An Iranian religious delegation inspected a handful of sites in Deir-ez-Zor city and the nearby countryside in January, shortly before construction work began on the sites with no apparent notice given to the owners.
Local sources told a local correspondent for The Syria Report that the delegation consisted of members from what the sources called Iran’s “Shia Endowment,” which coordinates with the Syrian Ministry of Religious Endowments in Deir-ez-Zor governorate. The Syria Report was not able to identify the endowment referred to.
The delegation, including several Iranians and the Deir-ez-Zor governorate’s director of endowments, visited a plot of land in Deir-ez-Zor city on January 2. Located near an insurance office and reportedly ready for construction, the land is owned by former resident Ibrahim Khalil Al-Ali, who now resides in Saudi Arabia.
The group went on to Mayadeen, a city east of Deir-ez-Zor, where they inspected a farm currently used to raise camels and gazelles near the Ayn Ali shrine. The property is owned by a man named Dabous Ahmad Dabous, who resides in Kuwait.
They also visited Al-Sawiyaieh, a village along the Syrian-Iraqi border near the city of Al-Boukamal in rural eastern Deir-ez-Zor. There, the delegation inspected land belonging to Omar Raji Al-Salim, who was displaced to neighbouring Raqqa governorate, now under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The one-hectare plot of land was planted with wheat and cotton and sits near a historic domed structure that was restored by the Iranian Jihad Al-Binaa organisation after regime forces recaptured the area. The organisation subsequently established a shrine there called the Dome of Ali Shrine.
On January 12, workers began digging foundations and pouring cement on the three properties visited by the delegation, without the knowledge of the owners, according to a correspondent for The Syria Report. There are reportedly plans in place to construct hotels on the three properties to accommodate Shia pilgrims.
The owner of one of the three sites toldThe Syria Report that his relatives had filed an objection to the construction work at his request, submitting it to the Shia Endowment. The file included documents proving his ownership of the land. The office refused to recognise his title deed, he said, and has yet to provide any justification for building on his land.
Over the past two years, armed Iranian groups have seized lands belonging to residents from Deir-ez-Zor now living abroad or in displacement, constructing religious and military facilities. These groups often claim that they are holding onto the properties temporarily until their owners return.