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Syrian refugees in a Turkish refugee camp in 2015
Photo: AFP
With no documents and no home, desperate Syrian mothers turn to child marriage
Women are hardest hit in Syria because often male relatives had their names on land deeds, and many of them have either died or disappeared in the eight-year civil war; just 4% of female refugees surveyed in Jordan and Lebanon had property in their name
WASHINGTON - Millions of Syrian women who have fled the eight-year civil war at home are stuck in a "legal limbo," unable to own or reclaim land when they do return, driving some to marry off their underage daughters to acquire property, researchers say.

 

 

Large portions of Syrian towns and cities have been destroyed and with about half of the pre-war 22 million Syrians dispaced land and civil registries, are making it difficult for those who have lost, or never had, documents proving their ownership of land to get such documents.

 

Syrian refugees in Idlib  (Photo: AFP)
Syrian refugees in Idlib (Photo: AFP)

 

Women are the hardest hit in Syria because often their male relatives had their names on such land documents and as experts told the World Bank conference last week many of these male relatives either died or disappeared.

 

Syrian refugees return home from Lebanon

 

"Women in Syria already deal with a discriminatory legal framework, with Sharia law for example only giving them half of men's share of land in case of inheritance," said Laura Cunial, a legal expert at the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

 

"Now they are even worse off. Most land has been destroyed ... and what little is left to claim is largely out of women's reach as they cannot provide the necessary documents to get property titles."

 

This is fuelling child marriage, as many women are "desperate to marry their daughters to landowners so they have a roof over their head", Cunial said.

 

A Syrian girl sells second hand items in the Al-Hol camp for displaced people in northeastern Syria on March 28, 2019
A Syrian girl sells second hand items in the Al-Hol camp for displaced people in northeastern Syria on March 28, 2019

 

Only 4 percent of female refugees surveyed by NRC in Jordan and Lebanon had property in Syria registered in their name.

 

Even before the war, property was often owned customarily and many urban residents lived in informal settlements. With millions displaced multiple times, land disputes are common.

 

Many Syrians fled without crucial paperwork or had it confiscated at checkpoints. About 75 percent of Syrian refugee families surveyed in Jordan by NRC said they used to have property documents, but only 20 percent still had them.

 

Syrians at a refugee camp  (Photo: AP)
Syrians at a refugee camp (Photo: AP)

  

Only 2 percent of displaced women in southern Syria hold passports, compared with 21 percent of men, Cunial said.

 

"Dealing with land laws and regulation used to be men's job, but now most of them have gone," Cunial said at the Washington D.C. conference.

 

"That traps women in a legal limbo, and leaves them unable to inherit or sell property," said Cunial, who works to provide legal assistance to displaced Syrian women.

 

According Paul Prettitore of the World Bank, one solution is to compile data on land use, including satellite imagery, social media, online forums and court records to assess forced displacement, destruction of property and fraudulent transfers.

 

"That would tell governments and civil society where they are most needed, and help target interventions to protect land rights," said Prettitore, who works on policy and legal issues.

 

Syrians are likely to file more than 2 million lawsuits seeking restitution for lost and damaged property, NRC says.

 


פרסום ראשון: 03.31.19, 20:25
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