The Law on Transfer of Immovable Amiri Properties, issued in 1928, sets provisions for transferring the possession of such properties to inheritors. Under this law, female and male inheritors are held in equal regard if they are of the same degree of kinship with the deceased, in contrast with inheritance rules as laid out in the Syrian Personal Status Law, which is based on Islamic Sharia principles.
Amiri lands are state property for which individuals are granted the right of disposal. Usually these properties are agricultural lands located outside the administrative boundaries of cities.
Equal distribution of Amiri lands between women and men contradicts neither Islamic law nor the Personal Status Law. That is because Amiri lands are subject to the rules of transfer of possession, meaning the transfer of the right of disposal for a property that is owned by the state rather than fully owned by an individual. Here the state distributes the inheritance to heirs of the deceased who had the right of usufruct of the Amiri land.
On the other hand, non-Amiri properties are distributed to heirs in accordance with the inheritance principles in Personal Status Law No. 59 of 1953, which in turn is based on Islamic Sharia law. Islamic inheritance in the Personal Status Law adheres to the general rule that “one man’s share is equal to two women’s shares,” while taking into account the specific terms for distribution of inheritance included in that same law.
Based on the Law on Transfer of Immovable Amiri Properties, the wife also receives a quarter of her husband’s estate if the couple have children, and half the estate if they do not. The same applies to a husband upon his wife’s death. The mother and father of a deceased may also receive one sixth of the estate.
Law No. 61 of 2004 amended some of the decrees on state distribution of certain lands. The new law gave the possessor, or usufructuary, of state-owned lands the right to finally own them, if the property had been entrusted to them as part of agrarian reform decrees or were private state property. However, properties that are still classified as Amiri lands still remain subject to the 1928 law.
The usufruct of lands that were distributed by the state–whether through agricultural reform programmes or from privately owned state property–transfers to a person’s inheritors after their death. Essentially, the properties specified in Law No. 61 of 2004 are now treated as property and are subject to the rules of legal inheritance. The result is that women have been deprived of their equal standing they once had with men under the 1928 law, in terms of receiving Amiri lands as inheritances from deceased family members.
In other special cases, when a piece of Amiri land falls within the administrative limits of a city, the legal description of the property changes automatically from Amiri to a regularly owned property, meaning that the legal inheritance provisions laid out in the Personal Status Law, rather than those in the 1928 law, apply.