There are various personal status laws particular to different religious sects in Syria. However, personal Status Law No. 59 of 1953, which was based on Islamic Sharia principles, was until recently the sole regulator of inheritance and wills for most of the country’s religious groups.
The one exception was for the Druze, to whom Article 307 of Law No. 59 granted the right to self-regulate some personal status matters about them. For instance, it stipulated that wills be carried out for inheritors and others, meaning that individuals could distribute their estates however they deemed appropriate through their wills. However, the Greek Orthodox Personal Status Law No. 23 of 2004 and the Syriac Orthodox Personal Status Law No. 10 of 2004 did not include any such provisions.
This issue only began seeing a change in 2006 when Law No. 31 was issued. The law regulated personal status measures, including inheritance and wills, for members of various Catholic denominations. The denominations included in Law No. 31 were the Melkite Greek Catholics, Maronites, Armenian Catholics, Syriac Catholics, members of the Latin Church, and the Chaldeans.
Meanwhile, Syria’s remaining religious sects remained subject to the provisions of Personal Status Law No. 59 until the issuance of Legislative Decree No. 76 of 2010. This new decree amended Article 308 of Law No. 59, making inheritance and wills subject to the provisions of each individual religious sect’s rules on such matters instead.
Previously, Article 308 had stipulated that “for the Christian and Jewish sects, the religious provisions of each sect shall apply as they relate to betrothal, conditions and contracts for marriage, marital follow-up and alimony, child support, marriage nullification and dissolution, and custody.”
Afterwards came a series of laws focusing on specific religious groups. In 2011, Law No. 7 was issued to regulate provisions for inheritance and wills among the Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox sects. Then in 2012 came Law No. 4, regulating these same matters for the Armenian Orthodox, though this law’s measures would apply upon the date of enforcement of Legislative Decree No. 76/2010. Finally, Law No. 2 of 2017 regulated inheritance and wills for Protestant Evangelicals.
However, no such personal status laws – or even just special provisions for inheritance and wills – were issued for the various minority Islamic sects. These include the Ismailis, Alawites and Yezidis. For those groups, inheritance and wills remain subject to Law No. 59 of 1953 and its amendments. Furthermore, Circular No. 7, issued by the Ministry of Justice in 2021, states explicitly that Syrian Yezidi citizens are subject to Law No. 59 and its amendments regarding matters of personal status.