North and East Syria Absentees’ Property Law withdrawn amid criticism

NORTH AND EAST SYRIA — Following criticism of the Law for the Protection and Management of Absentees’ Property passed by the General Council of the Democratic of Autonomous Administration (DAA) on 5 August, the law has been withdrawn by Council and will be reviewed. If amended and resubmitted, the law will be reconsidered.

The Absentee’ Property Law would create a usufruct system governing the property of emigres.

Usufruct is a system in which a person or group of persons uses the real property, often land or other immovable property, of another without the right to substantially change it.

According to the Absentees’ Property Law, when a property owner emigrates outside the country and leaves their property absent for one year, barring it is being used by first or second-line family, the DAA would become a usufructuary — the holder of the property.

The DAA would not obtain the right to buy, sell, or modify the usufruct property.

The Committee is not entitled to sell or purchase the property of absentees, however, “the Committee is entitled to invest in and rent the property of the absentee” during the period the property is held by the DAA left vacant, said Siham Qiryo, Co-Chair of the General Council.

Qiryo commented about the purpose of the law, saying that the aim is ensure that property is put to use to develop society and strengthen the economy of North and East Syria.

The largest share of the economic benefit from the use of the usufruct property will be set aside for the property owner with a smaller share for the DAA.

In an 11 August interview with SuroyoTV, Mousa Hanna, an official of the Syriac and Armenian Absentees’ Property Directorate, confirmed that the Absentee Property Law has been amended to hold the manipulators of property accountable.

“The law was issued in the interest of citizens to prevent the manipulation of crisis traders. Furthermore, the legal safeguards were put in place to avoid any potential demographic change in our regions,” said Hanna.

Hanna reassured that the Directorate would stand in the way of anyone who dares to encroach on the property of the Syriac (Aramean-Chaldean–Assyrian) and Armenian people.

The Absentee Property Law would protect the property of Christians in all the regions of North and East Syria, especially in Raqqa and Tabqa, said Hanna, which were not covered by a previous law governing the status of absentee property from 2015 as the law lacked any real enforcement mechanisms.

Despite the amendment of the law and its defense from the officials who drafted it, it has, for now, been withdrawn and shelved due to largely external pressure.