for many years, the number of which is known only to God alone? As for our lands, losing them is very difficult, but the land belongs to its owners, no matter how long it takes.”
A Syrian lawyer named Muhannad Al-Adwan told the site that, while pressure on the displaced to return is an aim, it is a secondary one as regime authorities know that the original owners of the seized lands are wanted by Damascus, and that they are unlikely to return. The primary aim, he said, is simply to benefit from the produce of the agricultural land.
The auctioning of stolen homes through real estate agencies linked to regime-affiliated militias is also a lucrative business, as they can buy land and properties at an extremely low price before selling them at higher prices, in a practice long-conducted by the authorities and their allied militias.