“Our house in Deir Ezzor city was taken over years ago by people from the countryside with the support of Iranian militias. We resorted to mediations to evict the occupiers out, but they ignored our calls and insisted on staying as if it was their own house.”

With these words, Shaher (a pseudonym) recounted to Enab Baladi what had happened to his family’s house located in a neighborhood close to the Syrian regime’s military security branch in Deir Ezzor, following the city’s re-take by the regime and its affiliated militias.

Shaher said that people who illegally appropriated empty houses in the city of Deir Ezzor expressed their refusal to leave unless after the return of original property owners, knowing that such a condition cannot be realized.

He told Enab Baladi, “My father passed away, and my mother is an old woman who cannot return to live by herself. As for me and my brothers, we live abroad, and we are wanted by the regime’s security services, making it difficult if not impossible for us to return home or hire a lawyer to claim back our rights.”

Shaher pointed out that some people took advantage of the city’s dire situations and the absence of many residents to buy real estate at low prices. Shaher’s family was exploited and blackmailed by parties close to Iran, who offered to buy the family’s house at a very cheap price.

In June 2012, the regime’s security apparatus and foreign militia members started appropriating civilian houses in Deir Ezzor, following the displacement of hundreds of thousands of the city’s residents due to the regime forces’ extensive military campaign on the governorate.

The regime forces went after those suspected of dealing with the opposition or having taken any anti-government political activity. In September 2012, the regime stormed the al-Joura and al-Qusoor neighborhoods in Deir Ezzor city, killing and wounding hundreds of civilians to raise fear and terror among locals, which eventually led to the displacement of hundreds of families from the region.

In mid-2014, the Islamic State (IS) managed to control large parts of Deir Ezzor, imposed a siege on neighborhoods controlled by regime forces, and prevented their residents’ access to food supplies and medicine.

Between mid-2012 and 2017, the city of Deir Ezzor came under three military forces (the opposition factions, IS, and the Syrian regime forces) that carried out many violations and caused thousands of civilian houses to be forsaken. Some of these houses were seized by security elements and foreign militia members on the pretext that their owners were in the opposition ranks.

After the regime and its allies recaptured large parts of Deir Ezzor in 2017, thousands of abandoned houses by war and security prosecutions were taken over illegally, as property appropriation practices spread to the cities of al-Mayadin and al-Bukamal and their countryside.

Regions from Deir Ezzor’s eastern countryside witnessed successive waves of displacement towards the western countryside after IS’ sleeper cells increased their operations in eastern Deir Ezzor.

The regime, Iranian militias, and the United States-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) share military control on eastern Deir Ezzor, with the Euphrates River being the dividing line between the control areas.

The most prominent Iran-affiliated militias in Deir Ezzor governorate are the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iraqi Shiite militias (Hezbollah Brigades, the Badr Brigade, and the al-Nujaba Movement), the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, the Iran-backed Afghan Fatemiyoun Brigade, the Pakistani Zaynabyoun Brigade, and the regime’s National Defence Forces (NDF) including (the Baqir Brigade, the Mahdi Army, and the Imam Mahdi Brigade).

Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Raqqa reported that residents from the countryside of Deir Ezzor and Raqqa were coerced into selling their houses and lands to Iranian militia members or parties linked to them.

He added that many factors had pushed residents towards selling, including the dire living conditions that forced property owners to sell some of their properties to afford expensive living costs and the residents’ wish to travel abroad or towards SDF-controlled areas in Deir Ezzor or Raqqa.

As for locals who fled the region before selling, they had their properties seized by Iranian militias.

According to Enab Baladi’s correspondent, the property takeover issue is not limited to Iran’s political aspirations, as it promotes the Iranian Shiite influence and demographic change in Deir Ezzor and Raqqa.

He added that the purchase of real estates by Iran-affiliated militias is concentrated in Maadan city in the southeastern Raqqa countryside and al-Bukamal in Deir Ezzor’s eastern countryside.

Iranian militias not only appropriated locals’ properties and adopted demographic changes policies, but they also sought to influence the region’s cultural identity by promoting the Iranian Cultural Center’s activities. The militias also worked on recruiting the region’s youth in its ranks, taking advantage of the deteriorating living conditions and lack of job opportunities.

Source » enab baladi