Syria’s govt auctions displaced people’s land

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Beirut

Many Syrians forced from their homes by their country’s brutal, decade-old civil war are now shocked to discover that their family farms have been taken over by regime loyalists and cronies.
Rights groups and legal experts say local authorities in parts of northwest Syria recaptured by government forces have staged auctions to effectively “confiscate” fertile land and punish opponents.
One refugee, 30-year-old Salman, said he always knew it would be difficult to return to the family plot in Idlib province he abandoned during an offensive a year ago by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. But whatever hopes he still had to return one day were all but crushed when he learnt the rights to cultivate the land had been sold off to a complete stranger.
“What right does someone have to come and take it?” the refugee, who asked to use a pseudonym, told AFP by phone from Greece where he illegally moved a few months ago. Salman said he used to plant lentils, barley and black cumin on the 37 acres (15 hectares) of land he owns with his brothers, earning up to $12,000 each harvest. He discovered through a post on social media that the rights to the land were being auctioned off.—AFP

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