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Is Syria returning to a feudal age in the 21st century?

The Syrian Minister of Agriculture backpedaled on a decision to appropriate agricultural lands in the Lattakia town of Basharaghi, near the city of Jabla—made under the pretext that the lands laid unplanted—in the face of widespread outrage from citizens who opposed the decision throughout the villages of the government-controlled Syrian coast.

“It seems that we are returning to the feudal era, although under the authority of ministries and directorates,” said Abu Maysam, a resident from Jabla told the Syrian Voice.

On June 22, the Directorate of Agriculture in Lattakia, claiming that the owners had lost the right of disposition to, took ownership of a number of parcels of land in Basharaghi “in the service of the Syrian State,” through 30 different legal notices to the owners of the land.

The directorate cited statue 775 from of Syria’s civil law, which states that “the right of disposition to estates is lost when the lands are not plowed, or if they are not used for five years.”

The people of Basharaghi presented complains to the head of the Council of Ministers, voicing their anger over the decision via social media, saying the decision amounted to a “looting” of their lands that had been passed down for generations, adding that they and all the necessary documents to prove their rightful ownership of the lands.

“The Minister of Agriculture is putting his hands on hundreds of dunums (1 dunum is .25 of an acre) of farmland in the countryside around Jabla,” said one post from the pro-regime “Jabla News” Facebook Page. The page questioned “how can people from this village or others sow and plow their land if most of the young men are on the frontlines defending the homeland?”

Very quickly comments poured in from residents of Jabla and other areas in the province.

“This decision is not worth the ink it was written on. They oversee and force and take land; this is just a mafia style gang of thieves from the ministry,” said Bassam al-Aisi, from Lattakia City.

A farmer from the Basharaghi, who preferred not to mention his name, told the Syrian Voice that “the issue of the land is not what the ministry says; there is plenty of planted land. What they want from this decision is to strip the farmers of their land like they did several years ago when the ministry took over land planted with 20 year old olive trees, saying that there was marijuana being grown amongst the trees. The now there are plans for the land to become resorts that will fill the pockets of officials.”

He added “If the ministry cared about us farmers, it would provide us with aid and support through loans and help purchasing the equipment necessary to continue with agricultural activity instead of appropriating our lands.”

What is happening in Basharghi is just one among many similar stories. In the village of Sharashir, also in the Jabla countryside, the state took control of areas of agricultural land around the Basal al-Assad airport on November 12, 2015, according to reports from the news website Sama Syria (a Lattakia-based organization founded in 2007), which also detail several other similar cases which it described as amounting to “a forced displacement of people in Jabla.”

 

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