Abu Omar Haraki, a Syrian refugee who lives in Jordan's Mafraq governorate, says the possibility of returning to his house in Daraa has vanished with the recent introduction of the Property Registration law, known as article 10, in Syria.
Haraki, who fled Daraa to Jordan in 2012, said he was forced to become a refugee after two of his brothers were killed by regime forces, and many of his relatives were arrested for taking part in anti-Assad demonstrations.
Now living with his family of five in a rented house in Mafraq governorate, about 66 kilometres north of the Jordanian capital, Haraki used to be a teacher in Daraa and after school he would work in the grocery store that he owned.
Since his arrival in Jordan, Haraki said he was keeping a close eye on the security conditions in Syria and was hoping to return to his house when safe to do so. But with the recent introduction of Law 10 on property registration in Syria, Haraki believes a homecoming would be futile.
"I know that I am wanted by the security forces in Syria…I took part in demonstrations against the regime and I am afraid to return to Syria because I am sure they will take revenge. With the recent law No. 10 I am sure I have lost my house by now because I was not able to return and renew my ownership," he told 7Dnews during an interview in Mafraq.
"Law number 10 is a trick by the Syrian regime to arrest and imprison many Syrians who fled the violence and the killing… The Syrian regime knows that there are millions of refugees who left the country and it is almost impossible for them all to return. This law is meant to steal what is left for us back home. What is the use of returning to Syria now?" said Haraki.
Abu Saleem Zoubi, another Syrian refugee from Daraa who lives in Mafraq governorate, said he owned two houses in Daraa and a fruit and vegetable store. "I thought that I would return one day to Syria with my three daughters and my wife and that we would go back to our houses and farms and live decently, but I cannot go back for security reasons as almost all Syrians in Daraa are wanted by the Syrian regime and its security bodies," said Zoubi.
“The endorsement of Law 10 makes the situation worse,” he added.
The law empowers local administrations to re-register property ownership within their areas, a move that requires landowners to be present. It gives property owners both in Syria and abroad just 30 days—starting April 11th 2018—to present their deeds to local council offices in the country. Otherwise, the state can liquidate their titles and seize their holdings and once the registration window closes, the remaining plots will be sold at auction.
"This is madness. We fled because of the violence, not because we do not want to go back to our houses and to where we grew up…I have been away from Daraa for more than 5 years now and it seems I will never ever return if my properties are taken. Where would I live? What would I do there?" observed Zoubi, who said he now works at a restaurant in Mafraq.
"We are safe here in Jordan and if offered the chance we would prefer to go to Canada or Sweden instead of going back to Daraa… I lost many relatives there and I believe it is impossible to return if nothing changes," Zoubi told 7Dnews.
Ziad, a refugee from Douma who only wanted to be referred to by his first name, said the Syrian regime introduced the law to cause demographic changes and to steal the properties of all the displaced Syrians who had sought refuge in neighbouring countries.
He told 7Dnews: "In Douma, I worked as a mechanic and I had my workshop there, and I had a nice house in the country and a big farm… I left all that in 2013 to ensure the safety of my two boys and my father and mother." Ziad now lives in the Jabal Al Nuzha area in Amman.
"By introducing this law, the Syrian regime does not want its people to return to their homes. Who would return to register his property while already aware of the cruelties committed by the Syrian regime? This is a ruthless and criminal regime. What is the guarantee that I will not be put in prison if I go back to Syria? What is the guarantee that I will not be killed?" said Ziad.
Ziad prefers to join his brother, who emigrated to Germany, rather than returning to Syria.
"The situation here in Jordan is very stressful for the refugees as life is very expensive. I work as a plumber and can hardly provide for my family of four, but at least we are safe… I wish I could emigrate to Germany, where my brother is… I have some relatives in Douma but I do not know anything about them now," Ziad said in Amman.
Um Rami, a Syrian refugee from Hama who fled to Jordan in 2013 with her three children, said she never thought about returning to their three-floor residential building in Hama after her husband was killed by a Syrian regime sniper while taking part in a demonstration following Friday prayers.
"I decided to leave everything behind… My sons who are now in their late 20s do not want to return to Syria after all the violence and suffering they went through," she told 7Dnews.
"I heard about law 10 from my friends and Syrian neighbours and I think by now the Syrian regime has already taken our residential building…parts of it were destroyed when we left because of the bombing by the regime forces," she said.
"My sons do not want to return to Syria and prefer to emigrate to Canada as many of their friends of the same age managed to emigrate there and are leading a good life… I do not want to return to renew our ownership of the building and I do not want my sons to go back. There is no guarantee that they will not be imprisoned or killed… I think all Syria is gone, not just our houses and properties. Our life is more important," Um Rami said.
Abu Mohammad, a Syrian refugee from Al Ghouta who currently lives in Amman's Rasheed neighbourhood and works at a restaurant, described the law as a crime against humanity.
"The introduction of the law is exactly like killing all our hopes of return. If we return, where would we live? I had a house in Ghouta and I lived there with my parents and my family of three, but where would I go if I returned?" Abu Mohammad said.
"Many of my cousins are in prison, so the whole idea of returning to Syria is out of question for me… I live in Amman now and I am happy here although the financial situation is difficult," he said.
"I live with family and my parents and we are all happy that we are safe and my kids go to school… I neither want to return to Syria nor emigrate to a Western country… the culture, traditions and lifestyle in Jordan is similar to Syria," he said.
"It is impossible for me to return to Ghouta. My electronic appliances store was bombed before I came here in 2013 and with the law my house will be gone as I will not be a fool and even think of returning to renew my ownership of it or the shop," Abu Mohammad told 7Dnews.