Explained: The Directorate of Cadastral Affairs in Idlib
Since 2018, the Directorate of Cadastral Affairs in Idlib has been affiliated with the Ministry of Local Administration and Services under the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG), the governing body of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS). The directorate contains six departments in the Idlib Governorate cities of Idlib, Harem, Ariha, and Jisr Al-Shughour, as well as in the northwestern Aleppo Governorate towns of Atareb and Daret Azzeh. In total, the directorate holds around 10,000 real estate records, more than half of which are related to agriculture.
The directorate also had three departments in Khan Sheikhoun, Maaret Al-Nouman, and Saraqeb before regime forces took control of these cities in 2019 and 2020. Cadastral Affairs employees were able to transfer the real estate archives and property databases of those three departments to Idlib city. To this day, the directorate continues to serve residents of those recaptured cities, most of whom were displaced to opposition-held areas.
Many former employees continued working in the Directorate of Cadastral Affairs and its affiliated departments in Idlib. The directorate has also accepted new employees over the past three years. It adheres to the same system that was in place before 2011 in accordance with Land Registry Law No. 188 of 1926. However, the most prominent difference between the Idlib Directorate of Cadastral Affairs and the government-run directorate in other areas of Syria is that the Idlib entity does not issue financial clearances for owners and properties. This is likely due to the lack of electronic links between the directorate in Idlib and government-run financial departments. On the other hand, all real estate sale processes in HTS-held areas of Idlib require a security approval, which is issued by a department called the Office of Studies.
Fees for real estate-related services imposed by the Directorate of Cadastral Affairs in Idlib go to the SSG-run Ministry of Local Administration and Services, which in turn uses the funds to pay the salaries of directorate employees. The salaries are no more than USD 100 per month.
Damascus has refused to recognise procedures carried out by the Directorate of Cadastral Affairs in Idlib, as it considers Idlib to be a “closed” area – that is, an area that is outside regime control and where the work of state institutions has been suspended. In 2015, a special branch within the Directorate of Cadastral Affairs for the city of Hama was established for Idlib, based on copies of the governorate’s land registries that had been archived by Damascus’ General Directorate of Cadastral Affairs. That said, most residents prefer to work with the Directorate of Cadastral Affairs in Idlib, which holds the original registries.
An official within the Idlib Directorate of Cadastral Affairs told The Syria Report that since 2015, the directorate has managed to preserve land registries and continue working in accordance with standard Syrian laws and procedures. The directorate completes between 16,000 and 17,000 property transfers per year. The body has managed to serve residents of Idlib governorate, whether they are in opposition-held areas or areas controlled by the regime, who prefer to carry out transactions through the SSG-run directorate due to its possession of original registries.