In Syria, security approvals are still required for some real estate transactions and other related transactions, such as public and private power of attorney.
Security approval is required for procedures related to the transfer of real estate ownership, such as sales, removal of common ownership, inheritances, and public auctions. Obtaining clearances for a specific real estate property from local finance directorates also requires security approvals, as do sales and ownership transfers in areas controlled by the regime.
In 2018, the Ministry of Interior issued Order No. 984/4/2 stipulating that some private power of attorney arrangements (i.e. those carried out in Syrian embassies abroad) be exempt from the requirement to obtain prior security approval. Among the exempted arrangements are those related to civil and personal status registration, military conscription, and others.
Security approval requirements were also recently added to several other procedures. For example, in late August, the Ministry of Justice issued Circular No. 22, establishing such approval as a condition for officially registering deaths before the Sharia courts. Previously, in September 2021, the ministry issued Circular No. 30, making it necessary to obtain prior security approval to be granted judicial power of attorney for administering absentees’ assets.
Primarily, Decree No. 4554 of August 2015, issued by the Council of Ministers and directed at the Ministry of Local Administration and Environment, added the sales of homes and shops in both zoned and unzoned areas to the list of procedures requiring security approv
In practice, people send an application to the security branch responsible for the area where their property is located to obtain a permit allowing them to complete the real estate transaction subject to the prior security approval requirement. They may apply directly or through the administrative mail services of official institutions.
Afterwards, the security branch must reach out to other security departments, branches, and services to confirm that the applicant is not under any security summons or prosecution. Their application then undergoes study in the security branch and is either approved or rejected.
Political Security branches affiliated with the Ministry of Interior are often responsible for issuing approvals. Military forces or other security branches may also grant approvals in the areas where they hold influence. For example, the army’s Fourth Division, which Maher al-Assad commands, is responsible for giving security approvals for real estate disposal transactions in the Qudsaya suburb of Rural Damascus.
Security detachments in judicial court complexes and notary offices may also issue inquiries about real estate owners. Such inquiries are part of procedures that do not require security approval, such as the renewal of public power of attorney. The inquiry process is known locally as “tafeeish” and includes researching a security database on the individual in question.
There are many reasons why a security approval may not be granted:
- The person in question may be located in opposition-held areas of Syria;
- The person may be undergoing trial in a criminal trial;
- The property may have been mortgaged in favour of a bank;
- The person may be under a travel ban;
- or the person may have failed to pay a traffic violation.
There might also be political reasons, such as the person having pro-opposition sympathies, being wanted by one of Syria’s security forces, or undergoing trial before the exceptional Antiterrorism Court.
Before 2011, real estate transactions or power of attorney arrangements required a “proof of non-conviction” document from the Ministry of Interior’s Criminal Security. These documents were considered a form of security approval. Before that, the Law Regulating Real Estate Ownership in Border Areas, issued within Decree No. 41 of 2004, required security approval before any legal disposal of real estate in border areas. This approval is given by a Ministry of Interior decree. The decree must be based on a proposal from the Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, and the Ministry of Defense must be in agreement.