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07/21/2022 Syria (International Christian Concern) – Recently, an influential businessman in Syria attempted to fraudulently seize the property of a Christian family. The family, who currently lives outside of Syria, in Sweden, testified in a July 7 statement that the false claimant Jamil Hassari (also known as Abu Dallo) was a tenant and had never actually purchased their four-story building, the property in question. Reportedly, though, Abu Dallo is attempting to take advantage of the Christian family’s move to Sweden by forging real estate contracts with the help of collaborators. One of the forged documents purportedly demonstrates that he bought the Christians’ property outright.

When Abu Dallo attempted to file an ownership claim with judicial authorities in Syria, the Christian family became aware of the attempted seizure. Despite his ownership claims, the family explains, Abu Dallo recently made permanent lease payments for all the merchants who are renting shop space in the family’s building complex, directly demonstrating that he is not the real owner of the property. Further, one of the Christian family members told The Syria Report that Abu Dallo made an offer to buy the property but then withdrew the offer, likely in anticipation of his attempt to take it for free.

The dispute over property ownership, in this case, is ongoing in the local judicial systems, but this is one of many instances of illegal seizures of Christian-owned properties in Syria. According to the Assyrian Democratic Organization (ADO), the Bashar al-Assad government and influential officials in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) are similarly utilizing forged documentation to claim ownership over many Assyrian Christian properties. Christians, like those targeted by Abu Dallo, are often especially vulnerable to this kind of fraud because so many have chosen to live outside the country. According to ADO, roughly 20,000 of the formerly 22,000 Syriac Assyrians in the country have emigrated.

The AANES established a Committee for the protection of Syriac, Assyrian, and Armenian Absentee Properties in 2014, but this body is not robust or effective enough to address ongoing fraud crimes. More work is needed in Syria to justly secure Christian property rights from criminals.