ZALIN (QAMISHLI), Syria – This week the General Council of the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (DAA) held its 30th plenary session. The DAA’s General Council issued and effectuated the Self-Defense Duty Law (amended), the Law of Public Oversight, and the Law pertaining the Protection and Management of Absentees’ Property.
The new Law for the Protection and Management of Absentees’ Property in effect says that the DAA obtains the right of usufruct of property of absent owners. All contracts prior to the new law must be revised to align and include the new provisions. After one year the property owners who have left Syrian territory lose the economic benefit which in full will go the the DAA. By the new Law the DAA does not obtain the right to buy, sell or modify the usufruct object.
The Co-Chair of the General Council Siham Quryo, commented to Syriac TV Channel Suroyo TV that the law aims to put to use the property of absentees to develop society and strengthen the economy of North and East Syria. The Law foresees in the establishment of a new committee which will make inventory and take care of the property until the absentees’ return. The new committee will be formed of 11 representatives from the DAA’s different components.
Co-Chair Quryo (Syriac Union Party) said that the DAA, through the new committee, will have the right to put to use and rent out absentees’ property throughout the absence of the rightful owners or first and second grade family. The largest share of the economic benefit from the use of the usufruct property will accrue to the owner with a smaller share for the DAA.
The Law on the Protection and Management of Absentees’ Property is an important Law for the Syriac component of the DAA as the Syriac component still owns large swathes of land and real estate in the Gozarto Region (Al-Jazira). The cities of Al-Hassakah, Zalin (Qamishli), Qabre Hewore, Tel Tamr in the Khabur valley, Derik, and their respective countryside, all had a significant Syriac presence during the extended 20th century – Syriac families like the Asfar’s, Çarmukli, Gallo Shabo, and Najjar were big landowners prior to the land reforms of the 1960s.
However, during the 20th century, many push-and-pull factors have caused the Syriacs in the Gozarto Region to emigrate and the Syriac component has declined in absolute and relative terms. Both the DAA and the Gozarto Region are majority Arab with a sizable Kurdish component.
As for the properties of the Syriac component, Co-Chair Quryo said that since the beginning of the Syrian crisis and the establishment of the Democratic Autonomous Administration her Syriac Union Party has set up local committees in towns and villages in the Gozarto. The local committees register, protect, and manage the property of absent Syriacs in case this wasn’t giving in custody to first and second grade family. The new DAA committee however is separate and will be formed for all regions of northeastern Syria and for all components.
Whether related to land, housing, or businesses, property rights are people’s proof of citizenship and livelihood. Citizens depend on their property for economic activity and a fair administration and enforcement of their property rights is essential for them to function in society. In times of conflict, war, and large displacements of people, property and the upholding of associated property rights are problematic issues. Governments, regimes and (armed) groups who oppose them, have, especially in times of conflict, often used property as a means to bring about demographic changes favorable to them.
Where property is essential for people’s livelihood, for (internally) displaced persons the upholding and enforcement of their property rights is paramount for their return. Property Rights Laws and their enforcement are especially important for the smaller Syriac component of the DAA for a potential future return of emigrated and displaced Syriacs to the Gozarto Region.