An unchecked proliferation of weapons in Syria, as well as the few means of prevention or social protection for women, has resulted in some husbands using physical threats to force their wives into relinquishing their properties.
Khuloud is in her mid-50s and lives in the countryside of the Tartous governorate. Her husband Riyad is a volunteer in the pro-regime National Defence Forces. Early on in the couple’s marriage, 20 years ago, Riyad discovered that he was infertile. In response, and as a gesture of kindness to his wife, he officially registered their home in Khuloud’s name in the Land Registry. However, with time, tensions developed between the two, resulting in domestic violence. Khuloud says Riyad beat her regularly, which eventually pushed her to file for divorce. Doing so put her life and the lives of her family members in danger.
Riyad said that he would only formally agree to the divorce if Khuloud returned the house to his ownership, she says. However, when she refused, he allegedly threatened her with a handgun. Days later, unknown gunmen opened fire on Khuloud’s family’s home. That night, she says, armed men knocked on Khuloud’s door while her husband was away, telling her to heed her husband’s demand for ownership of the house.
“It’s like I’m in the desert – no neighbours, no police, no evidence that there is a state,” Khuloud tells The Syria Report. She comes from a family with modest means and without any high-ranking relatives in the military or security services who she could turn to. On the other hand, she says her husband’s relationships with security personnel allow him to act essentially free of consequences.
People throughout regime-controlled areas of Syria say that they feel unsafe due to the unchecked proliferation of weapons, particularly among members of the security services or pro-regime militias. Simple disputes run the risk of becoming violent shootouts. Faced with this danger, Khuloud’s family persuaded her to relinquish the house she owned to her husband to protect herself and them. She acquiesced, giving him the ownership of the house in exchange for divorce.
In contrast, Hasna, a 35-year-old woman from coastal Syria, decided to keep her home. Her husband, Radwan, who also hails from the Syrian coast, is affiliated with Air Force Intelligence and works in one of the country’s civilian airports, Hasna says. Because of the Air Force Intelligence’s control over airport security, Radwan was able to accumulate a sizable fortune, eventually investing a portion of his money in real estate.
Through her own work as a hair stylist, Hasna was also able to save some money and make a down payment on a modest home in the Al-Tadhamon district of Damascus. She later finished paying for the house with the help of a bank loan.
Disagreements escalated between Hasna and her husband, with Radwan reportedly threatening her on multiple occasions with various types of guns and knives to persuade her to give up the house. On one occasion, she says he threatened her with a military-grade weapon and followed her when she ran outside to seek safety among her neighbours. Another time, he woke her up with a gun pointed at her head, she added.
Hasna filed a lawsuit against Radwan before the court. Thanks to a high-ranking state-employed relative of hers, Hasna’s case was expedited and she was granted the divorce and a restraining order against Radwan. Still, Hasna says she remained afraid of him, and eventually sold the house to move to a different area altogether.