As hostilities in Syria wind down, the war is moving to another front – homecoming for refugees, property rights, and reconstruction. While less violent, it will determine the future for millions of Syrians.
The Russian government has been leading a concerted effort to lobby European and other countries to support returning refugees with reconstruction funding. And the Syrian government is calling for refugees to come home and passing reconstruction laws to provide legal framework for funding that comes in and to finance redevelopment.
The refugees I meet, though, believe these laws and plans are designed to keep them out, not to pave the way home. As one Syrian refugee told me, “We live with the reality of a regime that tortured and bombed thousands of its people to death without mercy or capitulation, and now I am to believe that it will protect my property?”
Perhaps the most prominent example of the government’s attempts to control the returns and reconstruction process is Syrian Law 10, passed in April. The law, which the government claimed was a blueprint for reconstruction, in fact contravenes both the Syrian constitution and human rights law by giving the government significant leeway to confiscate property without due process or adequate compensation. [Continue reading…]