Despite surviving various hardships over the decade-long war, Syrian Alawite women are still deprived of basic property and housing rights. Among these women are those who have borne a great deal of the war’s challenges, such as the widowed wives of regime soldiers.
Rula is the widow of a Syrian army officer who was killed in 2014, leaving her to raise a young daughter alone. She told The Syria Report that her husband’s family changed their attitude towards her after his death, pressuring her to give up her share of the one-time financial compensation of SYP 1.5 million that the state grants to officers killed at war. Eventually, the family shared the compensation among themselves, leaving no money for Rula and her daughter.
That was only the beginning. The family insisted on expelling Rula, a teacher in her forties, from the house she shared with her daughter in a Damascus suburb. They said that they need the house, which is registered in the name of Rula’s father-in-law. Rula had little choice but to live temporarily with her brother in Damascus, after which she and her daughter moved back to her father’s home in the Lattakia Governorate, where she relocated her workplace.
Rula’s in-laws failed to show interest in her daughter because she is a girl and does not bear the family name, she said. The family only concerned itself with the daughter when Rula demanded her rights – that’s when the family suggested stripping Rula of her custody. This suggestion, which came as a surprise to Rula, was likely meant to push her to stop demanding that she receive the other compensations owed to her by the state, which can include financial aid, food baskets, and even her late husband’s salary.
Rula is not alone. Her case is similar to that of many Alawite women whose husbands died fighting in the Syrian army. The stories of widows whose late husbands’ families recognised their inheritance rights and rights to the state’s “martyr” compensation are the exception rather than the norm.
A source familiar with government aid to the family members of killed soldiers told The Syria Report that the state encourages male and familial hegemony and neglects widows, as the priority for assistance goes to the mother and father of the dead soldier before the wife and children. The Syrian state reveres the parents of “martyrs,” granting them certain privileges. In doing so, the entire family apportions the compensation for the death. The method for distributing aid and financial compensation only spreads further chaos, as it is given to whoever shows up first to receive it. The names of all of the deceased person’s family members (father, mother, wife, and children) are included on the list for such aid and any of them can collect it.
Reem, a 30-year-old woman from Tartous, was studying in university and had not yet found employment when her husband was killed during his mandatory military service in 2012. Reem had no children during her short marriage, but she began to face many challenges after the death of her husband who owned a small shop. First, her husband’s family abandoned her, according to Reem’s account. They expelled her from the home her husband owned and forbade her from coming to his shop. After a drawn-out dispute, the family agreed to grant Reem a share of the shop’s profits and part of his salary. This agreement held for only two months before the family stopped paying. Reem said she cannot afford to hire a lawyer to complete the inheritance process and that she fears further disputes with her late husband’s family who are influential in Tartous. She added: “Even the employment that the state grants to martyrs’ families was shared with my husband’s sister on the pretext that I have no children and that I will marry again someday!”