Syrian refugees' homes stolen by regime linked-individuals: new report

Syrian refugees' homes stolen by regime linked-individuals: new report
An investigation has revealed that hundreds of Syrian refugees who fled abroad have had their homes stolen or fraudulently sold by individuals linked to the Bashar al-Assad regime.
2 min read
25 April, 2023
Syria has been devastated by more than a decade of war [Rami Alsayed/NurPhoto via Getty Images]

The Syrian regime has stolen the property and sold off the homes of Syrian refugees a joint investigation by The Guardian and two Syrian NGOS - The Day After and Syrian Investigative Reporting for Accountability Journalism (SIRAJ) - has revealed. 

The thefts are being perpetrated by corrupt networks within the Syrian regime, who take advantage of the fact that millions of Syrians have been forced to flee their country to forge sales documents and use the court system to fraudulently sell their homes.

Victims of the thefts fear they will be unable to reclaim their properties if they ever return to Syria.

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One of the men interviewed in the investigation, Abdullah, revealed to The Guardian that his home was stolen by a distant relative after he fled the war in Syria in 2012.

"I’m living as a refugee in Turkey, and I do not know, if one day the Syrian regime steps down, how I will return to Syria, where will I live then? Will I be able to get my house back or not?" he said. 

"The theft of the house means losing everything, as it is what I got from my father, who died in the basements of the Air Force Intelligence, after his arrest in 2013," he said, referring to a notorious branch of the Syrian regime's intelligence known for its brutal torture and killing of political prisoners.

There is no data on the scale of these thefts, but lawyers have discovered 125 cases of homes in Damascus being stolen this way in the first half of 2022. 

The networks involved in the thefts may include up to 50 members, including lawyers, judges, and military officials. 

Some of these are directy linked to the Syrian regime. Abdullah said the relative who stole his home had links to the Fourth Division, a military unit run by President Bashar al-Assad's brother, Maher. 

Syria's civil war has devastated the country. Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its allies have been accused of committing mass war crimes during the violence, killing hundreds of thousands of people. Half of Syria's population has been displaced internally or externally, and more than six million are refugees.