Walid al Nofal in Syria Direct: Illegal property sales in Turkish-occupied Cafrin

CAFRIN, Syria — In an article for Syria Direct titled Seized Properties Sold ‘Dirt Cheap’ in Afrin, Walid al Nofal investigated the issue of illegal property selling in Turkish-occupied Cafrin (Afrin). The region has seen homes belonging to original residents, who were displaced during Operation Olive Branch in 2018, being sold at incredibly low prices, often below their actual value. These properties are referred to as “cost houses” and are typically sold based on the amount spent on repairs and restorations rather than their real worth.

Many homes owned by Cafrin’s original displaced residents have been sold at discounted rates for years, typically ranging from $400 to $3,000, well below their true value. These properties are often advertised as “vacant” or “party houses”, implying that they belong to displaced members of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Whether this is the case or merely a justification for the sale isn’t clear.

Throughout June and July, numerous advertisements for such “cost houses” were monitored on social media and WhatsApp groups, confirming the prevalence of the practice. Buyers, like Firas Yassin often purchase these properties without official ownership documents.

At the beginning of 2023, Yassin put an end to his two-and-a-half-year period of homelessness by purchasing a house in Afrin city for the affordable price of $700. The house offered him much-needed stability and a place he could call his own after being displaced from south Damascus in 2018.

Yassin bought it from a civilian who had previously purchased it from a Syrian National Army (SNA) faction that had taken possession of the house when the SNA and Turkish forces and its surrounding area during Operation Olive Branch in early 2018.

As a displaced person, “I’m used to losing,” he said, so if the original owner returns, he plans to “return the house, and consider myself to have rented it for several months.”

Displaced residents of Cafrin face significant challenges in reclaiming their residential and commercial properties. With the influx of Turkish-backed factions, many of the displaced have struggled to regain their rightful assets.