Syrian Opposition Coalition – Syria
Department of Media and Communications
July 24, 2020
The Syrian Opposition Coalition warns of large-scale theft and looting of civilians’ property as Assad regime’s forced and allied militias have seized thousands of acres of pistachio and olive orchards in northern rural Hama, southern rural Idlib, and east of Maa’raet al-Nouman after forcefully displacing the local population en masse in the past several years.
Since the Assad regime forces’ capture of large swathes of fertile land in rural Hama and Idlib, the farmers who remained and the relatives of those who were forced to leave haven been denied access to these farmlands. They have not been allowed to take care of their trees and harvest their crops or even entrust a third party to do so on their behalf.
Not only did the Assad regime reject proposals by the displaced people to entrust relatives to harvest crops on their behalf, but also intimidated the farmers into leaving their land without any care. These practices on Friday culminated with the Assad regime’s Military Security and Air Force Intelligence Directorate’s seizure of these orchards under a variety of pretexts.
With the harvest season coming close, the Assad regime begun auctioning thousands of acres of pistachio farmlands it seized from the local people to be divided between beneficiaries affiliated with the regime and its cronies.
It is an organized looting and theft in which the rights of the displaced people are being violated and obstacles to their return to their homeland are being put in place.
The Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC) calls on the international community and human rights organizations to assume their responsibilities in this regard as it calls for urgent action to prevent the continuation of this crime. The SOC stresses the need to repeal the decisions whereby this looting and seizure are taking place; put an end to the regime’s intimidation and impositions of restrictions, including preventing farmers from taking care of their properties and harvesting their crops, a right that is guaranteed by all international laws and norms. Farmers must be given guarantees for exercising their rights to their properties and how to manage them, either directly or through relatives and trustees.